“We can change the system!” is the mantra of every politician ever. If grand reform was possible, the odds that it would reflect your positions are highly improbable. Even if it did, how long before it deteriorates into a mere reflection of its original intent and eventually something you loathe?
Money is at the center. We need it for our mortgages, utilities, bills, food, clothes, gas — everything. And as long as we are earning we are being taxed for government programs we have no control over. Our paychecks are deposited into a bank which inflates a significant portion of our funds through a process called fractional-reserve banking, reducing the purchasing power of the dollar bill and destroying the ability to save money. No, you must “invest” your money just to keep its value from deteriorating. These investments usually end up in a bank account where it can be debased yet again. To eliminate this hopeless extortion we must eliminate our dependency on the U.S. dollar itself.
Our journey toward sovereign citizenry begins with the identification of our most essential human needs: shelter, water, food, energy, waste management, and commerce. Next comes a pragmatic approach to establishing sustainable solutions.
Never has that been more possible than in this Age of Information. Our potential to claim individual liberty regardless of the political, social, and economic climate is unprecedented. Ideas from around the world and throughout time are now readily at our fingertips, waiting to be aggregated in revolutionary ways. By combining ancient techniques with modern technology we can establish independence from destructive government and banking practices.
Artificially low interest rates with guaranteed loan availability through government subsidized programs have been responsible for housing booms and busts for decades. It is what Frederick Hayek won his nobel prize work on: The Business Cycle Theory. The language from mainstream economists differs, however, promising economic prosperity while the politicians advocate your “right” to own a home. All this can be yours for the “small” price of a 30-year mortgage where the banks extract the home’s inflated value from you via interest several times over. When the bubble bursts the banks claim another victory with the acquisition of your foreclosed equity.
Being forced into debt for decades at a time is not sustainable; it is not a solution. To remove the grid, government, and major industries from the equation we must fundamentally change our perspective on what a house is supposed to be. The traditional timber-framed house is utterly dependent on the constant draw of electricity just to maintain a comfortable temperature. These industrial HVAC systems produce a steady stream of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, not to mention a similar effect coming from the power plants providing the electricity. By combining relatively ancient building methods with modern science and technology we can create homes that heat and cool themselves passively all year long without any electricity. They can be built using simple methods and materials that end up costing a fraction of the typical house.
Government regulations are impeding progress since existing building codes only conform to traditional houses. Even though the sustainable home my wife and I are building is fireproof, tornado resistant, structurally superior, carbon neutral, and economical it does not meet traditional regulatory standards. By embracing these alternative building methods, however, we are liberating ourselves from financial subjugation, bank extortion, major pollution contribution, and electrical grid dependency. [For examples in modern sustainable architecture I recommend exploring earthships and earthbag houses.]
It falls from the sky in abundance, free from the multi-billion dollar water grid that is displacing mass quantities of water and offsetting natural ecosystems while incrementally polluting our clean water sources in the process. Aquifers are drying up at an aggressive rate across the country thanks to industrial agricultural practices, furthering desertification and contributing to farm foreclosures. Yet, in some places in the United States it is illegal to harvest rainwater. Some misguided reports suggest the oversimplified falsehood: “Taking water upstream removes it from downstream.” Understand that I’m not advocating for water theft—which is a real historical event where people would build dams in rivers to redirect its flow. I’m advocating for harvesting water that falls from the sky. When rainwater hits the ground it proceeds downhill, causing erosion and potentially flooding along the way. If I capture rainwater first it can be introduced into the local ecosystem slowly in a pacified and evenly distributed manner. It still ends up in the very same place it would have otherwise except this time it’s proliferating biological life, rehydrating soils, mitigating drought severity, and sustaining human habitat.
Ironically, the water grid is actually displacing water upstream, stealing it from downstream and causing environmental devastation along the way. If ever there was a need for political activism it would be to remove these heinous laws that deprive people of their most essential right: water.
Off-grid rainwater harvesting is a viable, affordable, environmental, and simple way to ensure your home’s water supply. It also happens to remove the toxic chemicals and trace elements that would otherwise be present in your tap water.
In an effort to meet the needs of an ever expanding food industry, “big agriculture” has introduced GMOs — genetically modified organisms. Many of these GMOs dilute the nutritional value of your produce in favor of the appearance of health and a longer shelf life. The toxic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers required to support these monocrop productions are depleting soil fertility, contributing to desertification and creating serious environmental risks through excess nitrogen runoff and aquifer depletion. All of this is approved by the FDA and EPA.
The solution remains simple: produce your own food. Still, it takes a tremendous amount of time and resources to engage in conventional gardening, not to mention the financial strain of store-bought pesticides, mulch, soil, fertilizer, etc. To be truly sustainable and free from these time structures and economic dependencies we must produce our food using more intelligent practices.
It seems obvious but it must be clearly stated: a mature forest thrives without any human involvement. It is a self-replicating, self-sufficient ecosystem that provides all of its needs in a harmonious way. By emulating those patterns and applying a small degree of stewardship, we can create self-replicating forest gardens that benefit the environment while also sustaining human life. That is what permaculture is all about. Not only can we save money on food, we also restore nutrition to our diets while improving local wildlife. After several years of care a food forest will mature and our need to manage it will dissipate. Now that is sustainability!
Landfills are everywhere and studies show their methane gas by-product to be harmful and dangerous. Minimalism, repurposing, and recycling are positive steps in the right direction, however, recycling centers still have a massive footprint. The solution lies in autonomous waste management.
Biodegradables can be composted on your property to create rich soil for your food forests. The composting process on a large enough scale can even heat your home or hot water supply lines. Compost toilets are a great way to save water and turn your waste into a beneficial asset. A special septic system called a biodigester can harvest a burnable gas to be used as an alternative to propane. Grey water can be used, filtered, and reused before being safely returned to the outside environment.
Internally producing materials is also a great waste-minimization strategy. For example you could grow your own construction timber, firewood, and medicinal plants. You could also find alternative uses for conventional waste. For example, “Earthships” use old tires, cans, and glass bottles as construction materials. The rapid evolution of 3D printers is also very promising as we continue to experiment with the refinement of plastic waste into filament. Imagine recycling old plastic debris to print new plasticware, car parts, computer pieces—the sky is the limit! With the power of the internet we’ll be able to share these schemas easily with each other.
While it can be argued that electricity is not an essential human need, it’s a staple of modern technology. The major component in the unprecedented opportunity for sustainability is internet access. You need electricity for that.
Over 80% of electricity in America is still generated by burning fossil fuels. It is spread via the grid, a vast network of cables, transformers, substations and power plants. A majority of these fuels are extracted from foreign nations, many of which are occupied by U.S. military forces. At home we interface with utility companies who have secured legal monopolies through the government to be the sole providers. I can think of no higher form of protest against these corporatist shills than removing ourselves as a regular consumer.
Ultimately, we’re still limited in solutions. Even solar panels have a huge manufacturing footprint. The good news is that renewable energy is a popular business venture and an environmentalist focal point. Hopefully the free market will continue to increase quality and affordability over the coming years until a feasible alternative can be sustained.
Free human beings willfully engaging in commerce for their mutual benefit is a beautiful thing. I make a distinction between having a functioning economy and being forced to work five days a week just to survive. Mandatory income generation across every household leaves us vulnerable for exploitation from the banks and government. While we can largely mitigate that corruption there will always be currency while there is commerce. That’s a good thing. If you’re like me then you want internet, a phone, and access to the range of goods available on the free market. Therefore some income is necessary. The good news is if you address the first five essential needs above then you won’t need much.
Early retirement has typically been reserved for the affluent minority. Their ability to retire rests solely upon the power of their wealth and their ability to spend that money endlessly—which means there must be other people available to accept payment by offering goods and services. Inherently this means early retirement is impossible for the greater majority. Sustainability provides an exception. It scales indefinitely. If every person is self-sufficient then we open up all families to the possibility of early retirement. Granted there would still be economy, but those goods and services would be a reflection of the new demand. In this theoretical case, a demand for self-sustainable services would be paramount. It also means individuals could pursue previously high-risk ventures such as art and music while knowing their essential needs were still being met. It is an opportunity for the advancement of freedom and culture.
This is the new liberty: citizens of individual sovereignty. You don’t have to wait around for grand political reform. Take responsibility for yourself and claim it.