Cool Lifestyle for a Hot Planet

I listened to a podcast with Duane Elgin last month. For those of you (ALL of you?) not familiar with him, he is the author of my bible, “Voluntary Simplicity”, and has achieved a bit of cult status popularity because of  his writing and life’s work. I realize Tolstoy, Thoreau, and even St. Francis of Assisi all devoted a good portion of their own writings to the subject, long before his book came out, but Mr. Elgin is the one that changed my thinking.

I was lucky enough to attend a week long workshop that he facilitated back in 2004 at Dennsion University in Granville, Ohio. Little did I know  how that week would inspire and change me. The week was literally a think tank and our class of 22 explored the human family’s journey of awakening as it crossed the threshold into a global civilization as well as the positive and problematic aspects of the stage we were in 8 years ago. I believe it’s safe to say we’ve now crossed that threshold. As I listened to this recent interview, I tried hastily scribbling down notes and I’ve been thinking of what he had to say ever since. Below are my thoughts based on those notes:

The word sustainability means the capacity to endure over time. It’s a word that’s overused and misused these days, even greenwashed at times. But I do believe that I can work towards a personal level of sustainability by starting with myself, changing my awareness and how I think, then help others do the same. But how? Duane Elgin says big changes are necessary, but his message of living a life of material simplicity and  following my priorities remains the same as it did when I studied under him.

MY priorities include spending more time with friends and family, building community, participating in my hobbies of gardening, music and writing, connecting with nature, and focusing on my spiritual development. Mr. Elgin still maintains there are no recipes or cookbooks, but suggests balance in our lives is key to living a life that’s ‘inwardly rich and outwardly simple’.

Our inner life is important to balance: Spirituality, meditation, music, nature, yoga, service, and art are ways to achieve that inner balance. The work I do, the food I eat, the clothes I wear, and the car I drive (or not!) are all examples of choices I can make that will make a difference in living sustainably. In times of testing and challenge, many lives have or will become one of  INvoluntary simplicity; of poverty and little choice, of imbalance and little endurance over time.  If we choose to work now to live sustainably, when that time of testing and challenge comes, we ‘ll be resilient. And if that time never comes, what have we lost? Nothing. And what have we gained?

  • Expanded range of choices and possibilities in our life.
  • Strengthened family and community bonds and increased cultural richness. Greater social harmony and stronger communities.
  • Reduced financial stress, worry, and indebtedness. Increased financial security.
  • Increased sense of richness and health in daily living. Reduced stress and increased personal well-being.
  • Progress toward environmental sustainability-or, ‘a cool lifestyle for a hot planet’!


2 Comments so far
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Wasn’t sure if you knew that this book was revised and updated for publication just a couple of years ago. I do not know what revisions were made, but thought I’d pass the tidbit along in case you were unaware and wanted to check it out.

Comment by Karen

Do you mean the Voluntary Simplicity book Karen? If so, I didn’t know it had been updated. I’ll check it out. Thanks for reading!

Comment by simpleintn

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