Lee directs us to this sobering post on peak-oil, population, and food supply.
From the Rule, Chapter 48: On Manual Labor:
And if the circumstances of the place or their poverty
should require that they themselves
do the work of gathering the harvest,
let them not be discontented;
for then are they truly monastics
when they live by the labor of their hands,
as did our Fathers and the Apostles.
Let all things be done with moderation, however,
for the sake of the faint-hearted.
It seems clear from the passage above and others like it that Benedict envisions his monasteries as self-sufficient as possible. Certainly divisions of labor were well known in the economies of his day as well as later periods—but Benedict praises the manual labor that produces the community’s needs as worthy of true monastics.
In this day and age, I don’t see self-sufficiency as practical or even desirable for most of us, and yet I know there’s more that we can do. M and I have always dreamed of being able to have a big garden where we can grow more of our food than we do. M has been working on identifying locally-grown organic foods for our table.
Benedict has examples scattered through the Rule of what simplicity looked like in his time and place. As we consider our response to our various crises, I keep turning again to consider what “simplicity” can and should mean for us. Not just “consuming green” but re-accenting the motto people of our age grew up with: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
I would add just a slight twist. It isn’t that self-sufficiency isn’t possible in our age, it never was. Communal-sufficiency, certainly, and I think still possible. Self-sufficiency rarely works out long-term, emphasis on “long-term”. This requires a great deal of rethinking of our life together.
On another note, if you have a balcony or some exposure to good sunlight inside, you can grow some foods like tomatoes and peppers. We had a wonderful amount of both this summer. Next year I’ll grow more and can some. Sadly, the squash and melons didn’t work out so well.