Friday, November 16, 2012
A popular lifestyle trend, advocated by many who profess to live responsibly, is the voluntary simplicity movement. In its raw form, minimal living requires that we eschew material wealth, and look to a standard of living that involves the least amount of possessions. Simultaneously, the environmental movement demands that we create the smallest eco-footprint that we can, guarding the environment preciously. Both lifestyles appear to have much in common, yet, oddly, there is only a nominal effort to blend the two together.
There is vociferous opposition to the eco-friendly concept by those that seek to deny the reality of climate change. The anti-tree hugger groups gravitate toward the argument that, since global warming is a myth (or, at best, not caused by human actions), there is no need to spend effort on protecting the ecology of the earth. These people miss the point of being eco-friendly.
I live a modest lifestyle, yet do not begrudge those that have wealth and show it. The premise built into the anti-environment people’s argument is that, if what they do will cause no serious harm, then there is no reason to discontinue being disrespectful and selfish regarding pollution problems. Extrapolating that argument to the middle/upper income situation then, I should be able to simply take what I want from those who have affluence, simply because it will have no monetary impact on them. Even more to the point, I should be able to walk into the anti-climate change proponents’ homes and dump whatever garbage and pollution I want in their back yard, because the filth will not impact on the environment. The fact is, whether or not my actions harm the environment, I should act responsibly as much as possible, including taking care to not impact on others’ enjoyment of the world around them!
Living a green lifestyle simply says that I want to enjoy this earth, but that I do not need to be wasteful to do so. I want to take only what I need on this globe, not what I want. I choose to live cleanly and simply, as much as possible.
Those that embrace the minimalist approach to living often are labelled as harshly as “tree huggers” by those that think that we choose to live this lifestyle because we have nothing, and want others to do the same. I have been told that most of us choose this way of living because, if we have little in the way of material wealth, we don’t have to work as hard to get it. In essence, I am being told that I choose voluntary simplicity because I am lazy! It is an intriguing label, given that a) I have developed multi-million dollar businesses for others, b) have owned (and sold for pennies) a business that grossed $1.6 million in its second year of business, and c) living minimally takes a lot of conscious effort and (the horror!) work. Voluntary simplicity says that I do not need material wealth to generate huge enjoyment out of life. Indeed, it offers a richness for which money cannot be bartered.
Both minimalism and environmentalism seek to embrace living consciously and enthusiastically, but without taking huge bites out of that which is available to consume. By doing so, more is left for others to enjoy. This idea that “lean” is an ideal to aim toward is not radical, nor impossible. It is realistic, and hugely gratifying. Similarly, “going green” is a fantastic journey, allowing us to take Robert Frost’s road less travelled. He was so correct when he claimed that doing so “has made all the difference.” Will the world be greener because of me? Who knows? Will my efforts at living with less pay dividends for others? Possibly not. Neither matters. The lean and green living concept offers an option that combines, for me, the epitome of what I see is my duty. Nothing more, nothing less.
Monday, November 12, 2012
The world waits on our best scientific minds and deep corporate financial pockets to provide us with solutions to our global energy crisis. We know that it is only a matter of time and money before they develop cost-effective solar solutions, and eliminate our dependence upon fossil fuels. But the promised alternative energy Nirvana has been long in the development, with little sign of imminent solution. So why are we waiting on our self-proclaimed and acknowledged academic and financial geniuses? Stan Ovshinsky already has proven that these great inventions do not have to originate from huge monetary investments or conventional intellectuals.
Mr. “Call me Stan” Ovshinsky is the guy who invented the battery that powers most laptop computers, and was the force behind the invention of hydrogen fuel cells, LCD TV screen technology and electric car systems, along with being the holder of nearly 1,000 patents. Yet, he never graduated high school.
With this apparent lack of genius, he was able to show that the conventional theories about semi-conductors were wrong, much to the chagrin of scientists who scoffed at this nearly uneducated man. Undeterred, Stan and his wife used their meagre savings to start Energy Conversion Devices, and began developing and marketing his inventions. His everyday genius has provided us with incredible breakthroughs in the understanding of alternative energy concepts. At the age of 85, he started two new companies, focused upon making solar cell energy less costly than coal. Unfortunately, he died, just shy of his 90th birthday, with his latest dreams unfulfilled.
It is not the intuitive brilliance of his creations that is Mr. Ovshinsky’s legacy. Rather, it is the lesson that each of us could learn from his example: every one of us is capable of contributing to the solutions needed in today’s world, from social to economic to concrete creations. The myth that only big money and educated academics are able to solve the complex issues confronting us has been completely disintegrated because of the practical example set by Stan Ovchensky.
While money may be needed to bring ideas to commercial fruition, those essential, initial steps – the dreams, ideas and concepts – require only the application of our own unique perspectives and experiences. It is the combination of these two elements that germinate the genius within each of us. Rather than regarding our own meagre contributions as the uniformed inspirations of a simple mind, we should act upon those insights as if they were -- all of them – the seeds of the next most marvellous event to change the world.