Heaven on Earth is Made of What?

The spirit of the future, dealing with climate change, as written by “Dors” in her comment on an Australian online newspaper article about global warming.

I like to envision a future not in terms of what we’ll have to give up, but in terms of what we could gain. I’m gaining a healthier body now I’m consuming just enough and no more. And using my own muscles for so many everyday things instead of engine power. It feels good. My home doesn’t need ‘decor’ now its filling up with crafts in progress, seedlings being nurtured, projects being planned, tools being made. More activity means the heating can be turned off, as can many appliances. Superfluous is recycled. I’ve become inventive, creative, stimulated by the challenge to live simply. It’s enjoyable. It’s thrilling to be creating a patch where there’s no such thing as waste. I’m gaining more pleasure than I’ve had for years. I’m really beginning to feel as though I’ve escaped from a long incarceration to a place of light & hope. Now that I don’t have ‘things’, I have so much to share. And I can decide how little I’ll contribute to the threats that, yes, could still overwhelm us. I wish Prof.Garnaut breadth & depth of vision, and wisdom – ‘cos we’re in it together.
Posted by: Dors of 8:13am June 20, 2008

This is the spirit of the world of the future – if there is one. I’d like to elaborate the concept if I may.

Using Our Muscles

As Dors wrote, we can be healthily active in getting things done. Getting places would have to be the main one of these things and the most energy consuming.

Surely our bodies are very efficient engines when it comes to energy production. Check out John Shinnerer’s comparison in which walking and bicycle come out way ahead of the rest:

A medium-sized car uses approximately 1,860 calories per passenger mile; public buses average 920, rail transport about 885, and walking roughly 100 calories per “passenger” mile. A bicycle comes in at about 35 calories per passenger mile! . . . The energy and materials needed for one medium-sized car can produce one hundred bicycles! . . . Besides placing drastically less stress on our environment, human power also benefits the engine – the human body! The advantages of regular, sustained exercise are already well documented, and bicycling is a low-impact form of exercise as well. Studies have shown that workers who commute by bicycle are happier, more alert and more productive than average.

Consuming Just Enough

This is an important point. The amount of food we put in our mouths is a deceptive indicator of how much we are actually consuming. The most crude example would be eating 1000 calories and 100 grams of protein from vegetable source or meat. While the physical amount would be very similar, the behind-the-scenes consumption of resources is hugely different. Basically, when we eat a steak or a leg of lamb, we are consuming seven times the amount of food we need to, and producing vast amounts more land, water and atmospheric pollution. I’m not sure if Dors is onto this one yet (it takes a while to sink in, I realize). If not, I hope he (or she?) soon will be – seeing as the challenge of climate change is caused more by livestock production than by transport.

Frugal Simplicity

What makes us happy after all? I have always felt that the closer to my ‘self’ I focus my attention (not spatially – but metaphysically), the more lasting and real my enjoyment is. While gadgets and gizmos may bring condensed enjoyment via sensual or intellectual stimulation, in their absence something is missing. Now I’m not saying that technology is making us miserable, but the way we try to extract the meaning in our lives from technology is not helping. TV is colorful but designed specifically not to challenge us in any way (if it wasn’t for advertising it wouldn’t be there). Computer games are engaging and sometimes stimulating, but in the end a meaningless, counterproductive and resource-hungry activity.

As Dors mentioned there is plenty stimulation in the challenges of life, one of which is, considering modern imperatives, living simply. There is indeed a “thrill” in changing an inefficient and wasteful lifestyle into a meticulously careful and considerate adventure. How satisfying and lasting is this happiness compared with  passing one level in a game, or firing up a new blue-ray DVD player that cost the earth and the contents of a wallet, but doesn’t change anything except the size of already invisible pixels on a screen?

I’m sure we would realize how beautiful life and the natural world is if we were forced to look at it for five minutes. I’m so happy for Dors, her words lit up my morning browsing experience and gave me hope. Can we all discover what Dors has found? It won’t take long to achieve heaven on earth.

Now from a quote from the spiritual patron of this blog…

Just ask yourself one question. What’s wrong with living a frugal and saintly life? Why not live a frugal and saintly life? The virtuous life? The life without guilt? The food without blood? To live without costing the earth and all lives thereof?

Posted on June 29, 2008 ... Modified June 29, 2008