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no room for hipsters

the occupation of Ashley and Levon

(from ashley)

“You don’t look into the eyes of a carrot seed in quite the same way as a panda bear’s, but its important”   Carey Fowler.

I listened to a TED talk ( and learned that we’re losing agriculture biodiversity at an alarming rate.  This is happening largely because of economic forces; only top-selling breeds get propagated.  Fowler explains that this extinction of lesser-known breeds is unfavorable because as conditions change, the breeds we use now may not be able to sustain us.  If we don’t preserve breeds now, we won’t have options later; and the results will be life-threatening.

I began to think of each human life as a rare breed; so rare, in fact, that only one exists.  If you’re lucky, the world will only have you for 80-120 years before you are extinct; your particulars will only happen once.

designed for living.  a painting from a series on sustainable infrastructure.

designed for living. a painting from a series on sustainable infrastructure.

It occurred to me that a huge downside to our economic system is that many talents, projects, and ideas go extinct,  merely because they aren’t economically profitable.  If an idea or project cannot make money, or at least provide the means for survival, it won’t flourish to its potential; at best, it will be confined to the meager fruition of a hobby.  It is incredibly frustrating and sad to think that our human potential or output is so greatly hindered by what the market believes to be valuable.  Lord knows the market gets it wrong sometimes (think Lawn Darts and The Hanson Brothers).

Not only is personal satisfaction at stake, but the world is missing out.

beech dwellings.  another from the series.

beech dwellings. another from the series.

As individuals, we can take steps toward deflating the hustle so that our values can take priority over the perpetual (and often superficial) exchange of goods and services.  But without a shift in cultural, political, and economic infrastructure, individuals pursuing simplification must compromise to maintain involvement within their communities.  In our culture, providing for basic needs generally requires 40 hours per week.  Some are fortunate enough to align their passions with paychecks, but even they are limited by market forces (painters paint what sells, writers write fashionably, and so on).

And this is the part where I think hunter-gatherers have it right.  Hunter-gatherer societies typically spend 2-3 hours per day working for their subsistence.  That leaves plenty of time for the pursuit of non-profitable projects; in our culture that could translate as charity, problem solving, care-taking, or beautification.

designed for living (detail)

designed for living (detail)

I’m not calling for a complete turn toward a strictly nomadic lifestyle, but I am saying we could use about 500 giant steps in that direction.  We humans should have the option to dramatically simplify without being forced to isolate ourselves from the benefits of community.

The framework of our society should allow for and even encourage simplification for the overall health of the planet and it’s inhabitants.  Reworking our infrastructure toward sustainability would provide individuals with more choice in the way their human potential is spent. Generally, an improved infrastructure would promote  the localized exchange of resources while allowing for self-sustaining practices.  A few of the most simple changes might be to make bee-keeping and backyard chickens legal in city limits, making urban centers walkable with heavy restrictions placed on the use of automobiles, and regulating mega-corporations to allow for viable local service and retail options.  Local infrastructures would vary, reflecting the native needs and resources of the particular place.

beech dwellings (detail)

beech dwellings (detail)

Sustainable infrastructure has many benefits and protecting humanity and its diverse output is just one.  With viable options toward simplification people could be intimately connected to the generation of their basic needs with time left to explore their potential, regardless of market demand.

And if that doesn’t convince you, do it for the pandas.


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