A Conversation With Dave Hamilton, Self-Sufficiency Expert

Hamilton-Post.jpg Whether you're looking to make your life just a little bit more green or to dive head-first into sustainable living, Dave Hamilton can serve as your guide. For several years now, Hamilton has been running Selfsufficientish, a website dedicated to providing advice and information on self-sufficiency. The site, which has also been turned into a book that Hamilton wrote with his brother, a gardening columnist, touches on a number of subjects, from urban homesteading to home-brewing to sheep-reading to natural remedies for ailments. "From those who want to just dip their toes into the deep waters of self-sufficiency, to those who want to have a full-on underwater dive, we've got it all," according to Selfsufficientish's about page.

Here, Hamilton discusses vertical farming, or the method of growing plants in a soil-free environment with just the required amount of nutrients and water; the trend of greenwashing, in which corporations fool consumers into believing that they're doing truly sustainable work; and why it is that he wants to spend more time doing comedy science fiction writing like that of one of his heroes, Douglas Adams.

What do you say when people ask you, "What do you do?"

It depends on what day of the week it is. I would like to just call myself a 'doer,' but to narrow it down I say I'm an author, gardening tutor, lecturer, website owner, wild food tutor, magazine journalist, scriptwriter, and soon-to-be-father.

What new idea or innovation is having the most significant impact on the sustainability world?

I think the Transition Towns movement will continue to make an impact in the coming years. The beauty of the Transition movement is its simplicity and adaptability. Transition aims to face the twin challenges of peak oil and climate change by (amongst other things) facing these problems on a local, rather than national or international scale. Unlike many movements which follow a one-size-fits-all principle, Transition aims to make sense wherever it is set up.

What's something that most people just don't understand about your area of expertise?

Knowledge doesn't need to be pigeonholed. Most subjects will spill into others. For example, there are links with quantum physics and plant science.

What's an emerging trend that you think will shake up the sustainability world?

Vertical farming. This is a method of growing currently in development in which plants are grown in a soil-free environment and fed just the required amount of nutrients and water. This saves energy and water but it is far from organic food production. Many feel the plants grown will not contain the same range of nutrients or the same quality of nutrients as soil-grown plants. It could be seen as the difference between eating an orange or taking a vitamin C pill.

What's a sustainability trend that you wish would go away?

The trend of greenwashing, or corporations trying to fool consumers into thinking that they are being green or sustainable, really annoys me. Degradable bags will not biodegrade, carbon offsetting is like beating your wife up and then giving money to a battered wife charity, and made from 50 percent recycled paper means that 50 percent of the paper is not recycled.

Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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