“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”
— E.F. Schumacher
The three opportunities taken together are a road map to a better world. Perhaps the single most elegant response to this sustainability imperative would be to simplify. Simplicity embraces the notion that less is more. It is the achievement of maximum effect with minimum means. This timeless truth runs counter to the prevailing economic wisdom of our time which believes that we can grow our way to 'prosperity'.
But the facts and the evidence all around us doesn't jive with this worldview. Virtually every significant environmental issue facing us today, often entangled with many others, is rooted in the simple fact that we are taking too much. Our lives are too large. We are living like there were 5–10 living planets although there are not. We spend our time tinkering around the edges of our consumptive lifestyles buying more energy efficient lightbulbs, appliances, homes and cars when we really just need to stop buying. We may be eating less meat and more organic produce but we are still consuming too much food regardless of how 'green' it is.
When we simplify we focus on what is essential and important in our lives by reducing how much we have, how much we take and how much we owe. Our Gotta-Have-It culture has made us feel that happiness lies in having things. What it has failed to teach us is the happiness that comes from not having things. Instead each year 200 billion dollars in advertising reminds us what is trendy, hip, fashionable, cool … and how much fun it is to have this stuff. Unfortunately that 'fun' comes with high opportunity costs for people and planet.
“You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.”
— V. Howard
“You can often find in rivers what you cannot find in oceans.”
— Indian proverb