Thursday, 30 April 2009

A voluntary utility-free month, then year?

Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newtown have in recent days both been writing about special projects by which people volutarily go without utilities for a certain period. Having experience studying the Amish, I am aware that properly done this can be a very valuable personal experience for people.

Sharon Astyk is very right, however, that to be a serious test people would have to live without utilities permanently as the Amish do, or for a very long time so that they would become skilled in living without them and learning how to conserve water and heating, as well as to eat fresh foods not dependent upon refrigeration. For many Australians this is very difficult because in the exceedingly hot summer days that the new climate will bring, food would not survive the week between readily available days on which to shop. Moreover, most families do not have the time I possess to shop for food almost every day.

Therefore, the skill required in shopping to achieve the kind of lifestyle that Sharon Astyk is very worthy in suggesting and which Australia’s ecology in fact dictates would necessitate major changes in what people buy.

Fruit, meat and milk would have to be dried or otherwise modified in order to allow keeping for the period between shopping days, which I know from experience to affect taste but in a way I imagine people can adapt to. It is of course true that short practice will help, so why not develop a plan to voluntarily go without utilities for extended periods of gradually increasing length up to a year, which would allow people of course to understand most conditions they are likely to experience. Given that Australians are quite accepting of discomfort - at least judging by the lack of protest against runaway climate change and gradually tightening water restrictions from Melbourne’s population over the past decade - they ought at least to be willing to try to live without utilities and yet with minimal disturbance to their daily life. I admit my house is no likely candidate with its leaky doors and shoddy plasterboard construction, but for even marginally better-made houses it should be worth a try for anybody serious about saving Australia’s fragile and diverse environment.

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