The Simplicity Option

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Since the industrialization of society over the last two hundred years, humans have physically and mentally remained unchanged. We have, however, surrounded ourselves with accessories, added layers of complexity, and confusion in our lives. This urbanization has reduced humanity’s connection with nature.

Connection to the land and natural environment has been replaced by freeways, cities, concrete landscapes, and technological gadgetry that bring little solace and opportunity for reflection for individuals. Inner peace and happiness can be hard to find in a world of constant diversion and distraction. The ability to witness nature and live in harmony with the natural cycles provides unquantifiable experiences for those living a resilient life.

The 2010 Living Planet Report, based on the scientific research of the Global Footprint Network, reports humanity’s ecological footprint now exceeds the planet’s sustainable carrying capacity by 50 percent. In other words, human beings are now consuming ‘natural capital,’ which is diminishing the capacity of the planet to support life into the future. The propaganda and ideology that many economists, governments, and business people have been espousing in an effort to continue exploitation of resources is that developing countries can have similar standards of living to those in the West. The reality is that the West has been exploiting developing countries’ resources to fund our resource intensive lifestyles for many decades.

Think about this for a second. If the expected 9 billion people were to enjoy the “living standards” forecast for Western countries such as Australia, Canada, U.S., U.K, or Europe by 2050 (assuming 3% yearly economic growth), the world’s total consumption would be about 30 times as much as it is now. That would mean 30 times greater use of land, soils, trees, forests, minerals, fishing, energy, etc… With already stretched and depleted natural resources and ecosystems, this scenario would most likely end in ecological catastrophe.

Dr. Ted Trainer, senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales in Australia, has been teaching about sustainability for many decades. He suggests:

It is difficult to see how anyone aware of these basic numbers could avoid accepting that people in developed countries should be trying to move to far simpler and less resource-intensive lifestyles and economies. The decreases might have to be around 90% – something that can only be achieved through dramatic reductions in production, consumption, and economic activity. To transition to a low energy society which resembles our current high energy model will be a significant challenge and highly unlikely. The enormity of the transition to alternative fuels and/or technologies will require a coordinated approach on an unprecedented scale. It would require vast amounts of resources and capital investment. (1)

Enter Voluntary Simplicity

As reported in the Melbourne Age, a growing number of people in the “voluntary simplicity” movement are choosing to reduce and restrain their consumption – not out of sacrifice or deprivation, but in order to be free, happy, and fulfilled in a way that consumer culture rarely permits. By limiting their working hours, spending their money frugally and conscientiously, growing their own vegetables, sharing skills and assets, riding bikes, rejecting high-fashion, and generally celebrating life outside the shopping mall, these people are new pioneers transitioning to a form of life beyond consumer culture. (2)

An Institute For Simplicity

There is even an Institute for Simplicity. The Simplicity Institute is an education and research centre seeking to:

  • seed a revolution in consciousness that highlights the urgent need to move beyond growth-orientated, consumerist forms of life.
  • envision and defend a ‘simpler way’ of life at a time when the old myths of progress, techno-optimism, and affluence are failing us.
  • transform the overlapping crises of civilisation into opportunities for ‘prosperous descent’

Goals of the Simplicity Institute

“To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” – Buckminster Fuller

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe global economy is undermining the ecological foundations of life, producing perverse inequalities of wealth and spreading a cultural malaise as ever-more people discover that consumerism cannot satisfy the human craving for meaning. While industrial civilization continues this inevitable descent, humankind is being challenged to reimagine the good life, tell new stories of prosperity, and get to work envisioning and building a new world within the shell of the old.

Genuine progress towards a just and sustainable world requires those who are over-consuming to move to far more materially ‘simple’ and less energy-intensive ways of living. This does not mean deprivation or hardship. It means focusing on what issufficient to live well, and creating new cultures of consumption, new systems of production, and new governance structures that promote a simpler way of life. Our basic needs can be met in highly localized and low-impact ways, while maintaining a high quality of life.

The Simplicity Institute seeks to provoke a broader social conversation about the need to transition away from growth-based, consumer societies toward more resilient, egalitarian, and rewarding societies based on material sufficiency and renewable energy. Rethinking growth, capitalism, and consumerism in an age of environmental limits and economic instability cannot be avoided. The only question is whether it will be by design or disaster. (3)

To find out more about the Simplicity Institute CLICK HERE


Article by Andrew Martin, author of  Rethink…Your world, Your future. and One ~ A Survival Guide for the Future… 

RethinkcoverCE2Sources: excerpts from Rethink…Your world, Your future. 





Self organising systems in business are springing up all around us

trademe-logoDuring a Radio NZ panel I heard ex ACT MP Stephen Franks sing the praises of the self-regulating nature of the businesses Trademe, Uber and AirBnB.

He said that since traders were required to post a comment about the person they traded with on trademe, uber or airbnb, the system ran itself. People on trademe are so keen to keep their reputation, that they are pulled into line to pay promptly. If they are seller they send the item promptly. The system regulates itself. It’s the same with airb2b and Uber. Nobody wants to lose their reputation.

So here we have three businesses that run without the interference of a Securities Commission, local or national government regulators. There are no sanctions or fines, just a loss of reputation therefore of trade. Reputation is so precious to us that we don’t want to sacrifice it. Rate your driver, provide feedback. Rate your trading partner, rate your host, rate your guest: it is an important element of the system design.

airbnb_new-logo-2014You will be able to quote more examples I know. Just as an organism runs itself without a central conductor, so a properly designed natural economic system requires no regulation as it has an inbuilt monitoring system to keep up quality.

Giovanna Di Marzo Serugendo, Marie-Pierre Gleizes, and Anthony Karageorgos say, “Intuitively, self-organisation refers to the fact that a system’s structure or organisation appears without any explicit control or constraints imposed from outside the system. In other words, the organisation is intrinsic to the self-organising system, and it results from internal constraints and mechanisms, which are based on local interactions between its components.”

uber-carThey say “Self-organising and emergent phenomena can be observed in many natural systems. For example, insects that live in colonies, such as ants, bees, wasps and termites, have been shown to seamlessly integrate their individual activities, while every single insect seems to operate individually and without any central supervision.”

With Uber you can rate your driver publicly and the driver can rate you. That’s a constraint on bad behaviour if ever there was one. Whether your are driver or customer you build up your reputation ride by ride.

Just as taxi-drivers complain about Uber, the hotel industry complains about Airbnb. Spokespeople usually say that’s because people listing on Airbnb usually don’t have to comply with the same regulations that apply to the hospitality industry.

And Air BnB blindsided the hotel industry. Forbes Magazine says, “it is an example of how today’s networked platforms compete with traditional industry behemoths without appearing to do so, at all. Platforms connect producers and consumers – hosts and travellers in the case of Airbnb – and facilitate their interactions and exchange.”

This will surely be a great business model for the future.

Living Big in Tiny Houses

Big-Tiny-HouseHenry David Thoreau, the American author, poet, and philosopher (among other things) who wrote the classic essay “Walden” is somewhat of a poster boy for many in the tiny house movement. Thoreau himself lived in a tiny house (a 10′ × 15′ English style cottage) near Walden ponds. He spent more than two years living is this small cottage, contemplating life and turning conventional living on its head.

He worked as little as possible, in direct opposition to the standard mantra of the era, which entailed six days working and one day off. The freedom his new approach to working hours afforded allowed him to gain clarity of mind. He witnessed those around him endure the monotony of everyday work, suggesting, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” He was passionate about acting on one’s individual conscience and not blindly following laws, government, and societal norms. Thoreau’s view of the world in some way represents the essence of the tiny house movement.

Thanks to people like Jay Shafer (who founded Tumbleweed, a California-based company that designs and builds ready-made models and floor plans), there has been increased exposure on tiny homes throughout the mainstream media. This exposure has helped bring awareness to the idea of alternative modes of living. The mainstream are taken by the tiny house movement with major networks and media outlets such as CNN, AP, The Guardian, Huffington Post, NBC, Oprah, PBS and many other blogs and networks featuring the phenomenon. Today the internet has been flooded with various images, videos, and stories of people living in and becoming involved with tiny homes around the world. Television shows, documentaries and You Tube clips abound. The tiny house movement, while still in its early days, will most likely be one of the biggest trends over the coming decades.

Six Reasons Why the Tiny House Movement is Going to be Big Over Coming Decades
1. Economic
In the aftermath of the financial crisis and now the Euro crisis, many people have simply lost their hard earned dollars or had their homes repossessed. This segment has had to reassess their lives and their future. When you have lost decades of earning capacity you really need to rethink things. Since the GFC, things have become a lot worse for economies, with both private and sovereign debt levels almost double what they were before. In OECD cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Toronto, Vancouver, Auckland, London, and New York, the average price of a standard home or apartment is close to or pushing through the million dollar mark. Even in the far flung outlying suburbs of large cities properties can easily be priced from $500,000 upwards. Even if you are fortunate enough to have a well paying job or business, mortgages can take anywhere between 2o to 40 years to repay. According to “The Tiny Life” research, 21% of people who own a tiny home are under 30. 21% are between 30 – 40, 18% between 40 -50, and the majority (38%) over 50 years of age.

2. Environmental
As people become more conscious of their environmental footprints, small homes will become more prevalent throughout the mainstream. As energy prices continue to increase and the costs of living rise, the tiny house movement will grow. The overall cost of maintaining, heating, and cooling a small space is significantly less than that for larger, more energy and resource intense properties. Not to mention the resources used in the build process are often ten times less than a conventional 2,200 square foot property.

3. Simplicity
imgresSimplifying one’s life and being able to live life within ones means is a good starting point for being able to weather any economic contraction. Reducing debt and downsizing will make the transition to a more sustainable life much easier. Many studies maintain that a simpler and less consumerist lifestyle can lead to a happier and more fulfilling life. A consumerist lifestyle distracts individuals from more meaningful endeavours. Reducing the amount of possessions in one’s life can lead to a cleansing not only of physical possessions, but also of the mind, leading to enhanced mental clarity. Having limited space forces one to de-clutter and minimize the amount of stuff owned. Your entire life is therefore simplified, everything from clothes and appliances to furniture begins to take up less mental energy. You only carry what is essential and what is needed. Many tiny homes are roadworthy, mounted on trailers which gives owners the ability to easily relocate.

4. Tiny Homes Give You Big Think Space
The 1950’s heralded the rise and development of suburbia which expanded throughout many Western nations. In conjunction with larger parcels of land came larger homes. It was predominately the post war economic growth in the United States and other OECD nations which encouraged the suburbanization of cities. With cheap energy in the form of crude oil helping fund this suburban expansion, consumer patterns also shifted. The baby boomers went on a spending spree as industrial output enabled people to purchase an array of goods and services that only decades earlier did not exist or were cost prohibitive. With suburbia and larger houses came a new consumer culture. These large homes needed more ‘stuff’ to make them look like they weren’t empty. Today approximately 30% of most American weekly income is spent servicing debt and mortgage repayments. In countries such as Australia and Canada the number is closer to 40%. It is easy to see why there has been a lack of dissent and free thinking among the masses. Tiny homes and downsizing free you up from the burden of expensive living and being chained to the wheel.

5. Happiness Levels
With less stress and without the burden of having to pay and repay debt, people are waking up to the realization that you don’t need to live in a monster home to be truly happy. With the average size of most North American homes increasing by over 60% since the early 1970’s, there is no evidence to suggest living in a bigger home adds to overall levels of happiness, despite what the advertisers and mortgage brokers will tell you! Having a larger home doesn’t mean you are 60% happier than those living in a small space. In fact, studies show that the larger the home, and the more time you devote to maintaining, cleaning, and servicing, the more financial and personal stress you will experience. Living light gives people space to define their worlds and gain more control over how they live life, ultimately leading to greater happiness and satisfaction.

6. Community
Since the rapid period of ‘suburbanization’ from the 1950’s onwards, which brought about long distance commutes to central business districts, more frequent overseas travel, and consumerism, community ties and networks have been lost. People in large cities and throughout suburbia have become isolated. While there are pockets of vibrant communities, in general there has been a disintegration of community values and connection. We have become too busy working to pay off large mortgages and engaging in hedonistic pursuits which have distracted us from what really matters – family, community, and relationships. There are many vibrant developments in the small space community. Due to the relatively new nature of the movement people are coming together in collaboration to solve some of the zoning, planning, and logistical challenges that have since arisen. Projects like the Tiny House Village in Sonoma Country will become blueprints for others to follow. This project will offer shared amenities with the village structured more like a co-op.

Article compiled by Andrew Martin, editor of onenesspublishing and author of One ~ A Survival Guide for the Future… and Rethink…Your world, Your future.

Sources: Rethink…Your world, Your future.

Images: Living Big in A Tiny House