New Pioneers: The Back-To-The-Land Movement and the Search for a Sustainable Future

By Jeffrey Jacob | Go to book overview

7
BACK-TO-THE-LANDERS AS NEW PIONEERS The Search for a Sustainable Future

Can the back-to-the-landers in any serious sense be considered new pioneers? Or are they simply a group of people who escape to the country to enjoy the private pleasures of physical labor on their smallholdings? And to what extent does the back-to-the-country experience expand our appreciation of the prerequisites for a sustainable way of life? Finally, are there effective and efficient ways in which public policy can encourage the best instincts of the back-to-the-landers, and other like-minded individuals and groups, in their attempts to live within the earth's ecological limits?

One way to begin answering these questions is to remind ourselves what the requirements for a sustainable lifestyle are. From a technical point of view, as I argued in the Introduction, sustainability is the switch from nonrenewable fossil fuels to the renewable energy of sun, wind, and muscle power. On this criterion the performance of the new pioneers is disappointing. One unsustainable characteristic of the neohomesteaders' approach to country living is obvious: their long-distance commuting habits negate the energy they save by growing about a third of the food they eat. Cultivating gardens, keeping fruit trees, raising chickens, and using wood heat, however, are about as far as the smallholders go in applying ecologi-

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