Insufficiently Self-Sufficient

Self-sufficiency is a concept that divides many people. Some view it as the bedrock of sustainable living, while others view it as a pre-cursor to poverty. To do everything on your own, or within your group, means to ignore the benefits provided by a division of labor.

Those in favor of the concept  point out the importance of simplistic living, a sense of community, and effects on the environment. Perhaps there’s an intangible benefit of feeling wholesome about the world around you.

All these points have their own merit, but it’s important not to fall prey to hollow symbolism. Civil eats has a good post that highlights the flaws in the US’s attempt to be “fish-sufficient” by 2020:

Food & Water Watch’s new report reveals that if the government used factory fish farming to reach its stated goal of offsetting the U.S. seafood trade deficit (that is, importing less seafood than it exports), 200 million of these fish would need to be produced in ocean cages off U.S. coasts each year. Calculations show that this could result in the discharge of as much nitrogenous waste as the untreated sewage from a city nearly nine times more populous than Los Angeles.

There are health detriments too. The nutritional quality of fish differs by region and its farming environment, and fish grown in sub-optimal conditions often require large amounts of other fish to be fed to them in order to keep them healthy.

1 thought on “Insufficiently Self-Sufficient”

  1. I think sustainability has to be viewed in the context of what sort of society you’re already operating in. If you’re a “developing” nation with a small environmental footprint, then starting new industries in a particular way has a lot of potential. However, if you’re already in a country where industries have established practices, then it’s hard to jerk them into something new without unintended consequences.


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