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When less is much, much more

By Chris McGorlick

These holidays I had the great pleasure of baby-sitting 8 baby quails for a week. Tiny, fluffy and adorable, they would spend their days scrambling over each other, scratching, exploring or huddling together for warmth. Remove one from the group, however, and instantly they would start screeching distress. Clearly, they relied on each other for a sense of comfort.

This summer has also seen for me the start of a bold new adventure in car-free living, having parted ways with my vehicle late last year, in response to the BIG question; “Is my lifestyle compatible with a safe climate future?”

Grappling with this question has been difficult, to say the least.

Upon closer examination, I very quickly realised that my consumption patterns have been dictated by history, culture, and social forces as much as they have been by my individual choices.

Sure, I’ve been buying the recycled toilet paper, stainless steel pegs, and have solar panels on my house, but I still conceive of progress in the same way Westerners have for generations. I still believe that my work should return more wealth to me than the last generation, and I’m still subject to the same forces that would have me believe individual liberty is the highest ideal.

These historical and cultural forces haven’t been shaping our behaviour since Thatcher declared there is no society, but rather, since the Romans forged an empire.

This is a trajectory we need to un-learn, and fast.

My car-free experiment has demonstrated a strong lesson; that humans don’t like the idea of difference. Why do we continue consuming and expanding and building and emitting? Because that’s what everyone else does. Just like the baby quals, we rely upon each other for our sense of comfort.

I believe that the biggest barrier to individuals changing is the idea of ‘usual.’ Just like those baby quails, we are distressed by the idea that being different might ostracise us from our groups.

And yet, these are the brave heroes that we need right now. A million people prepared to step outside what is comfortable and normal to run experiments in new ways of being, within our ecological limits, building new cultures and new values.

The results of my own experiment have proved my hypotheses. That having less connects me more to the world around me. Especially my quail.