“[e]lite professional groups . . . have come to exert a ‘radical monopoly’ on such basic human activities as health, agriculture, home-building, and learning, leading to a ‘war on subsistence’ that robs peasant societies of their vital skills and know-how. The result of much economic development is very often not human flourishing but ‘modernized poverty,’ dependency, and an out-of-control system in which the humans become worn-down mechanical parts.”Ivan Illich

Subsistence: the amount of food, money, etc., that is needed to stay alive

Subsistence living: living in a manner wherein food and other items necessary to exist are obtained locally

Subsistence living is the only truly sustainable way that humans have ever lived. We see that future subsistence living will be different than it has been in the past due to the depleted state of the living world on which we depend, as well as the abundance of junk left over from a couple of centuries of industrialization. The upside to these leftovers is that it makes the transition easier; the downside is that it makes it possible to remain dependent–for a while–on products that cannot be produced in a sustainable manner.

Our Transition toward Subsistence
Here at the Preserve, we use solar electrical power with a small battery bank, our water system runs through PVC pipes and is stored in polyethylene and stainless steel tanks, and we use vehicles for transportation, to name just a few of the very unsustainable technologies that currently make our lives “convenient.” But our plan is to minimize the purchase of new products like these in the future, and to phase-out any technology that requires regular upgrades or maintenance needing brand new items. The point for us is not to prove how pure we are, it is simply to keep on the path of living in a manner that will make a transition to subsistence living easy. In the current sociopolitical situation, this means we will choose to keep a phone and internet and vehicles into the future, as they are critical in accomplishing much of the work we envision with our human allies. When we find it necessary to purchase industrially-manufactured goods, we buy used items whenever possible.

Specifically, here are some of our goals:

  • Learn to live with a lot less electricity.
  • Not buy any new irrigation supplies; phase out the growing of plants that aren’t native, feral, or climatically-appropriate, except those that can thrive with a little greywater or collected rainwater from a nearby tank.
  • Minimize purchases of new fencing materials; We now graze livestock as shepherds, with a herding dog.
  • Phase out the use of propane; master the skills of methane capture and storage, solar, rocket stove, and cob oven cooking.