Self-Sufficient Rural Life or Simple Urban Life?
Pollution devastates the earth,and Mother Nature is shrieking faced with ruthless ravage in the name of 'development'. Unless we soon change our life style, the doomsday 1999 will never fail to come. ( It seems to be a little deferred.) Individual efforts may be a drop in a bucket, but nevertheless we only hope for the rehabilitation of the whole ecosystem. The following is a sketch of my own life style.
Where there is a river will be the best place for the life. If I could see a small bay 500 or 1000 meter ahead, that would be wonderful. Fishes, sea weeds and mussels could be taken at will if the place are situated in a moderate climate. Population density should be less than 20 people in a square kilometer. The dwelling is faced with the river banks and a small private quay is put on at the end of the building. At the quay, a small sailboat ( not a motor boat! ) is moored. Through the backyard is a fan-shaped mouth of a creek along which a fertile land stretches. There grow various kinds of cereals, vegetables and medical plants. They are not much in quantity but many in kind. The most characteristic feature of the plantation is that they are not planted exclusively or in parallel lines, but mixed up with various kinds of vegetation.
This may seem very unproductive method, but according to ecological laws, mixed planting does not attract malignant diseases or devouring insects. Only organic fertilizers, such as green manure, are used here. All the excessive products and kitchen leftover are returned to the earth by piling up to make a compost. Behind the flat land is a small hill. At the foot of the hill is a shelter for tens of fowls, and a few horses and goats, which are fed on a grassland except for the winter season. Chickens are not confined in a rigid cage, but free to walk around the yard. So people have to pick up eggs laid on the ground as soon as they get up early in the morning. The hill is covered with various kinds of woods, not with a single species of vegetation, but with mixed up one, which also prevents them from being attacked by harmful bugs.
We do not forcibly get something from the forest. The small bushes, which have their own ecological entity, yield a little excessive products. We mankind are given only a small portion of them. Bears too have a right to get some of them.The vast land is a kind of capital, and we live on the interests, never eat out of it. In the hill, we'll get nuts, fruits, timber and firewood. But,taking out small timbers once in a while is very important for the proper maintenance of the wood because overcrowded bushes and weeds deprive the tall trees of essential nutrients and enough space for growth.
The house is made of logs. It is divided into two parts, 'wet portion' and 'dried portion'. The former has functions as kitchen, dining room, bathroom and toilet; the latter as study and bedroom. All the garbage including urine and excretion is piled in the compost pit, in which manure is gradually made up. In the middle of the room lies a wood stove which burns timber, wood, fallen leaves and anything else. Coal or oil should not be used, because they contaminate the environment.
Everything should be based on the belief that man is no longer a part of nature, but an outsider. An outsider should not exploit the nature, but may make if possible the most of excessive products Nature happens to give us, and must not overburden the capacity for self-purification. If we neglect this elementary rule, the whole structure of ecological balance will be in catastrophe. Wisdom of man should be directed not to the exploitation but to the creation of a life style that keeps the nature intact. If we want to live in a wilderness, we must take this into consideration all the time. Otherwise we have to make an artificial space independent of nature; the city.
The utmost domestication of man himself or herself leads to the complete adaptation to the man-made surroundings. For man, who is destined to look for land because of overpopulation, and might be finally forced to dwell on some celestial bodies, it is essential to be capable of living in harmony with circumstances of rude nature. This is not impossible, because,for instance, Eskimos and nomads for millennium, have been accustomed to living in greenless, wasteland with marvelous resilience. This almost infinite adaptability to his environment enables him to live almost anywhere in the universe. Just as 'Nisei' or 'Sansei' of Japanese origin think of themselves as complete stranger to Japan, so the future generation of men will become 'natives' of a certain planet.
This is why to become an 'urban dweller' is no difficult business, and in the foreseeable future more than 99 % of the whole population will concentrate on megalopolis. This is not wrong in itself on the ground that centering on urban areas means the depopulation of rural regions, therefore in some way destruction of nature is largely to become prevented. Industrial areas and agricultural areas ( in which agriculture will also be a form of industry, thanks to the development of cultivation without using soil, namely hydroponics ) must not sprawl, since uncontrolled development will cause another pollution. It is better to separate the areas inhabited by people from a wilderness completely. The main obstacle to the procedure is the present land system. The applying of free-market principles to the system is the root of all evils. The developers are free to purchase land. Therefore, all land should be nationalized, especially in such countries as have small commercial areas available. Property tax on land will be replaced by land lease fee. On no account should land be the object of speculation.
A personal life in urban area must be free of personal belongings as much as possible. There are automated laundry shops, 24-hour convenience stores, shops renting out from fountain pens to coffins(?), and low-priced tasty restaurants ( off course, if you can find them at all ).--- in short, everything by which you can dispense with expensive furniture and electrical gadgets. Most of the services that seem so essential to city dwellers form no part of the life of the country. In cities you don't have to be self-sufficient at all. All you have to do is possess a small portion of minimum apparel and kitchenware, and some other things you consider precious, such as books and records; if you are fond of books you should buy them. Borrowing books is better because it prevents too many books from occupying your room, though I don't think your own valuable information is always sufficiently available only with the use of public library. What makes man individualistic is not the accumulation of knowledge, but the excellent choice and preservation of specific knowledge. Thus, it would be better not to depend solely upon outer sources of information. You may need your own library.
Even if urban life is severely isolated from nature,it is quite possible that we lead what we call a 'capsule' life and become contented with it. We may lose teeth because of processed, minced, sweetened food; loose strength because of lack of exercise; weaken inborn body temperature regulatory system because of air-conditioner; and even get feeble feet because because of convenient door-to-door transportation system; but then, people will turn to the rural life for new way of life.
Country life is in contrast with that of urban, and naturally most of the future generations will be opt for the latter, but one is no better or no worse than the other. Anyway modern science has enabled us to choose between the two. It'a up to you to decide.
First Written in December 1986