Inter-sufficiency, Part 1

What if... we stopped making excuses and started making stuff again?

This is a guest blog by Alice Holloway, friend of Transition Town Brixton.





Alice HollowayI'm going to open up with, what I believe is a crucial fact: our lives, as global North consumers, is completely filled with the products of global supply chains. From the everyday items that give us enough convenience and labour saving to work out high pressure jobs, to the small precious items we exchange as tokens of love and connection, unless you've REALLY done your homework, these products are made up of a multitude of components each travelling hundreds of miles to be processed, formed, and assembled in different time zones on different continents, before ending up in our hands. More and more this applies even to our food. Every purchasable commodity is bundled up into a centralised system under the guise of efficiency and then divided back out at the lowest possible price.


As a society, that's been working on colonial capitalism for quite a few centuries now, I notice how we tell ourselves complicated stories about why it is ok that, as one of the wealthiest economies on the planet, we rely almost entirely on exploitation, environmental destruction, and sadness, in places that we've probably never been. There is a huge amount of documentation, in major news outlets as well as social media, that graphically lays out the horrors underpinning next day Amazon delivery, but the foundations of this system are buried so deep, that it often feels impossible to do anything other than just be grateful that it's them and not us.


Ironically, most of us at the top of this food chain still work bloody hard. A lot bloody harder than we thought we would. Through a century of labour struggles, we won a two-day weekend and an eight-hour workday, but that tide is turning, and the hard-won leisure time, which supposedly should have been our pay-off for letting machines do all the fun jobs, is back to being a privilege. What's more ridiculous is that all this hard work is pretty inconsequential in terms of actually meeting our needs. When Marx wrote about Capital, the workers were alienated from the products they made, now we’re alienated even from the process of making. We waste our time on work that produces only adverts and spreadsheets. Whilst the Global South waste their lives creating an excess of goods that complete a horrifyingly short journey before getting off at landfill.


Anyone who tries to alight from the bullet train, and move onto a small holding, sometimes after watching a 70s TV program called 'The Good Life' will face the overwhelming task of rebuilding every infrastructure needed to muster a 'Good Life' from scratch. It’s no surprise that in most after-dinner wine-soaked conversations, Self- sufficiency is batted away as oak-smoked utter insanity on a slice of sourdough hubris. But can we please admit that commodity dependency (what we have now- being utterly dependent for commodities) is getting dangerous in climate terms, on top of being exhausting and a little bit empty.


Inter-sufficiency is a new exciting idea for another thing. What if we took seriously the truth that everything in the world is being made? Considering most of us are working so hard to make, package and sell things that are way-beyond our actual needs, it makes logical mathematical sense that we could all work less and enjoy more, if we sank back into producing what is actually needed for each other.


I hang out in a lovely bubble of people who make things, and the thing is, we anecdotally know that we are releasing the meditation brain chemicals when we make things. We are calming our anxieties and imposter syndrome by proving to ourselves over and over again that we can turn a raw material into something beautiful and useful. None of us could do it to start with, we built up skill over time, by keeping trying, by believing in ourselves, by being encouraged by people around us.


What if this beautiful way of being, was also the normal way of getting things? What if I made the sweaters and you made the kimchi and Auntie made the face cream and Gemma did the soldering, and Paul did the carving. Don't forget, all the things in your life, are already made by people. By bringing those people closer together we relearn how those things are made. We can root those processes back into our beautiful Earth. We can support each other to make the right choices for the planet, without forcing them to foot impossible bills. We can be inter-sufficient. Part of a web of beautiful humans that live brilliant lives, and leave this dreamscape better than how we found it.


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What if?

Alice Holloway is a designer digging down from sustainable underwear into systems design and design for regenerative culture. In 2014 they founded Little Black Pants Club, a made in Brixton lingerie brand that used eco conscious materials to develop personalised fit. They now focus exclusively on bespoke underwear, after experiencing how unique the body really is. In 2021 they completed masters in Design for the Cultural Commons. They are building towards moving to a regenerative farming community in 2025 to close the loop of hyper local living and inter-sufficiency.


Click here to find out more about Alice Holloway's eco-conscious business: Little Black Pant Club


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