After I wrote in my editorial in Natural Life’s September/October issue about James Lovelock’s book The Vanishing Face of Gaia and its heavy-handed approach to saving the Planet, a reader told me about Pentti Linkola, a Finnish fisherman and anti-democratic deep ecologist who shares Lovelock’s pessimism and authoritarian solutions. Linkola has built a following by calling for a totalitarian ecological regime that ruthlessly suppresses consumerism. He writes that “discipline, prohibition, enforcement and oppression” are the only solution to what he sees as an ecological catastrophe.
Although I fear that the global warming problem is bigger than most people want to admit and that extreme changes are needed in the way much of the world lives and manages its economic and social affairs, I think it’s possible that many of the changes can be made without coercion. I see evidence everywhere around me that people might be ready to do the job voluntarily. You’ll see lots of that in the upcoming November/December issue of Natural Life: questioning the purpose of shopping malls – and avoiding them this holiday season, planning a scaled-down wedding that’s in line with one’s social and ecological principles, living in community with our neighbors to share work as well as the large possessions that make work easier, helping children understand the tactics of advertising, downsizing and discovering the benefits of minimalism.
The less-is-more philosophy has been one of the foundational pillars on which Natural Life has been based since our first issue was published 36 years ago next month. We’ve published hundreds of DIY articles; essays about tiny homes, sustainable energy, and alternatives to the car culture; instructions for growing your own organic food; and inspirational stories about people who’ve built their own houses, simplified their lives, birthed their babies at home, unhooked their children from institutional schools designed to turn them into efficient consumers, and much more. All of this information has been aimed at improving people’s quality of life, not at making oppressive sacrifices.
But what’s different now is that these ideas are becoming more mainstream. The Boston Consulting Group said in a June report that recession anxiety had prompted a “back-to-basics movement,” with things like home and family increasing in importance over the last two years, while things like luxury and status have declined. And there is more good news: Many retailing professionals are saying this idea of careful consumerism is not a fad, but rather “the new normal.”
Living in a small house, selling our car, buying only things that meet our basic needs or enhance our lives – these choices all have a positive impact on the health of the Planet. Imagine the impact if we can find a way to scale up this downsizing! We also need to export this new normal to those parts of the world to which we sold our old hyper-consumption lifestyle. Those of us who have already voluntarily rejected unbridled acquisition are leading the change. If can get some help from progressive government policies, we might just be able to step back from the brink.