Self-sufficiency is about having the skills, resources and planning needed to get by with what we have locally.

It is one aspect of resilience.

How self-suffient are you?[edit | edit source]

A simple metric may be to ask: How often do you visit WalMart/SAMS/LIDL ?

  • Once per day - not self-sufficient at all - you need help.
  • Once per week - not exactly self-sufficient.
  • Once per month - better, or maybe you just have a larger freezer.
  • Once per year - now you're getting there.
  • Once - definitely self-sufficient.

How far?[edit | edit source]

Make the tools to make the tools to make the things you need.

This can be taken to a bit of an extreme. Do you knap the flint, to dig the ore, to smelt the metal, to forge the plow, to grow the corn, to make the mash, to distill the drink ? At some point, a non-self-sufficient person provided the tools to allow you to live a self-sufficient life-style.

Many of the principles of self sufficiency are used in other movements such as homesteading, survivalism, simple living (or voluntary simplicity), hobby farming, smallholding and off-grid living. All utilise some aspects of living solely on what you can produce yourself from your own piece of land. Since this is almost impossible to do entirely many choose to produce more than they need in food and other goods, which they can then barter with for other goods and services.

Like all things, taken to an extreme self-sufficiency is unhealthy. We also need to take advantage of interdependence, which offers much efficiency, resilience and variety in our lives, when planned appropriately.

A place for specialization?[edit | edit source]

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
— Robert A. Heinlein

The opposite of self-sufficiency is specialization and interdependence, often in the form of trade.

Specialization is the basis for much of human progress, and provides (for example) the tools mentioned above. Historically, when small communities of only a few thousand people became isolated, they actually lost skills as there weren't enough people to carry on the traditions of all the specializations. The Tasmanian AboriginesW are an example of this, after they were cut off from the Australian mainland.

Through the economic principle of comparative advantage,W specialization allows net benefit from trade - provided trade is not suddenly disrupted.

Balance[edit | edit source]

While self-sufficiency in terms of skills aids resilience, and providing for oneself maintains those skills, it is also true that many benefits come from specialization.

A wise path is to receive the benefits of specialization, but plan for the contingency that self-sufficiency may be needed one day, without warning.

See also[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

  • New Self Sufficient Living- Become as self sufficient as you can be, with whatever you have, wherever you are.
  •, the urban guide to almost self sufficiency.
  • Self Sufficiency Guide- A practical guide to becoming more self sufficient.
  • [1]- Several articles that deal with living off a piece of land self-sufficiently as a case study where this was done. In English and Suomi.
FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Page data
Authors Chris Watkins, Eric Blazek, Jonny Lyons
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Translations Marathi
Related 1 subpages, 46 pages link here
Aliases Self-sufficient
Impact 1,086 page views
Created April 24, 2006 by Eric Blazek
Modified May 28, 2024 by Kathy Nativi
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