Saturday, August 11, 2012
Thoughts on Sustainable Living
I have had this post floating around in my head for a couple weeks now. It is less of an informative post and more of me thinking out loud. Feel free to hop in and add your thoughts. This post stems from having my choices questioned concerning the path I have taken since becoming a single parent. I am blessed with some very good friends who get it, who completely understand because they have chosen a similar path or are struggling with taking that first step. I have some very heavy questions as a result of that questioning. What is a sustainable economy, especially for a family? Why is choosing not to have a traditional job seen as taking an oath to poverty and an irresponsible act? Why is society's definition of poverty solely based on income?
I realize that for statisticians purposes, basing poverty on income makes it easier to quantify what is a serious problem in America and across the world, but shouldn't there be a broader definition within society? It is possible, when choosing to live a simplified life to not earn a lot of money and not feel poor. If I chose to live in a tiny house and grow most of my own food, hang my clothes on the line instead of use my energy sucking dryer, buy my clothes from garage sales and second hand stores, am I really still deemed poor by society because I earn very little? I could have chosen to walk into another low paying job while the little one spent most of his time in daycare, but I see my greatest commodity as my time and I would much rather spend it with those I love, even if it means I am barely eking out a living through a patchwork of writing, photography, and teaching jobs. Even if it means not having the American dream, because it is not my dream.
Believe me, I have tried to get another low paying job. As a degree holder, I even applied for a host of jobs that by society's definition, I would be making a living wage. Nothing, nada. Not one single bite on the hook. The job market is just too crumby. If ya don't know somebody you aren't going to get hired, especially if you are walking into middle age after being out of the job market for a while and have no skilled trade. Time to get creative, and creative I've been, patching together income from everything from my writing and photography to dog sitting and holding a whopper of a yard sale. Nontraditional, yes. But it has allowed me to spend more time with my boys.
A sustainable economy is simply being able to live within your means without taxing your resources financially or environmentally. If you are spending beyond your means (no matter your income) or are using up natural resources faster than they can be regenerated and stripping them from the earth in a damaging way, you are not living in a sustainable economy. It doesn't matter if it is just within your family or in the broader scope of our planetary community. If you earn enough to meet your basic needs and do not overspend, if you are respecting your environmental resources, if you chose to live a simpler life because it affords you greater happiness and more time with your loved ones, you are not only living a sustainable economic model, you are also wealthy in riches far greater than the guy in the big house who spends his life working to pay off the mortgage and two car loans. I have news for that guy. NONE OF THAT STUFF MATTERS!!!! It is just stuff. Stuff we don't need for our well being. Let it go.Get off the deadly treadmill.
I chose to live a more simple life, to raise my boys without the insatiable drive to succeed by American standards at all costs. If this is poverty by the American definition, then so be it. I chose poverty. But what I really think needs to happen is for America to redefine poverty and success. The current definition of success isn't sustainable.