I was born, raised and am living in Orange County California, home to over 3 million people spread out over 800 square miles with almost 4000 people living per square mile. The Kalahari Desert is over 350,000 square miles with less than 10 people per square mile. For this reason alone, my time in the Kalahari was literally, a “breath of fresh air”.
Back at home, the weather is amazing, it is a food grower’s paradise… but because of the tight quarters and vast expanse of impermeable surfaces, most of our food, clothing, tools and building materials travel thousands of miles before they reach us. The impact of this long distance lifestyle takes its toll by creating pollution, destroying ecosystems and threatening native cultures around the world.
For the Bushmen who have been living the old way in their territorial homeland for 70,000 years or more (interesting article on ancient Kalahari Ritual Site), cars are not necessary. Grocery stores are not necessary, produce is not flown in from around the world, there are no plastic packages keeping processed food fresh on the refrigerated shelves, no disposable bags with carryout lunch, no electronic music, and no need for the latest style of name brand clothing made by people on the other side of the world. For those living the old ways, their ecological impact is regenerated each year as seasonal rains and growth patterns repeat. Food is gathered and hunted. What cannot be eaten is used for tools, clothing, or goes back to the earth. Musical instruments are made out of what grows nearby. Huts are traditionally built with grass harvested within walking distance. Clothing is made from the skins of the animals and dyed with plants that were once food for those very animals. Water falls from the sky and is gathered from water holes and carried in empty ostrich egg shells. Children are cared for by their parents, grandparents, siblings, aunties & uncles. Everyone is responsible for teaching the next generation how to survive, how to take care of themselves and the earth, how to live in community and how to care for each other in their traditional ways. This is community resiliency at it’s finest. The Bushmen have been doing this for a very long time. Only successful strategies are continued, practices that do not use energy in it’s most efficient manner are forgotten over time. Their collective wisdom is something to be sought after.
Back at home, there is a growing trend to support locally grown food, locally sourced non-toxic building materials, rain water harvesting, water reuse practices and backyard gardens. How would it be to spend just one day only consuming things that were grown in walking distance? Where would our food come from? How would we get to work? What work would be meaningful? What would it be like to do that for a week? A month? A year? A lifetime? We have a long way to go before we reach the level of sustainability and community resiliency as the Bushmen, but I see a pathway emerging that balances the best of modern and ancient.
In the Kalahari, I saw a group of people living in a way that I had, until now, only imagined. It was not perfect and untouched by the complexities of modern life, but it was beautiful and gives me hope that we, too, can learn how to live more deeply connected to what gives us life.
Live Local Challenge
Is it possible in the modern world to “live locally”?
For 3 days last year, I ate only what grew in my backyard garden, what I harvested locally from the wild or traded with friends who did the same. It was delicious, nutritious and entertaining! I really needed my friends to help me make it happen. My bounty of lemons, parsley, eggs and chard got old after the third meal : ) This year I want to do it again, for longer.
Once Big Oak Canyon is established as a home base for Earthroots, food and water systems will be in place to support many people living locally and we hope to demonstrate how empowering it can be to live locally. The people I met in the Kalahari are partially responsible for that inspiration.
Will you join us in the experiment of living locally?
Want to give it a try? If your gardens are not yet producing, you may decide to plant your food now, and in 3-4 months start the challenge. If you don’t know your local wild edibles, find someone who does! Sign up for a local wild edibles class or reach out to an elder in your community who carries local plant wisdom.
How long can you eat only what you and others in your neighborhood harvest within walking distance? What about water? Will you decide to start during the rainy season so that you can drink what falls from the sky? Keep us posted on your experiences by replying here.