Sustainability, Self-Reliance: What Does It All Mean?

There seems to be a trend to pursue a more sustainable life, especially out here in the western hemisphere. We can see plenty of internet pages and videos referring to projects or lifestyles exploring (and exploiting) the world of sustainability and self-reliance. I have heard words like homesteading, off-grid, survival, autonomy, sovereignty, self-sufficiency, sustainability, permaculture… you name it, they have been increasingly thrown around for well over ten years.

The variety of slightly different meanings can be heard across the web without a doubt. As @MondoShawan said in this challangeA Viewpoint Is Always As Unique As The One Having it.

We can take everything out of a dictionary to define the meaning of each one of those words mentioned above, but some of us will still have viewpoints that differ from one another. And I think this is because we all read from different perspectives.

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Image source

Looking at the root of a few words:

AUTONOMY (One of my favorite words in this sphere).

Its roots come from Greek, auto meaning “self” and nomos meaning “custom” or “law.”

In other words, “self-law” or “self-governance”. For me this one word, Autonomy, says it all… A word that really says Let me live my life how I want to live it.

I can definitely get behind this word, especially when we can create more food sovereignty on the homestead and it even suggests a hint of anarchy! With autonomy, we alone create and abolish our own regulations and restrictions as we see fit.


SUSTAINABILITY (I find this one to have a broad range of meanings).

From its Latin root sustinere, sustainability literally means “the ability to hold up from below”. It has been widely used as the word to suggest “long term (perhaps unbreakable) support systems”, especially in a space where our environment is increasingly becoming dangerous for human survival.

I used to call what we are building today, a place of self-sustainability. While the idea of an unbreakable sustained system is very attractive, I wasn’t so sure we wanted to go down that road. For me a fully sustainable life entails not only growing your own food but also making your own clothes and cheese and everything! Once I start bartering for something we need we’re no longer self-sustainable.


SOVEREIGNTY (Perhaps the most powerful word in its class).

It holds roots in Latin and Old French, literally meaning “ruler above all” or in more modern terms, “supreme power or authority”.

Breaking it up into two parts, we get super-reign. The old Latin superanus means “chief” or super meaning “over” or “above”. On the French side of things we have reign (from latin regnum) meaning kingship!

I really like this word, I find it very powerful and I believe is very event specific, for example Food Sovereignty (Don’t forget the food sovereignty challenge that is still going on, there are just a couple days left to enter). Our beauty product could be one of those events, the Self is another or even the way we communicate, maybe? Eitherway it can be applied to so much, as long as it’s none violent, I’m all for Sovereignty.


SELF-RELIANCE (This is a choice bundle of words for preparedness and goes hand in hand with modern-day homesteading)

To RELY means “to depend on with full trust or confidence”. From Old French relier meaning “bind together”. We can easily see how its original sense “gather together” later became “turn to, associate with”, and than “depend upon with confidence”. Dependence is like glue, it is binding.

So self-reliance than should be self-dependance; depending or relying on oneself for anything one wishes. Achieving Self-Reliance seems much more attainable than other terms in this sphere because it can be completely customized to each individual as they please.


Researching the definitions and origins of the above terms was a pretty eye opening exercise for me. I have been on a mission to define this multi-family-artist-homestead, with re-wilding and anarchist tendencies. I would like to be able to describe what we want to build with one or two words, but perhaps our lauguage isn’t yet equipped with the right tools. We need more words 😁!

Sources for this post are from several dicrionaries such as Webster and Oxford, Wikipedia/Wiktionary were used as well as Dicionary.com, Vocabulary.com, Etymonline.com and my own knowledge of latin bases laguage.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and that you’ve learned a little something today, I sure have! And please don’t feel discouraged to use the word in your own sense, but knowing its origins may help all of us communicate better in the end.

Until next time…
@SenorCoconut

PS: If you, or anyone you know want to build the kind of tribal lifestyle I mentioned above, please get in touch with me 😁!

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