The Case for Regional Self Sufficiency

Did you know that we’re consuming 1.51 planets worth of stuff (footprintnetwork.org), and yet we only have one planet. The last time we used 1.0 planets was 1975. No matter what our political views, we all want to be able to give the next generation a better quality of life.

So how can we make sure of this? There are many efforts to make our world more sustainable as urban agriculture, public transportation, hybrid cars, recycling, and changing our light bulbs. Many individuals, families, and companies have even made significant investments in greening homes, investing in green companies, and green infrastructure. These efforts, however, are piecemeal and often disconnected. How do we know that what we’re doing is actually moving us towards consuming 1.0 planets? Basically it is just about numbers. Scientists can help us to understand if we’re going in the right direction by quantifying the amount of renewable resources available in each region for human use, and how close or far each region is to living within the limits.

The idea of regional self sufficiency is about understanding what resources are available to us in our own regions, and how much can be renewably sustained by the ecosystems. We’re not claiming that we should live only on renewable regional resources, but rather we begin to understand what regions can sustain for the long term. By understanding the regional resource base, we can begin to understand how much we are currently importing from other regions to sustain our current lifestyles. We can also better understand where we are getting these resources, and from what regions we are taking, and how it might be affecting those regions. This is not a utopian idea. We are not suggesting an ideal, but rather that we as a society begin to look realistically at what our ecosystems can maintain. The way we are living as society today–ie. consuming 1.51 planets of stuff–is unrealistic and unjust. We have the capacity and the knowledge and as a society to live differently, and it starts with knowledge and the desire.

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