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  The Ishmael Community: Questions and Answers

The Question (ID Number 659)...

    I did some research on a group of people that lived in a remote mountain valley in Switzerland. They called their valley "Loetschental" and have been living there sufficiently and sustainably for about 1250 years, and they still do. This society performs a special form of agriculture that is not totalitarian, yet has been a sustainable kind. And this small civilization runs very differently from ours. They raise three livestock animals--cattle, goats, and sheep (for wool, meat, and dairy) on the same pasture, hence no need to change the contents of the diversity of the pasture. Also, pasture is only around during the growing season--about 4 months a year--so hay grown there is used to feet the cattle the rest of the year, and food is stored for winter feeding. They plant salad greens in gardens together, NOT on monocropped fields, and although they have single rye fields, they rotate their crops. Since the valley is about 7000 feet above sea level, they have a very short growing season. Where they plant rye and hay one year they do not plant rye the next year. They do not attempt to invade and conquer any neighboring villages, and do not try to make more of anything. They have a complete sense of limit. They grow the same amount every year--the amount needed to sustain their fixed population of 2,000--and no more. Also, the wooden buildings in their valley never are torn down, the ones that exist now have existed since the dawn of the settlement. They also use no pesticides or hormones to raise productivity, they let Nature take its course to feed their livestock and they feed whatever the pastures offer. They may water their crops, but they do not try to control Nature--hence they "live in the hands of the gods" to a certain extent. They have made no attempts to hunt down the competitors or wage war on their animals. They may try to defend their livestock if attacked, but do not try to kill off the attackers. They have no health problems or diseases of civilization, no depression, and have no hierarchal systems. Everyone shares the good times and the bad times together in the village. Yet they have all the good artifices of civilization--a culture, recorded history, an annual holiday celebration, and the ability to communicate ideas to the whole village. Would you call this a Leaver society?

    ...and the response:

    One key difference between Leavers and Takers is that Leavers have never undergone what I called in The Story of B "The Great Forgetting." What was forgotten in The Great Forgetting is that humans weren't BORN agriculturalists and civilization-builders. Leavers, by contrast, know this very well; as far as their knowledge goes, they have lived this way from the beginning of time. I must assume that the people of Loetschental were just as surprised as the rest of us were when it finally became clear in the nineteenth century that humans were not in fact born as agriculturalists and civilization-builders. This being the case, I myself wouldn't call them Leavers. But what counts is not what I call them (or what anyone calls them). What counts is that, if your information is to be relied on, they've evolved a healthy, balanced, admirable, and sustainable way of life that should stand as a model for all of us. If they can do it (even though they were as much victims of The Great Forgetting as any of us), then there's hope for the rest of us.

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