Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Land, productivity and the blended lifestyle

In the beginning of the 19th century 10% of us lived in cities. 100 years later, 90% of us did. (Rogers).

We left the land - some by choice, others by force - in order to participate in the growing industrial economy.

The land available for us to live and farm on was reduced, so that we would have to turn to wage labour to sustain ourselves.

"Lord and Lady Stafford were pleased humanely, to order a new arrangement of this Country. That the interior should be possessed by Cheviot [sheep] Shepherds and the people brought down to the coast and placed there in lots under the size of three arable acres, sufficient for the maintenance of an industrious family, but pinched enough to cause them turn their attention to the fishing [i.e. waged labour]." Patrick Sellar, Lawyer, 1815

1912, Kenya - Lord Delamere:
"If... every native is to be a landholder of a sufficient area on which to establish himself, then the question of obtaining a satisfactory labour supply will never be settled."

Both quotes from Soil and Soul, p94. Pic from internet shakespeare. 

That industrial economy has brought us very useful wealth.

It is now unsustainable.

But we cannot slow or reduce the economy, we believe, because people will lose their jobs and incomes.  Without jobs and incomes, how will we meet our needs?

My answer to this question is, by re-organising our use of land, such that we can work for money part-time, and be self-sufficient part-time, total employment can stabilise or reduce with wellbeing at least maintained, and probably enhanced.

200 years ago, it was thought that people would not want to move from local self-sufficiency to employment, so they had to be forced to, by reducing access to land.

Now, few people would altogether give up our jobs and put both hands on our spades. We like our incomes, our professional identities - some of us, at least - me for one.

So we need not fear that by increasing opportunities for self-sufficiency, you reduce the available workforce. Rather it will reduce the necessary workforce and enable the economy to explore what sustainable growth means in practice.

By taking parts of our lives away from the money economy, we give it a bit of a breather, and let it find its next, unprecedented form.

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