Look To Mother Nature

While this clip is about the economy, I often think about it in relation to our burgeoning urban homesteading movement. Whenever I’m asked why we are engaged in the disparate activities chronicled on this blog, I point to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of one of my favorite books, The Black Swan.  In this clip he talks about how nature isn’t centralized. Nothing in nature is “too big to fail.” Nature depends on built in redundancy. It’s adaptable, flexible, built to withstand shocks–Taleb’s term for this is robustness.

He’s talking about reforming financial systems, but we apply the same ideas when considering our overly centralized food system. All of us who grow a little food, bake, brew, keep small stock and bees–what have you–are part of the solution. By building community ties and practical knowledge we’re creating a robust food production and distribution able to withstand shocks.

This is reason enough to do it, but as you all know, it’s a whole lot of fun, too.

Just another reason why urban homesteading rocks.

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4 Comments

  1. ;)

    I think it was Kunstler who said something like, efficiency is the straightest path to hell. The trick is to find the right way to apply efficiency. How do I work my garden more efficiently, so I waste less time? How do I preserve my harvests in the most energy efficient manner? That sort of efficiency seems pretty important to me. I’m not really sure how to square that with the obvious value of redundancy in the systems that support life.

    BTW, ordered a few copies of your book just recently, through your Amazon links. Is it now back ordered? Apparently my order won’t ship till mid-March…

  2. Kate,

    Re: the books. It’s a little confusing. There’s two versions in print, the original and the expanded. Both are available at Amazon, though sometimes they don’t make that so clear. If you search “amazon urban homestead” on Google both Amazon listings will come up.

    Amazon is waiting for a shipment of new expanded ed. books. However, there are plenty of the first version available still. If you’re in a hurry, you could maybe switch the order to the original. The difference between the two is that they have different covers (the old one has the people on it) and the new one has a few extra projects.

    We’ll change our links temporarily to the older version. Thanks for the heads up.

  3. One of my favorite books too. I also highly recommend his earlier book “Fooled by Randomness” if you have not yet read it.

    Another one of Taleb’s central points is that not only is nothing “too big to fail”, but that unpredictable failures (Black Swans) are inevitable. We may not be able to know when and what type of failures might interrupt the centralized food supply (earthquake, union strike, lack of oil for transport due to mideast unrest, collapse of bees, etc, etc.). But we do know that, at some point (perhaps here, perhaps in our lifetime, perhaps not), it will happen and thus it is prudent to have “alternative” methods of obtaining food (and water and medicine and shelter – all the essentials).

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