The Back-To-The-Land Movement and the Search for a Sustainable Future
Author: Jeffrey Jacob
Publisher: Penn State Press
Category: Social Science
&"[P]ractically everyone I know is nursing fantasies about escaping the life they're trapped in and creating one that makes more sense,&" writes the editor of Utne Reader in a recent issue. &"The people I most admire, though, are those who actually do it&—who break free and pursue a higher calling no matter how great the risk.&" New Pioneers is about one such group of people&—the hundreds of thousands of urban North Americans who over the past three decades have given up their city or suburban homes for a few acres of land in the countryside. Jeffrey Jacob's new pioneers are ordinary people who have tried to break away from the mainstream consumer culture and return to small-town and rural America. He traces the development of the movement and identifies seven different kinds of back-to-the-lander: the weekender, country romantic, purist, country entrepreneur, pensioner, micro-farmer, and apprentice. From over 1,300 survey responses, interviews, and in-depth case studies, at both the regional and national levels, of representative back-to-the-landers, Jacob analyzes their values, use of appropriate technology, family division of labor on their acreages, and predisposition toward environmental activism. Jacob finds that back-to-the-landers for the most part are not completely independent of the mainstream economy, and consequently, their lives do reflect the contradictions between the available conveniences of a high-technology culture and the movement's goals of self-reliant labor. He analyzes their ambivalent attitudes toward technology&—hoes and shovels versus mini-hydroelectric systems, wood stoves versus microwave ovens, and so on. After examining the experiences of the back-to-the-country people who live on the margins of a postindustrial society, Jacob creates a clearer appreciation of the preconditions necessary to translate the idea of sustainable living into concrete action on a society-wide scale. While New Pioneers describes an important social movement, it also shows how far a group of highly motivated individuals and families can go, by themselves, in breaking away from the prevailing consumer culture. The dilemmas, frustrations, adaptations, and triumphs of these neo-homesteaders offer valuable insights to anyone contemplating a move &"back to the land.&"