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January 11, 2012 § 3 Comments

“How much am I worth? Is my life equal to one square foot of mature forest land? Two feet? An acre?”
[Malcolm Wells, Gentle Architecture, 1981]

How much land do you deserve? If the Earth were to weigh your benefits towards against what you detract from it, how much land would it hand you to pillage at your will? Yes, you, human.

“The minimum amount of agricultural land necessary for sustainable food security, with a diversified diet similar to those of North America and Western Europe (hence including meat), is 0.5 of a hectare per person.”

0.5 ha = 1.2 acres = 53,819.6 sqft

“The minimum amount of arable land required to sustainably support one person is 0.07 of a hectare. This assumes a largely vegetarian diet, no farmland degradation or water shortages, virtually no post- harvest waste, and farmers who know precisely when and how to plant, fertilize, irrigate, etc.”
[http://www.iisc.ernet.in/currsci/feb25/articles16.htm]

0.07 ha = 7,534.7 sqft
You, human, are being given a source of clean water to drink, a hundred square feet to create a shelter from the elements, and just over seven and a half thousand square feet of land to garden. A plot of land eighty-seven feet by eighty-seven feet. Till your front lawn into a garden. That’s what you get. We won’t even try to answer whether you deserve it.
If you want to fish from your water source you have to give up a bit of your land. If you want to raise chickens or a goat on that land, think carefully about whether they’re worth how much of your garden they’re going to be consuming. Don’t even think about getting a cow.
No, you can’t go hunt off your plot. Everything you need to live must occur within those square feet. If you want a bigger house, you’re building over your garden and using some of your land to grow trees for wood (a gift – the trees will appear instantly for you, but they’re also instantly depleting all the nutrients from the land that they required to grow). Oh, you’re naked and cold? Maybe you’ll have to raise a goat after all, just for its skin, or calculate how many cotton plants you need to grow. Hang on, you want to cook your food?? Well, you have to grow those trees after all just for fuel. How many trees would you go through in a year? How much food would you be losing?
Don’t even think of wanting a book. Don’t even think of wanting a kettle, or nails and a hammer. Don’t even think of wanting a warm wool blanket. Don’t even think of wanting electricity. Or glass windows. Or shoes. You can’t afford these things.

0.07 hectares. Why should you get any more?

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§ 3 Responses to x

  • Jeff says:

    Because I’d love it and take care of it and walk it every day. Twice a day! I promise!

    It really is all about weighing benefit against the cost. A human being requires a startling amount of raw resources, even to live a simple life; and must take care not to detract from the land that sustains them.
    Garden/ crop area, the footprint of a suitably sized home, that meet the needs of the number of people living there, forest to supply wood for building, cooking and heating, pasture for livestock [not only for food, but for sustainable transportation and expanding on the muscle power of a human being]–a single horse requires at least 5-10 acres of good foraging pasture, and horses don’t much like being alone…
    To say nothing of chickens and goats, and heaven forfend- cows!
    Even if it remains completely uncultivated, a hunting ground is still immensely important to survival, [especially if livestock is factored out, or remains limited] and requires as much gentle and careful management and care as does pasture, livestock, garden, crops, timber, or firewood.
    To say nothing of all the products and services we take for granted, and which seem to magically appear out of a shipping container…
    I think the amount we deserve is dictated by how we treat it.
    A good sized tree stand can provide all the firewood and timber for building as will ever be needed with careful management, growth, and care. Or it can be clear-cut, take the money and run…
    Livestock can be naturally bred and raised, and used in conjunction with other animals and plants to mutual benefit, maximizing fruitfulness on a minimum area. The whole can be greater than the sum of it’s parts.
    Or gardens, plants, and crops can be sprayed with petrochemical byproducts, and livestock live up to their knees in their own waste in high-density feed lots, miles, and miles away…
    Nature has a way of rewarding care and nurture with success; and it’s those attributes- those virtues, that should be expanded with that success. Unfortunately, on an industrial, social scale, we’ve made ourselves the enemy of nature, and seen it’s process as an impediment to progress. I think we do that at our peril, and nature will, over the long term, not reward that attitude, or that process with success.
    It is care that invites care. Beyond all the needs we must provide for with the processes and resources of nature, and if done properly, will be gifted us by nature in return, this earth has an innate quality of it’s own, that we all know, and when in the right frame of mind, would never disturb. Places and vistas that we would never detract from, that provide for our needs by being wild, and by remaining wild.
    Because we love them.

    Love it and care for it and walk it every day. Twice a day! I promise!

  • Natalia says:

    I like this post a lot! Very well written.
    In real life, I guess this is one of the reasons I like cities, because you can pack people into teeny spaces (stacked) and leave more space for the stuff we need to grow etc. Sadly a lot of the people that live in cities ARE consuming more than they need etc. etc. but I would bet not as much as those who live in suburbs. Stats on this, anyone?

  • ava says:

    Yeah, cities definitely have pros and cons. But suburbs are DEFINITELY worse, for all their “prettiness” and “family-friendliness”.
    It’s funny how people talk about giving back to Nature or to the land, as if it’s an act of such generosity on our part. It’s not supposed to be! It should be every living moment – in fact, life itself!
    And I agree, Jeff, that we earn what we get to use by taking good care of it. Another part of this thought exercize that I liked, though, was the idea that perhaps instead of our birthright being citizenship, or the duty to vote, it should be a tiny little parcel of land, just enough to scrape by on, for every human being, something they can’t sell or lose, so that a successful person isn’t as abstract as who invests their money best, but who takes the best care of their land.
    Of course, truth is, 0.7 hectares is no where near enough for a single human being, besides the fact that no one can live in a closed system that small anyways. It’s much better for a small community to share access to land and resources, to raise two horses on ten acres and have everyone share the horses. Etc. Too hungry just now to keep up this line of thought…

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