During my lunch break today I indulged in a little reading of my favourite blog: No Impact Man. Colin’s one-year experiment in living zero net impact in Manhattan is over, but he’s still blogging to maintain and encourage dialogue on the subject of sustainable lifestyles. Reading back through December posts, I come across a blog on The Story of Stuff. It is a mini-lecture by Annie Leonard with cartoon animation briefly describing the production of consumer goods. It’s 20 minutes long and you can watch it right on the webpage. I loved it. She highlights the unsustainability of the linear pathway of Natural Resources-to-Landfill. The most obnoxious criticisms I read on Digg were dismissals because she over-simplified the issue. Well, duh, it’s an overview! Every overview is an oversimplification. Besides, the point of introducing a complex issue to a broad and mostly naive audience is to oversimplify! People who want to learn more take it from there. I say, go ahead and have criticisms, have questions, but have an alternative answer. It’s too easy to disagree with an argument and contribute nothing in its place.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘Stuff’ as Christmas approaches. We live in a tiny place and are trying to unclutter our lives. Though I own a lot of books and rocks (just ask my boyfriend), I’m not much interested in Stuff. There are the things I need (mostly food), and there are the things I want (climbing gear, art supplies), and then there are the things I am told that I want (new clothes and shoes and the latest gadgets). I avoid a lot of this last category by not watching television or reading magazines and by not visiting shopping meccas but it is a powerful draw, even for someone as marginally involved in the mainstream as myself! What to do? Understand the things that really make you happy. I’m not talking about the 1-day happiness of a new sweater. I’m talking about the enduring happiness of the things that actually make you feel good. Learning a new skill, producing something useful or beautiful, making someone else happy, working at making your dreams a reality. Learn those things about yourself and make the time to work on them. And you’ll start to find that you don’t need as much Stuff as you thought you did and that you’re happier for it! Oversimple? Yes, but not everything in life need be complicated.