After the last two posts being rather gloomy, I am happy today to bring your attention to Ted Trainer’s new Simplicity Institute Report, called ‘Your Delightful Day: The Benefits of Life in the The Simpler Way.’ In this report Trainer highlights the many benefits that would come – individually, socially, environmentally – if communities embraced a culture of simple living and restructured their societies according to those values. It is an important reminder that, however great the world’s problems may be, transitioning to a just and sustainable world does not need to imply hardship. In the developed nations, at least, there is much room to “live better on less.” This report fleshes out in more detail the evidence I reviewed last year on the weak relationship between income and happiness. See, Alexander, S. ‘The Optimal Material Threshold: Toward an Economics of Sufficiency.‘
I’ve posted the introduction to Trainer’s new report below and the full report is freely available here.
Your Delightful Day: The Benefits of Life in The Simpler Way
Global problems cannot be solved unless we dramatically reduce the amount of producing and consuming going on. This means that people in rich countries must move down to per capita levels of resource consumption that are a small fraction of present levels (see Trainer, 2010, 2011a).
Understandably people think this would involve severe deprivation and hardship, and it is therefore not surprising that there is a general refusal to consider it. The assumption however is quite mistaken. Moving to The Simpler Way would enable a far higher quality of life than people in the rich and over-developed consumer societies have now. It would be a huge liberation from the rat race and the stress, depression and struggling to cope that it inflicts, even on richer people.
It is necessary to note briefly the main features of The Simpler Way as the benefits to be discussed derive from these. Because we would not be consuming more than we needed for a good life, and because there would be many non-resource intensive sources of enjoyment, we could cut a great deal off the present amount of producing, work, production, sales and GDP. There would be highly self-sufficient local economies using local resources to produce most of the basic things we needed, from the land and small firms within and close to our suburbs and towns. Thus there would be little need for transport compared with now, so most people could get to work on a bicycle or on foot and there would be little need for cars, little traffic or road expenditure. We would run those economies via participatory systems, such as town assemblies, to ensure that needs were prioritised. Most of the work needed to keep the town running well would be done by voluntary committees and working bees, for instance maintaining the many commons providing free food, materials and leisure resources. There would still be a national economy, some international trade and some functions for state governments, but relatively little. (For a detailed account of the new economy see Trainer 2011b).
It is now clearly understood that above a relatively low amount, monetary income is not very important for quality of life or happiness. (For an impressive review of the evidence, see Alexander, 2012.) This is the case even in consumer-capitalist society where many benefits cannot be accessed without money. The Simpler Way would enable many extremely important sources of life satisfaction that are not available in present society no matter how rich you are. Following is an indication of the many benefits we could be enjoying if most of us lived in the kind of communities outlined.
The full report is freely available here.