Simpler Living May Make Us Happier, But Happiness is Not Enough

simpler living happiness not enough photo

Image credit: Osman Kalkavan, used under Creative Commons license.

This might be the best thing I have read in a long, long time. Pat Kane over at The Guardian has been thinking a lot about the connection between consumerism, sustainability, happiness and novelty. Noting—as we often do in posts like this one about living simply as an alternative American Dream—that a move away from blind consumption might just make us happier, he goes on to argue that happiness is not enough. Our tendency for rampant consumption comes not just from some suicidal urge, he argues, but from a need for novelty and stimulation that is just as deep seated as our desire for connection or purpose. Humans Crave Novelty
Any attempt to reframe our cultural values toward a simpler, more sustainable life must, says Kane, also take into account human beings' status as radical animals "able to distance ourselves from our instincts sufficiently enough to shape the world according to our imaginations". While consumer icons like the always exciting, yet oh so disposable, smart phone may come with a horrendous environmental footprint, they also represent an impressive achievement in human ingenuity:

The latest smartphone in our pocket is a toxic clump of hydrocarbons, rare metals and duplicatory design. Yet it's also a mystic portal in our hand: a gateway to instantly useful information (or even cosmopolitan and concerned journalism), a dream-catcher of our experiences and intensities, perhaps even a toppler of dictatorships.

Redirecting Creativity Toward Sustainability
At no point does Kane argue against the idea that we need to navigate ourselves away from material consumption, but he does make a strong case that we need to understand what drove us to that consumption in the first place, and redirect our creativity to a more constructive outlet.

DIY Culture and Collaborative Consumption
By all means, let's keep exploring the true source of happiness in our quest for sustainability, but let's also apply our creative selves to collaborative consumption and a newly invigorated DIY culture.

Simplicity is just one part of the puzzle.

More on Happiness, Consumerism and Sustainability
The Rise of Collaborative Consumption
DIY Build and Repair Culture Makes Healthier Planet and Happier People
Happiness: No Purchase Necessary
Living Simply as an Alternative American Dream (Video)

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