David MacClement's page on Geocities Rainforest.The net worth of the 225* richest people in the world now equals the combined income of the poorest 2.6 billion: 47 % of the world's population. (UNDP's 1998 Human Development Report)     (* the billionaires)
(RainForest site; Voluntary Simplicity)

my World View.
  • I am living sustainably at a very low level,
      and have done so for eight+ years now.

  • I have independent "proof" that my very frugal living is sustainable. I have put my living conditions into the Ecological Footprint calculation.
    This is based on Mathis Wackernagel's extensive studies. He says:
    <> "Nature provides an average of 5.4 acres of bioproductive space for every person in the world. With a global population of 10 billion for the year 2050, the available space will be reduced to 3 acres. [Neither of those include leaving] room for the 25 million other species."

  • Some comments in my letter to the Positive Futures list:
      http://csf.colorado.edu/mail/pfvs/2000/msg03696.html show why I count
    my footprint as only 3.4 acres, or less than 65% of what's "available" to a human.       {01 Oct.2001: I've just used:
    http://www.futurenet.org/18Commons/merkel.htm and find that borne out: this more detailed calculation gives me 3.2 acres, but still assumes American style housing.}

  • So everyone, everywhere, could live like me and still about 35% of the earth's productive capacity would be left untouched for all other other living things on earth.

    I call what I do extreme Voluntary Simplicity; but
    there is some room for living higher than my ascetic level.

    <>We haven't yet reached 9 billion people, though my life would still be sustainable then, so currently one could live at a 50% higher level (which would decrease as the population on earth increased).
    <>The Ecological Footprint calculation makes the assumption that one is living in a North American style, with: car, winter heating (and summer air-conditioning) and meat eating.
        I'd guess there was a further factor of 2 there, allowing people currently to live at a consumption level up to 3 times higher than mine (though with no space reserved for other living things).

    I could go back to my 1992 consumption level. (It includes my front page newspaper photo.)
    Living sustainably, voluntary simplicity, can be done somewhere between my extremely low level and Diane Fitzsimmons' list.  It's a matter of choice.

    We in New Zealand in the early 1950s used to live as she describes; she's in Norman OK.

my Personal Actions.
What sustainability
is, in my view
Visualising a better Future
How we live at home,
part of "Should one work hard?"
, [94 kB] or: original letter. 8 kB, & in Aug.'99.
what is Work for?
Is work needed,

  to be human?
Living on little;
some philosophy
& My reason
    for existence.

what I think of my life.

We'll retire to an autonomous house;
I now have the PV
electrical system
Discussing some
details of my life
our family travels
in Malaysia and India
 (what we learnt)

my World View

__ I believe the human race passed a comfortably sustainable population in about 1950, at 2.5 billion, but now there's twice as many of us, and three times as many in twenty years, with a most influential minority using FAR too much. The middle-class and rich have the wrong goals (largely induced by advertising), if the world is to remain as civilised as it was between '55 and '77 (not including Stalin and Amin).
__ The more-than-1-billion car-using, meat-eating destructive people (CuMeDs) will need to drastically reduce both their consumption and what they do! Doing too much, while there are too many people, should be reduced since this is the origin of most of our excess consumption.
  Job-and-income-sharing would be a major step in the right direction.

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my Personal Actions

__ I have reduced my demands on the Earth to a bare minimum by spending US$950 p.a. TOTAL; including no more than US$450 a year, or $8.65 per week, on food (all of it bought at the supermarket). I pay for my share of the rates on our mortgage-free house, and I walk or (occasionally) take the bus, e.g. to buy the groceries. I walk barefoot year-round (at latitude 37, maritime climate), wearing thongs/jandals if the road is rough or my pack is heavy. I haven't thrown out clothes for a couple of decades, and I'm now gradually using up that capital investment.
__ I am now free, from the boss's pressure to produce more and from "keeping up with the Jones's"! It's not exactly a religious decision, but it's based on some of the same basic impulses.

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defining the Green vision: a decent standard of living

Date: Mon, 9 Oct 2000 16:26:09 +1300
From: David Parker <.-.-.@pop.ihug.co.nz>
To: GreenViews New Zealand list <GV@greenLists.org.nz>
Subject: [GV] defining the Green vision: a decent standard of living
>From The Local Politics of Global Sustainability by Thomas Prugh, Robert Costanza, and
Herman Daly
, Island Press, Washington DC, 2000, p.41: "The rational process of figuring out how out to achieve a sustainable world must begin with a nonrational act of imagination. As Donella Meadows has pointed out, most discussions of sustainability focus on implementation and ignore the critical questions of what the world of our dreams would actually look, feel, and smell like. The trouble is, the sustainable world generally offered by environmentalists is based on 'restriction, prohibition, regulation and sacrifice. ... Hardly anyone seems to envision a sustainable world that would be nice to live in.' This is a self-defeating lapse of imagination that could dim the prospects for achieving sustainability. There seem to be only two visions on the table. In the conventional vision, the human economy and population keep growing vigorously, and everyone eagerly chases the dream of greater consumption. The environmentalist point of view rightly denies the workability of this vision but offers in its place a kind of lifelong global celery diet. It is hardly surprising that most people choose the first path." Though I don't agree with this analysis completely -- it's a bit glib for starters -- it does give some plausible reasons for the difficulty of convincing more people of the need for change. We've been talking about what constitutes a "decent standard of living" (see below). I think this means we're on the way to describing a sustainable world that would also be "nice to live in". The above quote would suggest that this is an extremely important step.

Any more contributions to defining the "decent standard of living"?

David Parker

>At 07:14 6/10/2000 -0700, Diane Fitzsimmons wrote, to Positive Futures:
My idea of a decent standard of living:

>Each person has a right to 400 square feet of decent housing.
>Each person has access to round-the-clock public transit.
>Universal health care, including dental and eye
>Free education for all, from birth to 21
>A non-exploitive job for all from age 18 to when health prevents, but
>including and especially the differently-abled.  
>Eight sets of decent summer clothing, same number of winter. A winter coat
>and other such weather gear.  Three pairs of shoes: winter, sneakers,
>summer; plus a pair of thongs (shoes).  Obviously, this
>would change for people living in different kinds of climates. Along with
>that, two sets of bedding, extra blankets and other such linens, a table
>setting, a teakettle and assorted crockery.
>Decent, healthy food (not sure how to measure this) -- plus access to the
>niceties of life: shampoo, soap, toothpaste, sanitary pads, toilet paper,
>razors for those who want them, and other toiletry items.
>a way to cook and preserve food 
>Public libraries in all their glory --
>       thank goodness we have achieved that here.
>Access to organized recreation for those who want it -- in other words,
>no-fee team sports
>Winter heating when necessary, fans in the summer when necessary 
>One comfortable chair to sit in, a comfortable place to lie
>A radio
>Running, clean water piped to your house
>A bathroom
>21st C. version of a hope chest, with all your personal mementoes

At 23:30 21/10/2000 +1300, David Parker wrote, to: David MacClement, with Subject: Re: Diane's list of how one could possibly live sustainably.

Hello David
... I ... agree that it's an important subject and worth the effort to try to get the Green movement to think on it.

... the "global celery diet" remark ... could be irritating (or worse), especially out of the context of the entire book.

However, when I read the piece it resonated instantly with Diane's idea of a decent standard of living. What Diane sees as the simple necessities of living comfortably, help map out a sustainable world "that would be nice to live in". Personally I have reached no definite conclusions on where the threshold of sustainability lies and it might well be lower than Diane's list would demand.

At the moment, the significant thing seems to be that anyone is giving any thought to this issue. If someone like Donella Meadows (as quoted within the piece by Prugh) thinks this matter has not been properly addressed, and if it is as serious an omission from the Green political programme as Prugh suggests, then what you and Diane are doing here is very significant.

It is, I think, fundamental practical politics for the following reason. What Greens are saying to millions of people in the developed world is that we must all give up our way of life in favour of something much more modest. The only way we can convince them to do so is with a convincing critique of present-day society -- which I think we possess -- and, hand in hand with that, a convincing vision of our alternative. The Green vision is hard enough to grasp at the best of times, and it becomes even more difficult when people start asking practical questions, like "what will my life be like in your sustainable Green future?"

I titled my posting "defining the Green vision" because that is what you are helping to do. It is indeed important.

David Parker

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(last modified: Tues 4th. Dec. 2001.)

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