It’s the buzzword of the decade. Wrapped up in that word are other buzzwords like “green” and “eco-friendly“. But these words represent passing fads. The bedrock reality underlying sustainability is a much more prosaic, boring, yet little understood word, “Economics”. It’s a terrifying word. It suggests complex supply / demand curves and the inscrutable workings of inscrutable institutions like the Federal Reserve, the IMF and the World Bank. People are increasingly frustrated and angry with the “banksters”, politicians and other manipulators of “the economy”.
Take a deep breath. It’s actually quite simple at our level. Make more than you spend. That’s it. Take charge of your life. Live frugally. Be industrious. Build and create.
The Washington Post informs us Thanksgiving Dinner this year will cost 13% more than last year. Yup, inflation is accelerating. It’s about to get a lot worse. Thankfully, I’ll be keeping more of what most people will be spending on a Thanksgiving feast this year. We raise our own vegetables and poultry!
We’ll be enjoying some non-traditional, but delicious green tomato pie, remnants of our summer garden after a hard freeze last week. Interesting how that word “Sustainability” is increasingly associated with another buzzword, “self-sufficiency“. Keeping more of your output is inseparably connected with controlling both your income and outgo. And that’s what self-sufficiency is all about – personal independence and control.
The good life is about more than financial economics. Peace of mind is an even bigger part. That’s why self-sufficiency, the sense that I’m in control of my destiny is so closely connected with sustainability and economics, which are all about achieving an abundant life. Abundance can be in things, but has a lot more to do with state of mind. It’s hard to have one without the other.
It’s not easy to be self-sufficient and independent. It takes forethought, planning, intelligence and work, all values that were common to the early American ethic that seem to have become lost in the generations of excess. Thankfully, those values are coming back into fashion.
One of the obvious elements to consider in the outgo part of the equation is the general cost of living. We selected rural Tennessee as the place to buy land and put down our homestead. Tennessee offers the lowest overall cost of living in the U.S. For thinking people who want an abundant life, keeping more for themselves of what they produce, it’s an obvious choice.
For thinking people, there are many ways to cut costs beyond the current coupon fad. Coupons only tie people to existing products and systems that reduce your control of your life. Coupons might be put to better use as band-aids with a little stick-em. That’s all they are anyway; short-term relief for a chronic disease. Band-aids can be useful, but not for long. In the Village on Sewanee Creek, an intelligent “Intentional Community“, people work together. Cooperative effort on gardens, homes and other projects increases productivity and reduces costs. We try to standardize on equipment and vehicles. That way, it’s easier to repair things (increased productivity) and maintain extra parts (reduced, shared costs on a few critical items). This kind of coöperation takes extra thought, extra preparation, extra commitment. That’s why most people don’t do it. That’s why most people don’t keep a lot of what they make.
At the end of the day, economics is pretty simple at our level. Keep more than you spend. Spend only on things of lasting value. Work with your neighbors. It’s all natural law. We call it … “in harmony with people and nature”. It’s our motto and it’s working to create a more sustainable, abundant life for people in the Village.