An Invitation / Incitation to the Simple Life

We are freer than we think we are. – Michel Foucault



  • Voluntary Simplicity Documentary (Wednesday) – The showing of the voluntary simplicity documentary was delayed one week and is now showing this Wednesday 29 April 2009, 9.30pm, Channel 31’s Plug In TV Show. The documentary will also be posted online in due course. Location, to be advised. A 30-second trailer is currently available for viewing at I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest thanks to Amir Dervic and Tanja Capic, the inspired team at No Way Productions, for their vision and enthusiasm in making this progressive documentary, and for so creatively helping to advance the voluntary simplicity movement. The world needs more oppositional artists like Amir and Tanja! Congratulations to them.
  • Life Poets’ Promote Voluntary Simplicity at the Melbourne Social Forum – Our Collective provided a workshop/seminar at the Melbourne Social Forum which ran from Friday 17-19 April 2009. It was a great success, drawing much attention and many new members interested in exploring simplicity signed up. Special thanks to De Chantal Hillis for organizing and running the event in my absence. For more information on the Melbourne Social Forum see:
  • Voluntary Simplicity Radio Discussion (Upcoming) – Monday 4 May, 3WBC, 94.1FM, Wonderful World Media Network, ‘Sustainable Lifestyles Show,’ 6.05pm-6.45pm. The interview will eventually be posted online at
  • Affluenza (The Song) – The new song ‘Affluenza’ by Senses of Walden has been receiving some radio play. It is also the soundtrack to the documentary (see above). ‘Affluenza,’ which expresses themes relevant to voluntary simplicity, is attached to this email. Have a listen! (Will sound best through headphones.)
  • The Politics of Voluntary Simplicity promoted at Auckland Law School at the ‘Conference on Property Rights and Sustainability,’ Organized by the New Zealand Centre for Environmental Law – For those interested, the presentation is attached.

We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.

– ‘Preamble’ to The Earth Charter


In this Invitation / Incitation I wanted to bring your attention to the Earth Charter Initiative. This is a diverse, global network of people, organizations, and institutions that participate in promoting and implementing the values and principles of the Earth Charter. The Earth Charter itself, a beautiful and inspiring document, can be read online at The mission of the Earth Charter Initiative is to promote the transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded upon a shared ethical framework that includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. Of particular relevance to the Life Poets’ Simplicity Collective is clause 7(f) which calls upon all to ‘Adopt lifestyles that emphasize the quality of life and material sufficiency in a finite world.’ We can only hope that the Earth Charter is one day recognized by international law and the United Nations.

Always bear in mind that very little indeed is necessary for living a happy life.

– Marcus Aurelius


In the 18th century, the French philosopher Denis Diderot wrote an essay entitled Regrets on Parting with My Old Dressing Gown. Simplicity theorist, Juliet Schor, has neatly summarized the point of that important essay below. Have a read and then try to apply Diderot’s lesson to your own life. (See Juliet Schor, ‘Learning Diderot’s Lesson: Stopping the Upward Creep of Desire,’ in Tim Jackson (ed.), The Earthscan Reader in Sustainable Consumption (2005) p178.)

Diderot’s regrets were prompted by a gift of a beautiful scarlet dressing gown. Delighted with his new acquisition, Diderot quickly discarded his old gown. But in a short time, his pleasure turned sour as he began to sense that the surroundings within which the gown was worn did not properly reflect the garment’s elegance. He grew dissatisfied with his study, with its threadbare tapestry, the desk, his chairs and even room’s bookshelves. One by one, the familiar but well-worn furnishings of the study were replaced. In the end, Diderot found himself seated uncomfortably in the stylish formality of his new surroundings, regretting the work of this ‘impervious scarlet robe [that] forced everything else to conform with its own elegant tone.’

Today consumer researchers call such striving for conformity the ‘Diderot effect.’ And, while Diderot effects can be constraining (some people foresee the problem and refuse the initial upgrading), in a world of growing income the pressure to enter and follow the cycle are overwhelming. The purchase of a new home is the impetus for replacing old furniture; a new jacket makes little sense without the right skirt to match; an upgrade in china can’t really be enjoyed without a corresponding upgrade in glassware. This need for unity and conformity in our lifestyle choices is part of what keeps the consumer escalator moving ever upward. And ‘escalator’ is the operative metaphor: when the acquisition of each item on a wish list adds another item, and more, to our ‘must-have’ list, the pressure to upgrade our stock of stuff is relentlessly unidirectional, always ascending.

If we do not change direction, we are likely to end up where we are going.

– Chinese Proverb


Although living simply is much more than just living cheaply and consuming less – it is also a state of mind – spending wisely plays an important role. The following exercise can be enlightening and might surprise you: Over a one month period, record every purchase you make, and then categorize your expenses (rent, food, alcohol, movies, coffee, books, clothes, etc.). Multiply each category by twelve to get a rough estimate of the annual cost. Then consider how much of your time and energy you spent obtaining the money to buy everything you consumed that month. Question not only the amount of money you spent on each category, but also the categories on which you spent your money. You might find that seemingly little purchases add up to an inordinate amount over a whole year, suggesting that the money might be better spent elsewhere, not at all, or exchanged for more time by working less. One does not have to be a tightwad, as such. Only thoughtful. After all, as Thoreau would say, ‘The cost of a thing is the amount of life which is required to be exchanged for it.’ You may find that some small changes to your spending habits, rather than inducing any sense of deprivation, will instead be life-affirming. And when it comes to spending our money we should always bear in mind Vicki Robin’s profound democratic insight: That how we spend our money is how we vote on what exists in the world. If this is true then the global middleclass has the potential to become a non-violent revolutionary class and change the world, simply by changing its spending habits.

Hope is the difference between probability and possibility. – Isabelle Stengers


As well as forwarding this email (including the song) onto to friends, family, work colleagues, etc., perhaps you would also like to help take simplicity to the streets? As noted previously, I have some Life Poets’ Simplicity Collective ‘business cards’ left over from the Sustainable Living Festival. If you would like to spend an morning/evening dropping some around your neighbourhood, workplace, campus, etc. then please let me know. They could be picked up from my place in Parkville, or, if necessary, I could send them to you. I would love to hear from you and your involvement would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks to those who have already lent a hand promoting voluntary simplicity.

Let ours be a time remembered for the awakening of a new reverence for life, the firm resolve to achieve sustainability, the quickening of the struggle for justice and peace, and the joyful celebration of life. – The Earth Charter

One final reminder, don’t forget about the documentary this Wednesday 29 April, 9.30pm, Channel 31, Plug In TV Show, ‘Voluntary Simplicity: The Poetic Alternative to Consumer Culture.’

Let us be pioneers once more,

Samuel Alexander,



Trust thyself. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

One Response to “An Invitation / Incitation to the Simple Life”

  1. Moncler says:

    Bonjour , Vous avez soulevé beaucoup de questions dans mon esprit , Je vais revenir bient?t !

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