Simpler Living

Kids, meet Rob Greenfield, a hero of self-sufficiency and near-zero impact on the earth's ecosystem. His net worth is less than US$3,000, and he puts almost all of us to shame.

At the time this video was filmed, he was living in the backyard of a solar-panel manufacturer for two years in order to transform the man's dry land into a thriving jungle of food crops. He did this by using only the electricity generated by the solar panels, spending most of his time outside, swimming in the ocean to wash his body, collecting rainwater and using each bit of it at least twice, and composting pretty much everything that could be classed as 'waste' (dig the toilet especially).

This and other clips on his YouTube channel and website could and should, I think, be used in the local tertiary educational institutions around here, when they're on the subject of environmental studies. Students could summarise the main points of the video and answer some criticial thinking questions like: 'Rob Greenfield lives in San Diego, California, a sunny and dry city. Which aspects of his lifestyle would be more difficult to adopt in a place like Tottori? Which would be easier?' 'Which part of his lifestyle would be most difficult for you?' and so on. With the right groups, questions like 'Could you live without electricity?' or 'Could you be a vegetarian?' might generate some particularly interesting discussion.

Actually, I'm not sure about that last one. It would probably be hard to move the average kid past the 'yum/yuck' dichotomy. Even at the university level, students have barely any concept of the environmental impact of an animal-based diet, and so they can't think of any reason, other than personal preference, why anyone would stop eating meat. Or stop using plastic to wrap every blessed thing in multiple layers of useless packaging that mostly ends up in the ocean or in our lungs when they incinerate it. Somebody somewhere told our kids that they could 'make a difference' by not using disposable chopsticks, and so they blissfully go on driving cars, eating Hamburg steaks, and shopping at convenience stores, convinced that reusing their chopsticks is going to have a net benefit measurably better than zero.

(It's kind of like those people who think going to the gym once a week is 'better than nothing'. In reality, it's 'better than nothing' for slowing down the body's rate of decline at a negligible rate, but the thing to understand is that the body remains in decline.)

That's a digression, but the point is that even in urban environments we can homestead, reduce our dependence on 'the grid', lessen the damage we each do the ecosystem, and generally be less consumer and more producer than we are, just by making some changes. Indeed, it ought to be easier in cities or towns because we have access to all sorts of things we can buy and rig to get started. After all, if Hiroo Onoda could live alone in the jungle for 29 years with just a few military supplies, the rest of us ought to be able to do a lot better (or at least gooder) than we are with all the modern conveniences we have.