We keep hearing about the need for “Fundamental Change,” so I looked up the “Fundamental” in good old Websters. There were several definitions, but it didn’t really clear up the question, what fundamentals do we need to change? And just as important – how do we change them?

The fundamentals that most people are talking about our HUGE; corporations in the government, religion in the government, antipathy among the electorate and more.  But what if the real fundamentals are more “fundamental” than that?  What if the antipathy, corruption and corporate control are rooted in the idea that we need to be taken care of? 

Since World War II our society has shifted from one that valued work, product and land to one that values free time, toys and ease of work.  That attitude has led us to an obese population that lacks basic skills to prepare their own food, judge quality over price, and looks at the money over the value of the work. Take the following short quiz and see how “in touch” you are with fundamentals.


A. Roosters are needed to produce eggs on a farm. (Yes or no)
B. A ballpeen hammer is used for removing nails.
C. A bulging can in the discount bin at the grocery store is probably a bargain.
D. Which is easier to repair; a rip in a seam or a rip in fabric?
E. A metal screw has a sharp tip (True or False?)
F. A Phillips screwdriver is more useful than a Straight Screwdriver. (True or False?)

These are all items that were common knowledge in the past.  Roosters do nothing for egg production.
THey are needed for chicken production on a small farm, but not in egg production.  Claw hammers are used for pulling nails. Ballpeen hammers are used in rounding out metal. A bulging can may be a case of dropped container, but it may also mean that bacteria has gotten into the can and a dangerous bacteria is growing inside.  It may have happened from faulty canning, or it may have happened when a pin hole developed after the can was creased when it fell.  A rip in a seam is a simple matter of re-stitching. A rip in the fabric has damaged the basic structure of the material. Metal screws are flat bottomed with rounded heads.  Wood screws are sharp ended with flat tops, so that can be screwed “flush” into the wood, not left extending from the lumber. Phillips screwdrivers have a “Cross” shaped head, which allows for excellent leverage for turning the screw. But they only work on phillips head screws.  Straight screwdrivers, depending upon the size of the head, can be used for both straight head screws and for Phillips head screw heads.

This information may not seem relevant, but depending upon the answers it shows either a strong ability to “take care of one’s self,” or it indicates that people don’t know how their goods are made, or how to judge the quality of those goods. People have become so reliant upon the intervention of government or corporations, that they now “trust” the wrong people. 

Folks are beginning to see what they’ve been missing, but the information needed to fill those gaps is being lost as the ones with the knowledge either pass away from age or move away, to get away from those who are less knowledgeable. But that disconnection has led to a dismissal of responsibility. It is now in the hands of the USDA, the FDA, the Consumer Safety Council, OSHA, or other agencies. But our government is being cut due to lack of funding. If those organizations are being funded by corporate assistance, or not being funded at all, how do people know how to take care of their own families.

I do not blame the government as a whole. As a former government employee I know that most of those workers are good hearted, well-intentioned people who have little to say about the rules they are forced to enforce.  They know what is facing our country if they are not there to support people, but honestly, we shouldn’t have to afford them. People should know to be responsible, careful and capable of making informed judgments.  It is more cost effective, and more efficient if people can take care of their own families, whether they do it themselves, or they hire a skilled craftsman to do it for them.

That sense of personal responsibility and the ability to make these choices, is the root of a sustainable future. Whether we make our own goods, food or repairs, or we support our community by hiring others to do that for us, we keep our funds local. We keep control over our personal economy, and we free the government up to worry more about those who break the rules, rather than trying to protect people from “danger,” that may not exist at all.

That is what we’re doing at North Country Sustainability Center, Inc. We are working to give people the skills to make things, the opportunity to market them, and the knowledge to help consumers make the best choice for themselves.  We want to make “local scale” affordable rather than force all producer to the industrial level.  If food is sourced locally, the chain of potential dangers is smaller and the risk pool is also significantly smaller. There is a place for industrial food, and there will always be. But there needs to be a way for people to affordably support their neighbors legally, despite the scale at which they work.

Like the old adage about the giving a fish or teaching to fish, giving people the knowledge and practice to make better choices, is far more efficient and effective.  Building local connections saves money, saves the environment and builds strong community spirit that helps everyone survive downturns more easily.

So, what fundamentals do we change? While all are important, some are easier than others. This is an easy fix, if we have the ability to bring it to fruition. It can be used across the nation to empower millions of people. It’s not as flashy as solving the issue of corporations in government, but part of our problem is looking at flash over substance. This is a substantial FUNDAMENTAL step that we all benefit from. Please, contribute to bringing this model to life for others to follow.  We’ve got a good start, but we need that next step – the buildings for the kitchen and creamery, the land for the gardens and the arena for the 4H exhibitions etc. Can you help us make these “Fundamental changes?”