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what the voices in my head tell me to write

Monday, May 30, 2011

the problem with going back to nature, down to the earth or whatever you call it 

I have just finished reading A handmade life by William Coperthwaite and while its central message of living a simple, non-violent life and co-operating with others is very commendable and laudable it is totally impractical.

Everyone in the first world cannot live on remote small holdings in the wilderness, living off the land and chopping our own firewood every day like the author. There are some exceptions like Neil Ansell in his book Deep Country. The plain fact is even in North America there is not enough space for everyone to live their lives like that. In Europe and especially overcrowded Britain there is definately not enough space.

The only people who can afford to buy enough land (apart from people who inherit it) are people who have made their money elsewhere from either employment, entreprenurship or pure blind luck. They can afford to grow their own fruit and vegetables, raise chickens and livestock, keep bees, bake their own bread and learn craft skills. They are rich in both money and time.

Most people in the developed world would probably enjoy quite a few aspects of this lifestyle. There is enough advertising of it in books like I have mentioned, on tv by people like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the uk (there must be simillar people elsewhere) and other forms of media.

How does someone living in a council flat in a city working for minimum wage with children to feed live this sort of life? Yes there are things such as allotments (in the uk at least, community gardens and the like but these are still not available to all. They cannot afford "artisan" made clothes, food or furnishings. They cannot afford to make them themselves and in any case have to work long hours to provide for their families. These people are poor in both time and money.

Even comparatively better off people like myself cannot afford to live such a lifestyle. I earn comfortably above the average wage and we are lucky to have a flat to live in provided by my wifes job so we have few outgoings really. We still would struggle to find the money to buy a small holding, especially in todays economic climate. Even if we did find somewhere we would not have the time to work at a "normal" job to be able to afford to absorb the running costs of the small holding such as buying tools, livestock etc.

Of course we can do what we can when we can. We can use what time and cash we have to try and live a better life and we do that. We garden, we try to shop responsibly and locally, we recycle, we only buy clothes when we need to replace worn out items.

Some may say that this is the point. Everyone does what they can in their own way. This is of course commendable. I firmly believe that it is elitist and also self defeating in some respect. Perhaps the difficulty in actually trying to live the good life puts people off. Perhaps there is a revolution needed in finance, access to the land and skills but that is not going to happen. All the current finacial crisis has done is made the rich richer as the poor have bailed them out. They can live the good life one way or another if it is on a small holding or a mansion.

I would love to own a small holding in South Somerset where I was born and raised along with generations of my ancestors. Realistically the only way I can do this in the short term at least is to win the lottery.

Permanent link and Comments posted by Rob Cornelius @ Monday, May 30, 2011

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