Sustainable, Traditional

I belong to a web community called “Sustainable Traditions.” It is just getting off the ground, like a hand-built log house. It may be slow going, but the results should be beautiful and longlasting.

Which is a good analogy, if I may so so, for the model of sustainable traditions. We’ve been searching and pondering a good definition of “Sustainable Traditions.” “Sustainable” could mean that it can be self-supporting, self-regenerating, closed-loop. It can mean low-impact and no-impact effects on the ecology. It could mean that anyone could do it without a lot of education beforehand. It probably means all of the above.

“Tradition” means what we have received from our antecedents. It is the tried and true, the proven way. It is accepting that the wheel has, indeed, been invented. This is not to say that we don’t have to, sometimes, argue from first principles; it means that although we know those first principles, we know how others have argued them.

“Sustainable Traditions” are the self-supporting, self-regenerating methods and ways that our antecedents bequeathed us, whether those were from agriculture, religion, politics, architecture or philosophy. It isn’t necessarily the big stuff. It is often the littlest stuff – how to build an efficient fire, how to can food safely, how to deliver a breech lamb, how to compost. Doing the little things well will lead to doing the big things well, as our Lord tells us: If we can be trusted with the small, we can be trusted with the great.

There are things that are sustainable that are impossible for the average smallholder to build, practice or fulfill: power generating windmills, maybe, or tidal energy. And just how sustainable are they if they require huge investments of engineering design, high-tech materials, and computer-assisted management?

There are traditions that are not sustainable – slash and burn agriculture, monoculture forests, inbreeding of animals. Lack of proper sewage disposal – as traditional as dumping the chamberpot into the nearest stream, but not what you’d call a good ecological practice. Or burning bituminous coal scratched out of a surface seam; harmful but very traditional in many places.

“Sustainable Traditions” is a concept that requires thought, and research, and for it to be entirely successful, involving the Creator as well as Creation, prayer and more prayer. Are we ready? Can we wait any longer? Is it already too late?

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7 thoughts on “Sustainable, Traditional

  1. Another good post. My husband has been intrigued lately by the question of are humans smarter than bacteria? What this means is start with a single bacteria in a cup. Then it doubles and keeps doubling. When the cup is only half full it has just one doubling left and then will die because all the resources are used up. The question ponders if the world’s resources are half used up, will we know enough to conserve before it is too late? Is it already too late? At what point is it too late? Sustainability is very important in determining the future.

  2. I gave this some thought before replying. We haven’t come to the end of our resources, we’ve just archived them as junk. It’s a cliche of Western culture that we have attics, closets, basements, garages, rented storage space for crying out loud, all full of stuff we don’t use, don’t need, and somehow still want. Maybe someone remembers the war drives for scrap metal or other materials. We need a peace drive to reclaim steel, aluminum, petrochemicals and paper products. I know your family does all kinds of things to live more efficiently, and your writing helps other people, as well. I really hope people think about this. As for me, I know where we need to tighten the belt a bit – we’ve moved twice this year, and with all the confusion, stress and trauma, we’ve been indulging too much in convenience foods. That’s a lot of calories, containers, and waste that we didn’t really need. So now that Advent is upon us, I’m ready for the long fast from meat, fish, eggs, dairy, fats and alcohol. (Those are the Orthodox guidelines for keeping the fast. First and Seventh Days – weekends – wine and oil are allowed.) It means oatmeal for breakfast, peanut butter for sandwiches, beans and whole grains and vegetables for the evening meal. We always lose weight on the fasts, and by the Holy Day, we feel a lot better. And the feast is really a feast then! Many people who keep the fasts donate the money they’ve saved to a food charity.

  3. Hi Magdalena,
    How have you been? It’s been awhile since you’ve been around the Sustainable Traditions online community but I wanted to let you know about our upcoming blogazine that we are finally launching December 29th.

    I also wanted to ask you if you would allow us to feature this article on the blogazine. We would credit you and provide a link back here. All I would need from you is a one or two sentence bio describing yourself (we would include the bio after the article). If you are interested please let me know.

    -shalom to you and your tribe this Advent season!
    Jason Fowler

    • Hi, Jason:
      Yes, please use this article or any other that seems appropriate.

      We have been out of touch; a long-distance move, then a medical crisis, not yet resolved, meant I had to drop a lot of my activities to care for Nicholas. I hope the venture is going well, since I truly believe in all your work.

      As for a bio:
      Magdalena Perks is a Plain Anglican, a former shepherd and an ordained priest. She lives in small-town Ontario, is married to Nicholas, and is mother to two grown sons.

      Thanks, and God’s blessings to you!

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