Another Bright Idea
Diogenes by Jean-Leon Jerome.
Diogenes may have chosen to live in a barrel, but he had very nice muscle definition, and four lovely puppy friends. What more does anyone need?
One day Diogenes the philosopher was down at the stream washing vegetables for his dinner when Plato strolled by. "You know," observed Plato, "if you learned to court the king, you wouldn't have to eat vegetables for dinner."
"Mmhmm," grunted Diogenes, "and if you learned to eat vegetables for dinner you wouldn't have to court the king."
Me, I am one of those who would rather eat vegetables than court the king.
This new year I do have a resolution. To live lighter. To live more on the eating-vegies-with-Diogenes-in-his-barrel end of the economic spectrum. One day in winter I was walking the dog and watching some rather bedraggled birds huddled in the trees, and it occurred to me that if I was willing to put up with the same degree of discomfort that birds do in the winter, then I too could be 'free as a bird'. After about three seconds of reflection I rejected that idea, but I have since modified it. Now my plan is to reduce my footprint down to the minimum I need to live a cheerful and fulfilling life. I haven't got there yet. I mean, I have a perfectly cheerful and fulfilling life, but I haven't reached the sweet spot where I am at minimum expenditure for maximum return. I have started on that delicious downward slope, however, and here is how the plan is going so far:
I moved from a large house with a pool to a small house with plenty of space for growing food (going well) and keeping chickens (still a future project). I ditched some of my appliances - I don't have a dishwasher, tumble dryer or TV at my new house (well, I have a TV in the wardrobe that comes out sometimes to watch a DVD). I have discovered that with wooden floors I use a broom and don't need a vacuum cleaner (anyone want one?).
Without these appliances and with a wood heater for winter heating we are using much less electricity. Because we are living close to the centre of town we are walking a lot more and driving less. After my Buy Nothing New year I have become used to hunting for second-hand goods, or sometimes buying local or handmade. I sometimes fail at this, especially with clothes for teenagers.. but more on this another day. Anyway, I have made much progress and rarely walk into a department store these days.. except with a teenager..
I have long been an advocate of local food, and recently decided not to shop at supermarkets any more, which frankly is a little trickier than I had anticipated, due to forward planning, or the lack of it, and the way the big supermarkets are conveniently always open. Still, for the most part I am making progress towards living lighter, but want to ratchet it up a notch.
Anyway, I ran my idea past the girls, who by this stage are used to my bright ideas, and mostly ignore me, but The Girl, who can be very practical, thought it might help if I quantified my goals (she knows she is quite safe because she gets to go back to university in another state, so she can afford to encourage me). I found that idea rather intimidating but then remembered Sharon Astyk's Riot for Austerity project of 2007 and 2011 where she encouraged people to see if they could live on ten percent of an average American's use of earthly resources. I remember seeing it on-line at the time and thinking that I couldn't possibly do that, but now here I am several years later, willing to give it a go. I might use her 2011 numbers for American usage, or I might try to find 2016 numbers for Australian usage, but really, I am sure they are very similar.
So here are my goals for the year. I will reduce my consumption to ten percent of the amount of energy and new goods used by an average Australian. Categories used by Astyk are Transportation Energy, Electricity, Heating and Cooking Energy, Water, Garbage, Food Energy, Consumer Goods. I undertake to examine all of these areas, mostly in a haphazard manner and without doing any difficult sums. Near enough will be good enough for this project. I do not know how to make an excel spreadsheet, and I intend to keep it that way. Now, it seems like a terrible way to start a project, but I am kind of expecting that I won't meet the goal. I am very interested to see how low we can go without feeling miserable and deprived. But what if I only reduce consumption by 50%? Well, that will hardly be a failure, will it? This is really a game you can't lose.
If there is anyone who would like to join me, I would be more than pleased, in fact I would be absolutely delighted! Or come along for the journey and point out what I am doing wrong, and make helpful suggestions. I love a conversation.
Once, Alexander, King of Practically Everywhere, and otherwise known as Alexander the Great, came to visit Diogenes who was sprawling in the sun next to his barrel. Alexander asked Diogenes if there was anything he wished for that the king could provide for him. "Well," answered Diogenes, "now that you mention it, you are standing in my sun. If you could just move that way a little, no, a little more, a little more. Ah yes, that's perfect. Thanks."
And as he left, Alexander remarked that if he could not be Alexander, he would be Diogenes.
Because the thing about wanting nothing, is that then you have everything..