...And I'll tell it and speak it and think it and breathe it... -- Bob Dylan

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Glimpses of the Future?

I wrote the other day about conservation -- how we industrialized peoples, people living in developed countries like the US -- need to cut our resource use in half and then in half again before we can begin to imagine creating a sustainable economy.  This is a challenge that quite possibly dwarfs all other challenges we've had before.  You can make comparisons to the Apollo mission, World War Two, or the Great Depression, but I doubt if any of that compares to what we would need to do.  And this challenge requires both individual and collective action.  We must all learn to live differently, and we must also restructure our economy and society.  Half-hearted "reforms" simply will not do -- we need to change our foundations.

So I am a student in this regard -- learning what I can learn about how to live differently, for living differently is something that will be required of all of us and something that will be necessary when our economy breaks down as we try to build a new one.  The main thing I've been learning for the past two years living "off the grid" and without full-time employment is how much I need to learn.  Today I want to share a few random thoughts about things I've been learning, particularly things that seem to contribute to the developed world's disproportionate exploitation of nature.

  1. Showers are over-rated.  I realize now that I can live quite comfortably more like the majority of people in this world by not taking a shower every day.  I'm quite comfortable with two of three a week.  I often hear people talk about installing low-flow shower heads and taking shorter showers and the like, and these are indeed good ideas.  But not enough.  In fact, I think we should stop automatically including showers or bathtubs in every new house we build, and instead build bath houses that could be shared by every five or ten households.  One thing I've learned by not having a shower available to me whenever I want is that a good shower is an amazingly welcome thing.  So maybe I should re-phrase my earlier sentence to say showers are under rated!
  2. Mechanical refrigeration is largely unnecessary.  One of the most insane things we do in the modern world is heat our big houses all winter long and in the middle of our warm house put a metal box that we then cool to a temperature that might naturally be occurring outside or in the basement or in some other close proximity.  I only use mechanical refrigeration during the hottest summer months, and have found that most food keeps quite well even outside the very narrow temperature range that all the food safety experts say we must follow.  Sometimes food does go bad more quickly, but the chickens don't seem to mind!
  3. There is, I have to say, beauty in the quiet beauty of a less mechanical existence.  To not always hear the constant din of the refrigerator, the buzz of electric lights, and the frequent interruptions of nature's quiet bliss by various electrical appliances makes for a very good life.  Many everyday chores are much more difficult and time-consuming when we use less power, such as cooking or laundry, but devoting more time to these simple tasks (simple when you begin to get used to them) prohibits excessive time utilizing electric appliances such as computers or TV, or engaging in any number of other things we do when we get "bored."  It's a new way of life -- or perhaps a very old one.  And it might well turn out to be, at the same time, the life of the future.  At least I hope so.

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