+66 87 954 0711

Why the Simple Life?

People often ask us what exactly it was that led to the radical step of leaving our “normal” life behind and starting a permaculture project – living with only those luxuries that are provided by Nature.

There are, of course, many reasons. But the underlying theme was the feeling that something is wrong. At the beginning that was it, only throughout the years does one figure out what it is that is wrong.

Author Daniel Quinn put it like this:

“We are “captives of a civilizational system that more or less compels you to go on destroying the world in order to live.

Ever since the very dawn of civilization about 8,000 years ago, humans – who previously didn’t have any considerable impact on the environment – have systematically destroyed Nature by overusing limited resources and otherwise destroying their environment for rather selfish purposes. We humans are manipulators, our eyes guide our hands to form our environment to fit our needs. With the new mindset that became common after settling down and shifting from a (semi-)nomadic foraging lifestyle to a sedentary agricultural one, humans thought as themselves as excluded from the community: hunter, but never prey, eating, but never to be fed on.

After the industrial revolution, this disruptive tendency accelerated to a point where our destruction impacts basic planetary systems.
Around 10,000 species go extinct every year (some estimates are as high as 200 species per day!), we lose an average of 30 soccer fields of top soil per minute, the Amazon rainforest is being cut down at a rate of 50 soccer fields per minute,  irreplaceable resources are extracted and burned at an ever accelerating speed, accumulating an ever increasing amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which in turn threaten more species and destroy more biodiversity.

The Problem: Climate Breakdown

Without a doubt, climate breakdown is the biggest challenge for our generation and, in fact, humanity as a species. We modern humans and our civilization have created the conditions that have ended the stable climate of the so-called Holocene, increasing likelihood and severity of extreme weather events like droughts, storms, and floods, creating hundreds of millions of climate refugees, leading to severe food shortages in part of the world, the disintegration of nation states, and ultimately the collapse of global civilization itself. Vast amounts of carbon that used to be safely stored in underground deposits (as fossilized hydrocarbons like coal, oil, or gas), in plants and in soils has been forcibly extracted and spewed into the atmosphere, where a good part gets absorbed by the ocean, leading to acidification and the possible collapse of entire oceanic ecosystems (coral reefs are among the first victims).

This culture’s insatiable hunger for more and more machines and high-tech toys is creating vast toxic moonscapes with refuse from the mining and processing of rare earth minerals (REMs) needed to build the electrical components of everyday gadgets. We have to put an end to the culture that is devouring the planet, and the sooner we do this, the better the chances for us and every other living being we share the biosphere with. Leading thinkers and the vast majority of scholars have concluded that radical change needs to happen right now – it is quite possibly already too late and irreversible tipping points have been breached.

(Consider, for instance, that just maintaining the existing energy infrastructure will emit enough CO2 to breach emmision targets, and that air travel is projected to double in the next 20 years.)

It has gotten to the point where some scholars seriously question the continued survive of humans as a species.

 

 

There are two main aspects that led us to leave our old life behind and return to the Simple Life:

Because we want to

and

Because we have to


Because we want to

There are uncountable great things about the Simple Life that make it vastly superior to what’s considered the standard around the industrialized world.

Freedom

When we talk about freedom, it makes sense to first define what we mean when we use this term, since definitions vary tremendously depending on whom you ask (there are people out there who define freedom as free market capitalism and the “freedom” to consume whatever you want!).
Humans generally don’t like being told what to do, so freedom can mean the freedom to do whatever you want — the opposite of oppression. Yet this also can mean having the freedom to destroy Nature and take other lives as we please. A good start is the rule of thumb “my freedom ends where your freedom begins”, only that this rule is traditionally applied only to humans. If we were to extend it to include nonhuman animals and even plants, we’d be closer to a confining definition of freedom that can’t do too much harm to the ecosystem, and is therefore closer to sustainability. It doesn’t mean that you can’t cut down trees or arrow deer, it just means that you do those things only when you really have to — not for fun and not when your basic needs are already satisfied.
It follows that freedom always has to be defined in relation to the ecosystem (and within its limits!) – if one’s definition of freedom is disconnected from and not influenced and limited by one’s environment, chances are high that you’ll destroy the very basis on which your life depends (air, water, food, climate) – as shown by the recorded “His-story” of 8,000 years of civilization.
But being limited in your choices by your environment does not mean that you invariably feel less free. Truth is, there can be freedom in limitation, as long as this limitation is self-imposed, in our best interest (especially in the long term), and doesn’t compromise our well-being too much. Maybe true freedom is not having to choose in the first place, but just going with the flow (“following the Tao“) without being forced to do things you don’t want to do.

A truthful and logical interpretation of the term comes from Theodore J. Kaczynski, who defined freedom as follows:

“Freedom means being in control (either as an individual or as a member of a small group) of the life-and-death issues of one’s existence: food, clothing, shelter and defense against whatever threats there may be in one’s environment. Freedom means having power; not the power to control other people but the power to control the circumstances of one’s own life.”

This kind of freedom cannot be achieved in cities – relying on the municipality for water, gas, and electricity, on the supermarket and restaurants for food, and on a job as wage slave to get the money to pay for all this. To us, living in the city is the opposite of freedom. Achieving true freedom is not possible in today’s world of borders, nation states, police, passports, visas, identity cards, social security numbers and “smart” phones and other ubiquitous technology.

But by living the Simple Life we get as close to freedom as anyhow possible while still staying connected to the outside world.

 

Health

The three pillars of good health are

  1. Diet
  2. Exercise
  3. Environmental exposure

The last point often goes unacknowledged and has only recently been added to the requirements of a healthy life by anthropologist Scott Carney in his book “What Doesn’t Kill Us” (Rondale, 2017). He argues that, in addition to wild foods and an active lifestyle, we need environmental stress like cold or heat (remember that next time you switch in the air conditioning), or short periods of extreme exhaustion. The kind of “comfort” this society creates and advertises is actively harmful for our health. It creates humans who are “overstuffed, overheated, and understimulated”, in Carney’s words.
We at Feun Foo would add that “environmental exposure” of course doesn’t only imply negative and extreme exposures, but also positive and comfortable ones. It is quite simple, actually. If you live in an unhealthy environment (like for instance next to an oil refinery, a rubber factory, a fracking well, or a coal mine), chances are high that whatever you try, your health is being compromised by your environment. If, on the other hand, you live in a healthy, thriving forest ecosystem, you will automatically be healthier physically (because of fresh air, sunlight, etc.) and psychologically (less or no stress or anxiety – unlike the sensory overload we experience constantly in overcrowded cities).

All three pillars are complementary and act synergistically to potentiate health benefits, and if you want to get the most out of it, you should cater to all of them.
The easiest way this can be achieved is by living the Simple Life, self-sufficient and free, out in Nature.

Bruno Manser wrote in his diary during his six-year stay with the indigenous Penan hunter-gatherers of Malaysia:

“My experiment leads me back to the origin, to a life of abstinence and modesty. A healthy environment and enough food are the external conditions for happiness — he who complains with a full stomach and in a peaceful environment will still complain even if he owns half the world.”

 

Comfort

‘Comfort’ is a concept largely invented by a deceptive advertising industry for the purpose of selling us more products and make us weak and apathetic in the process. There is no empirical reason to believe sleeping on a 10-inch, $1,000 mattress makes our sleep any better or restorative (other than our blind trust in money).

We believe the only true and sustainable Form of comfort is found in the simple life in Nature.
Comfort is laying in your hammock in the morning, drinking tea and watching the birds play and feed. Comfort is not having to drive to the (super)market, but instead to slowly saunter through your garden, and pick your food right off the plants. Comfort is taking the day off whenever you want and go fishing.

 

Living a self-sufficient, natural lifestyle is more rewarding than anybody working a regular job in the city can imagine, yet it is not free of occasional frustration. But life is not supposed to be too easy, and it would become boring fast if it was. There is no greater joy than being able to feed yourself, to simply take a walk through the garden and gather enough food for the day. Feeding only yourself and your immediate community doesn’t usually require much of an effort anyway, no matter where you live (compared to the 8-hour working day). Building your own house, living in it from day to day with your loved ones, and repairing it when necessary will fill you with more pride and joy than any apartment, loft, row house, or mansion in the city ever could — even if it turns out to look “less professional” (which is just a pessimist way of saying “more unique”). The self-sufficient lifestyle will gift you with more freedom, leisure time, and self-determination than you’d find anywhere in the world of employment.

But be advised: while the simple life in Nature is much better than city life in terms of exposure to pollutants, stress, and other health hazards, it is far from being only idyllic and worry-free — sometimes it demands a certain amount of sacrifice from us. We will have to bleed, sweat and cry at times to overcome obstacles. Our hands will blister, we will cut and bruise ourselves, but we will simultaneously remember how good it feels to be alive. Every time a small but annoying wound (like from a thorn in the foot) heals, we will rejoice with our regained abilities, and every time we will feel like a part of us has been reborn. Every time an injury closes we will regain a bit of trust in ourselves and our body’s healing abilities. We will feel more connected to ourselves, our surroundings, and become more confident with using our body. We will become physically stronger and harder, and we will gain wisdom and knowledge faster than we might imagine. Over time, we will learn a lot, we will master skills, and become more satisfied with ourselves. We will rediscover what it means to be a human and how good it feels to be part of this beautiful, awe-inspiring, gigantic ecosystem we call Planet Earth.

 

Because we have to

To have any hope for the future, we have to return to the land in large numbers. The land is calling for us, it needs us. We have to understand and accept Nature’s Own Free Will and act accordingly. If you inhabit an ecosystem where Nature, if left undisturbed, would create forests, than that’s what you should do. All of us have ancestors that were at one point or another forest dwellers with unique and highly sophisticated modes of subsistence and a rich forest culture, and now it is up to us to revive this intimate connection with the land. We have to re-learn to live in, with, from, and for the forest.

The Back-to-the-Land movement of the 60’s and 70’s was a great idea, but sadly not large and persistent enough, and not very successful in some cases. One reason was that the situation back then was much less severe in terms of future insecurity and climate instability. Further, sometimes the mindset of those returning to the land was still infected with harmful civilized ideas, anthropocentrical thoughts of dominion and domestication, and a lack of appreciation for the primitive.

Returning to the land was actually quite common in the recent past, and a perfectly normal response to famines, epidemics, war, and conscription, as well as during and after the collapse of previous civilizations. What civilized His-story calls “Dark Ages” might have been times where people had more leisure, no obligation to pay taxes to city-based elites and warlords, and where personal freedom, autonomy, and Nature-based cultures flourished.

No comments.