It’s Time for a New Declaration of Independence

Robert Rodale’s editorial from the September 1976 issue of Organic Gardening and Farming about personal independence

By Robert Rodale


Your garden is your independenceGardens of Liberty
The garden is the best place to start looking for ways to help people become more independent. A garden is both the symbol and reality of self-sufficiency—especially an organic garden, which recycles organic wastes of the yard and household, permits the production of significant amounts of food with only minimal reliance on outside resources. Any campaign to boost personal independence should start by helping people become gardeners—teaching, motivating, and making land available.

Liberty doesn't end at the border of the garden, though. Home production of a variety of goods and services extends the idea of gardening. Both gardeners and non-gardeners can also grow their own bean sprouts, make some of their own clothes, become proficient at crafts, improve insulation of their home, and do similar home production tasks. Each such activity you learn makes you less dependent on others.

Alternate-energy production is one of the most promising areas for improvement of personal independence. The whole idea of alternate energy is to offer people the choice of using less energy from public utilities, or avoiding them altogether. What you eat, whether or not you smoke or drink, how much you exercise—those are all independent decisions that bear on how early in life you will get degenerative disease, which is the most troublesome of all health problems.

Even treatment of disease could be improved by fostering a greater spirit of personal independence. We need to learn more about how to take care of ourselves during illness. Any doctor will tell you that an intelligent patient, who knows how to observe and evaluate symptoms, can be treated with fewer drugs, and is therefore less likely to have side effects and will probably recover faster. Being totally dependent on the doctor is the worst way to act when sick.

Another area where personal independence can pay big dividends is transportation. Walking and cycling are the most independent ways to get from one place to another, and it’s no accident that they reward us with dollar savings as well as better health and more enjoyment. I’'m not saying that we should walk or cycle everywhere, but walking and cycling are perfect examples of how increased personal independence can strengthen us as people and strengthen our country as well.