SELF-SUFFICIENCY IN THE TIME OF PANDEMIC
With the current path that we as a planet are on, the facts are becoming increasingly obvious: times are going to get tough, in many ways. Climate Change warning flags, such as rising temperatures, more numerous and intense natural disasters and struggling ecosystems; and problems particular to the human population, such as resource depletion and the current COVID-19 outbreak we are currently facing; make it pretty clear that from here on out, humankind needs to be resourceful in order to survive.
We are busy going through something unprecedented in human history – there have been pandemics and widespread outbreaks before, but never has the world seen such a huge human population, nevermind one which is so interlinked across the globe. When you think about it, getting anxious during these times is only a natural and somewhat necessary response. But once one’s head begins to clear and the reality of the global situation sets in, the important questions begin to emerge: How am I going to look after myself and those I care about?
The measures we should all be taking to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the virus in time for healthcare systems to cope – physical distancing, washing our hands, and isolation, are all symptomatic responses to the current crisis. Don’t get me wrong, they are extremely important to how the pandemic unfolds, but I believe we should also be looking further down the line into the future. The world as we know it is changing before our very eyes, at a pace which is frighteningly tangible, and this pandemic is showing us a few key points, which can now no longer be denied:
- We live in a global society – whether we like it, or not. This means that we ultimately need to work together, and respect our place in the collective human species, taking the rights of others to heart.
- We are painfully dependent on ageing systems which are designed with profit as the key component, not necessarily human or planet welfare. Capitalism has engulfed all spheres of our society, to the point where the very things we need in order to survive – food, water, shelter and medicine, are turned into mechanisms through which we, as “consumers” can be drained for financial gain.
- Our international leadership is largely inadequate and, whether on purpose or due to bureaucratic red tape, slow to act and respond in our time of need. Many countries have seen their governments refuse to react to the pandemic sufficiently, meaning that it wasn’t contained when it should and could have been, and as a result things have gotten much worse.
- There are good (as in, really really good) everyday people out there who are willing to put their lives at risk to help others. Cashiers, paramedics, janitors, farmers, teachers, doctors, nurses, and many other overlooked professions are in fact the real heroes in this situation – and not the CEOs, directors or owners of companies. Without those who keep our society running through the day-to-day necessities, things would begin to crumble real fast.
- Pandemics can affect everyone, regardless of their demographic. whether directly or indirectly, when something like this happens, it affects you – regardless of who you are. Stock markets and currencies are beginning to crash, companies are closing down, borders have been shut, and lockdowns are taking place. Things like these have far-reaching effects, which can be felt everywhere.
- That being said, the planet can feel them too – just a few weeks of decreased human activity can lead to huge environmental improvements such as less pollution, returning wildlife and cleaner waters. This is just a little “sneak peak” at what is possible if we change our ways and try to live more harmoniously with nature.
Once this particular chapter of history subsides, how do we protect ourselves – personally, and on communal and global levels from similar things in the future? Ultimately, they are unavoidable and bound to happen again, be it in a different way or form. Once we accept that there are elements we cannot control, we can begin to look at what can be done to minimise our own suffering, and that of those in the same boat as us, at the hands of such disasters.
Look After Yourself
Strengthen That Immune System
This virus might subside, but chances are that it will be back, or another will take its place soon enough. So you need to fortify your body’s natural defences in order to give them the best chance of fending off such things. This boils down to one thing: keep healthy. Organic fruit and vegetables bring none of the poisons or chemicals that conventional produce carry with them, and often contain more vitamins and antioxidants. In particular, things like garlic, chillies, ginger, broccoli and citrus fruit are great turbo-chargers of the immune system. The fresher your food, the more nutrients it contains, and the better it is for you – so avoid canned or prepackaged produce where possible.
Local is Lekker
In South Africa, we have a saying that “Local is Lekker” – it essentially means that what comes from nearby is great; and it couldn’t be more on point or relevant than right now. By choosing things from local suppliers, businesses, farms, and organisations, you are not only decreasing reliance on the transportation system, but also “voting” with your coin against multinational corporations. Of course, the more local you can get, the better – ultimately, you should aim to be growing as much of your own food as possible. For some, this may mean growing a basil plant on their balcony, for others, perhaps a bed of tomatoes and garlic in their garden. Do what you can, with what you have. We recently began offering food garden design, consultation and establishing services, so if you are interested, please do contact us. Otherwise, support your local farmer and get to know where your food is coming from – it is a great step in not only learning how it’s grown, but also in becoming aware of what you are eating and how it reaches you. We deliver weekly boxes of our fresh organic produce to people nearby every week. Read more about or boxes, or order here.
Water is Life
Without water, we’re in trouble – just ask any Capetonian about the struggle. Having narrowly missed day zero, we can all attest to the importance of this liquid in our lives. Ensuring that you have a good supply or reserve of clean, drinkable water is of utmost importance. Setting up rainwater and dew harvesting can be done extremely easily and fairly cheaply – whether using small tanks to catch rainwater from gutters, catching your bathing water to water your garden.
If you are among the lucky who have a good roof over their heads, take a moment to appreciate it, and consider how you can improve your dwelling. If there were to be a nearby disaster such as a flood or fire, how would it hold up, or perhaps instead, what is the contingency plan? If you are looking to set up a home somewhere, how can you construct it in such a way that it requires as little new resources as possible, and makes use of what is around? Small changes, such as using natural building materials, simple designs or even just taking note of the prevailing wind can have rather big impacts on a home, and are often overlooked.
Technology plays a huge role in our lives – beyond communication and business, we rely on it to keep our food cold, light up our homes, drive our vehicles and make our stuff. All it takes is a little “Stage 2 Load-shedding” from your friendly neighbourhood power supplier to remind you how dependent we are on it. Although going entirely off-grid is becoming cheaper at a rapid rate, it is still largely out of the financial question for most people. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take certain smaller measures in order to reduce your reliance on the grid. Depending on your financial position, you can take various steps – install a solar geyser to get electricity-free hot water on tap, buy or make simple solar lamps to light up your house (it’s really easy – look it up), sell your fridge and replace it with a gas alternative, or even just put together a little solar oven (we made one out of an old window and some planks – it cooks brownies like a charm!).
Wash Your Hands
Keeping things clean is a must. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that stockpiling toilet paper and hand sanitiser is necessary. Firstly, that just creates a shortage (do you see the self-fulfilling prophecy here?) and secondly, if worst came to worst and all the toilet paper in the world were to run out, you could use water like the entire continent of Asia is still largely doing after centuries). What is important is finding a way to maintain good hygiene and prevent illnesses from coming into your home and body. The good news is that soap, hand sanitiser, shampoo, and even general house cleaners are really easy to make with very simple, cheap and biodegradable ingredients. Good friends of ours, Guerrilla House, hold frequent soap-making workshops in Cape Town, and there is a plethora of online resources which can teach you how it’s done.
All these steps, however small they may be, add up and create a ripple effect, which although may seem immeasurable, can grow into a huge wave, given the right tide. So my advice is this: prepare yourself. Don’t freak out about the toilet paper, and don’t panic in general. But take time to think about how you can reduce not only your financial and environmental footprints, but also your reliance and dependence on the systems that surround you. And when you do need to depend on them, do it consciously and with full understanding and awareness of the implications it has. Be selective about how you “vote” with your spending – support those near to you, both geographically and socially speaking, and in so doing help build the network of interdependence we all need in order to survive. Because if the governments of the world aren’t going to look after all of us, then we will do it ourselves.
– Nevau, one of those who harvest
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