Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Living off the Land--Are we Pushing the Limits?

In recent years, North Americans are starting to become more aware of how much of the world’s precious resources we are consuming—but we have a long way to go. WorldWatch Institute states that, “the planet has available 1.9 hectares of biologically productive land per person to supply resources and absorb wastes—yet the average person on Earth already uses 2.3 hectares worth. These “ecological footprints” range from the 9.7 hectares claimed by the average American to the 0.47 hectares used by the average Mozambican.” (

The idea of the respecting the earth’s limited resources is no new phenomenon. In the Bible, in Genesis 13:6 it tells the story of Abram and Lot separating. “But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great.” This happens again two generations later with Jacob and Esau. Genesis 36:7b stays, “Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock.” As the second verse points out clearly, a person’s amount of livestock was usually how one’s wealth was measured during this time. The solution to the problem at this time (roughly 2000 B.C.) was fairly simple, just move away so you can occupy more land. However we are beyond maxing-out our resources—we can’t move away because someone is already living there.

So what does this all have to do with food? This verse from the Bible shows that just like us, animals are consumers of the land, and the land can only support so much (it has limits!) Modern farming has pushed these limits by factoring farming and feeding animals unnatural diets instead of allowing them to graze on pasture or be free-run. Pushing these limits has had a big impact on the environment and our health.
Abram and Lot as well as Jacob and Esau respected the limits of the land and we need to follow suit. We should only have as much livestock as can live naturally off the land and that, in turn, limits our diets as well. Keep in mind you can feed more people off plant foods than animal foods, so reducing our animal product consumption helps reduce our use of the earth’s resources.

Another aspect to this idea of respecting the limits of the land is to eat local food. The cost of our food on the earth’s resources grows exponentially when we use oil to ship it half way around the world. But I won’t get into the details of local eating here…that deserves at least a post of it’s own! What I will say in the time being, is to find local food sources and buy what you can from them. Even if you can get 50% of your food locally, that’s good progress!

This post just scratches the surface of way to apply this verse, because they are so many ways in which we need to make changes so we are living sustainably. Please feel free to leave any ideas or comments about sustainability, it would be great o get a discussion going.


Laura said...

I learned about something through the Working Centre in Kitchener - you can pay up front at the beginning of the summer, and either every week or every other week (your choice) on a Wednesday, you can pick up a hamper/box of locally grown produce. Seems like a cool idea!