Much of the reluctance to do what climate change requires comes from the assumption that it means trading abundance for austerity, and trading all our stuff and conveniences for less stuff, less convenience. But what if it meant giving up things we’re well rid of, from deadly emissions to nagging feelings of doom and complicity in destruction? What if the austerity is how we live now — and the abundance could be what is to come?
This doesn’t seem like much of a what-if—so many people are currently living under austerity now.
As I’ve learned more about ecovillages and cooperative communities, one of my biggest realizations is the power of communal sufficiency. When living in a community that can generate 80% of its own power and grow 50% of its own food, abundance becomes the norm.
“Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers,” William Wordsworth wrote a couple of centuries ago. What would it mean to recover those powers, to be rich in time instead of stuff?
For so many of us, being busy with work has leached away our capacity to pursue true riches. What if we were to prioritize reclaiming our time — to fret less about getting and spending — and instead “spend” this precious resource on creative pursuits, on adventure and learning, on building stronger societies and being better citizens, on caring for the people (and other species and places) we love, on taking care of ourselves?
This argument echos How to Do Nothing and rethinking the value of our time and our circumstances.
I appreciate Solnit putting forward a vision of a post-consumer society that isn’t doom-and-gloom. If degrowth is going to succeed as a politics, it needs to be oriented towards building public wealth.