Grass Roots


The expression “all politics are local” captures both the source and depth of our national ignorance. For example:

The Willamette valley, which is where I live, is one of the most fertile places on earth. 100 years ago, it supplied over 99% of the food consumed by the population living within it.

Today, that figure is less than one tenth of one percent. The thousands of acres that once produced bumper crops of vegetables, fruits and nuts…and provided seemingly endless pasturage for dairy, fiber (wool) and meat production…are almost exclusively used now for production of grass seed. Edible, I suppose, but not terribly nutritious.

Willamette Valley

Willamette Valley - Oregon

In other words, with very rare exceptions, everything now found in the grocery stores comes from far away. If there were a hiccup in the supply chain, the store shelves would be empty in a matter of days…or hours if the disruption was presented as “ominous” on the nightly news.

100 years ago, the people in this valley would hardly notice the consequences. Not just because so much food was produced locally, but also because most of them still had their feet on the ground, or very close to it. For example, when I was a kid, many of the people in this area built their own homes, had gardens (not spas) in their back yards, and canned much of what they planned to eat in the winter months. Only a very small percentage were starting down the road to La-La Land…and thus beginning to rely entirely on others for their necessities.

Today…well, let’s just say that almost no one is prepared either physically, psychologically or socially for any kind of deprivation, much less one that involves vital goods or services. And almost no one has direct control over their basic food supply.

In the broader context, this country–not to mention most others in the west–has effectively constructed a house of cards on an increasingly shaky (vulnerable) foundation. And it has also successfully produced at least one generation that is virtually unprepared to function in a seriously deprived environment. Take one card away (take your pick) on or near the bottom of the supply chain, even briefly, and…well, lets just say it won’t be pretty.

So…is there any local political awareness or interest in any of this? Sure…about as much as you’ll find in L.A. or New York City. And who’s to blame for that? Politicians? No, its simpler than that. Just look in a mirror and you’ll see the person who is ultimately responsible for your survival, when (not if) things go south.

You can’t get any more local or “grass roots” than that.

13 comments on “Grass Roots

  1. I look to myself and see the same process as you have observed in your beloved valley. I am slowly returning to that way of being, knowing because I have been there, that I can remember, revisit, and recognize.

    It goes beyond the individual, however. We are social creatures, creatures of community. Reminding me of the wisdom of Wendell Berry, “Conserving Communities”:

    Let’s get back to the Garden…


  2. Thanks for the link to Wendell’s article. The following quote reminds me of a (humorous?) piece I posted on my ergo:Village website a few months ago:

    “These people see nothing odd or difficult about unlimited economic growth or unlimited consumption in a limited world.” – Wendell Berry


  3. Hear Hear! I miserably shooed my lambies through the gates into the house of slaughter this morning, gay smile firmly plastered on my face lest they think us kiwis are a bunch of girls. Run by two really nice gentlemen I might add, who waited solemnly for me to leave the car park before turning back to sharpening their knives. However back to the subject. Yes I can feed myself and my families.

    As I was reading your article I was ready to go SEE! SEE! (pointing my metaphorical finger) corn and beans! HUH.!, again! wah? .. NO.. it is grass seed in your neck of the woods.. hmm.

    They love their lawns around here. Did you know that an american designed the first ride on lawn mower. It is an interesting discussion: why americans love their enormous lawns so much.

    How are the ducks then?..



  4. How are the ducks? The University of Oregon Ducks seem to be struggling a bit, and our little herd (Khaki Campbells) don’t seem to be very productive lately either. Maybe its time to consider reshuffling the lineup? ;-)


  5. I went into the discussion file and changed those settings as you suggested. Thank you for that. I am always grateful for help as i am new to this particular genre. I viewed the film you sent and it is pretty grim stuff. Though my motives in having an old fashioned environment are not nearly that noble. I just want good food and a gentle natural lifestyle. John commented that living like we do is the right thing to do. This should be enough. For the record in the summer we actually run our vehicles off recycled cooking oil. Mainly because it is almost free and reuses used oil from local restaurants. You can delete this now as it is not on the subject at all.. Just wanted to say thank you.. I hope you can comment now, let me know if the site still needs adjusting.. c


  6. There are so very few of us Mr Lawson with sufficient enlightenment (probably the wrong word) to understand the implications of squandering land resources. One would have thought the UK, being one of the most densely populated countries globally, would have a refined sensibility to the issues. Far from it. There is a wilful and blatant compulsion to rip up our agricultural land and cover it with houses which are not needed, railways that are not wanted and shopping malls to feed a different hunger. Frankly, whenever any one of them acknowledges there might be a problem brewing, politicians do nothing practical but wailing on and on as if it was nothing to do with them or any of us. It just somehow mysteriously happens. We are a disparate band in need of co-ordination, organisation and recognition. Above all though, we need respect so when we raise an issue (rain forest preservation is perfect example) we are taken seriously. The sad fact is if there was money in food production, sustainable resource planning and preservation, every last one of the fat cat, lazy, ignorant gold diggers would be in there like a shot proclaiming there absolute devotion to the cause since they were born, possibly even before that. Since they were conceived because for reasons that can only be weird, politicians always want to be first. Idiots.


  7. You raise a very important point – which is why I try to keep at least a three month supply of water and canned foods on hand – just in the case the Mayans were right. I wonder how well, in a real emergency, those EBT cards would work. I suspect that in a serious disaster, the new credit card would be a gun.


  8. Odds are you’re right about what will replace credit cards…unless sufficient time, thought and effort are put into designing a ‘new paradigm’ that doesn’t rely mostly on wishful thinking. Sandy. for example, being a recent case in point (e.g., millions of people, bunched together, with absolutely no viable backup plan that relies in a meaningful way on the exercise of individual self-responsibility). What it demonstrated (for the nth time) is that ‘finger-pointing’ probably isn’t the most effective way to provide one’s self with something to eat! ;-)

    With this in mind, if you were attempting to fill a position that required an unusual degree of common sense, plus a demonstrated ability to look above and beyond the crowd to see what obstacles and/or dangers might lie ahead if the current path continued to be followed, what kind of ‘resume’ would you most want to see? Especially if your advertisement began as follows: “Senior Management Position – Requires advanced skills in both defining and improving individual performance based on self-responsibility.”

    And if you were to ‘apply’ for the position yourself, would you seriously consider your own resume? That’s the question we all need to ask ourselves….once we fully understand what self-responsibility means, in a real world context. (But for that, unfortunately, most of us will have to wait until we ‘grow up.’ If we live that long. ;-)


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