This has been my second trip to London in the last week and my third trip in the last three months, it’s too much, my tolerance for London is quite limited. The more time I spend there, the more I realise what a dysfunctional place it is, one of great inequality, mostly parasitic professions, dirt and noise. The cost of living is ridiculous and most of the people there are on a treadmill that they can’t get off, seduced by the money and power and then indirectly by the addiction to the consumer lifestyle in extremis.
It’s also a place of lovely parks and canals, one of the most magnificent rivers in the world and wonderful theatres, museums and galleries — when I’m in control of my own agenda I can hunt out routes through London that are tranquil, visiting only the highlights. Even then it’s impossible to ignore the inconsiderate cyclists ploughing their way through the pedestrians, the endless litter and the smell of decay. It would be difficult for me to live there, because I’m old enough to know better, it’s lures have no effect on me now although ‘even I’ was once drawn to big city life.
Now though visiting London just cements in me a determination to live the sustainable, compassionate life, one where I minimise my negative impacts on the world, it’s peoples and it’s flora and fauna and try to leave them better for my presence here. I’ve been inspired recently by people who create no waste, or more realistically a tenth of the waste we do, and of course by growing my own food. But London has shown be something more, the insanity of the global nature of our lives.
When I was growing up almost everything was local, most of the food we ate was seasonal or locally grown non-perishables, most food was prepared at home, almost all of our shopping was done within a mile or two of the house and I can hardly remember eating out. Our consumption levels were a fraction of those we ‘enjoy now’ and we only created a quarter of the waste. We ‘only’ had one car and most of our transport needs as kids were met by cycling and walking. What we lacked from modern life was very little, we were I am sure happier than most families today.
While walking through London’s grimy streets then I was thinking this way and I got to wondering what the world would have turned out like if a few things had been different. If instead of earning more money and becoming consumer centric we had reduced or maintained the lower levels of working hours we used to enjoy; continued working in the local area rather than established the long commute as a norm; if we’d improved public transport rather than bought second cars; grown more food in high tech greenhouses in our back gardens rather than transported it from all over the world; eliminated poverty rather than rewarded the wealthy; fought for global human rights, not resources or vengeance; and become more compassionate than greedy.
What of our modern lifestyle would I transplant back to the 70’s. It would be mostly the technology — warmer, well insulated houses, LED lighting, breathable waterproofs, computers and the internet — the future could keep the rest. The rest of course all came from the pursuit of growth as the primary goal of governments, which translated into a desire for ever more stuff on our part. To afford all that stuff and deliver that growth people had to work harder and longer and travel more; businesses had to become more competitive and callous; the financial services industry tapped into that greed and figured out a myriad ways to make money off other peoples money; advertising and glossy TV shows made everyone lust after a fictional unsustainable lifestyle.
Over the last few years I’ve been toying with sustainability, going for a year without buying anything, recycling carefully, growing my own food but there’s much more I can do and will be doing. I’m going to try and create less waste, spend less, use public transport more, travel lighter, grow and prepare more of my own food, be more content with what I have. I’m also looking to ‘calm down my life’, meditate more, do more gentle and less strenuous exercise, travel less, read more books and less news and spend more time improving the house and garden.
By way of example here’s some of of the practical things I will be doing next week:
- Not drinking anything that comes in a can or a bottle
- Not eating out for breakfast unless it’s with friends
- Exploring ways to make my own prepared foods like Granola and Burgers
- Reducing the amount I buy from Amazon, if I want something I will cycle to a local store that sells it, there will have to be a few exceptions to this!
The big compromise though is the car, currently I can’t see myself ‘surviving’ without it, although I’m going to start moving in that direction.