Wednesday 6 August 2014


I have too much stuff. I am trying to get rid of it. It's not about the space, which is lucky as I live with a squirrel. Two squirrels. And a third who was moved out but left their stuff behind. Space would be nice, but I'm reconciled to any space I empty being instantly filled by my squirrel relatives. It's more about living simply, and also more about what I acquire in the future than the possessions I have now. My motives are mixed. Partly they are a religious response to a society that judges people by their possessions, and partly they are an environmental response to the issue of sustainability. After three score years on this planet I'm slowly beginning to think all this through. And I'm going quite tentatively, as will be obvious to many people who, I am sure, have got much further than me.

I have reduced the amount of stuff I have by a considerable proportion. That is partly illusory as a lot of my downsizing has been the replacement of physical copies of books and music with electronic copies. Interesting questions arise as to whether e-books are more sustainable than paper ones...  (Apparently, they are, but I want to check exactly what is taken into account in the calculation.)

So I suppose it's partly about stuff and partly about my footprint. I could get rid of a lot of stuff, and I wouldn't miss it. But there is still stuff I would miss, much of which is darned expensive to keep going. My life has gone largely digital. I don't miss paper any more (and I really like the fact that I don't get a newspaper any more, ever). But I do want to be in touch and that involves the internet. That involves a massive capital structure of electricity generation, hardware development, mining and production of materials for manufacture, delivery of goods, even the launching of satellites into space so that I can get the signal I want, further development of the apps I use, development and agreement of protocols, construction of security systems, administration and management of the spaces I use. I could live very simply with just a mobile phone, but the scientific, industrial, economic and environmental impact behind that one device is massive.

The same in a way is true with food and drink. I could eat and drink only local produce, which would be fine for me, but a bit precious when it wouldn't work if we all did it, as there isn't enough food in the UK for all 60+ million of us. So, even if I use my local shop, I'm get supplied from a field worked by a tractor and a combine harvester, via a lorry, possibly a ship or a plane, another lorry, a distribution centre, with a  whole lot of refrigeration along the way, to another lorry that gets it to the shop I'm going to buy it from. Big footprint there. Or perhaps tyre track. And there are plenty of other examples, like drug development.

So I could change what I do a lot without having much impact on the economic and environmental structure of the world I live in. But in a way that is not the point. I'd like to find a way to consume less that would be possible not just for me but for everybody. I've no idea how far I'll manage that. But, I've started, so I'll see where I get to.

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