It is ironic that green ways of living that emphasize voluntary simplicity -- a life-way that can take us into an opportunity-filled future -- are often portrayed in the mass media as regressive ways of life that turn away from progress. Here are three portrayals of green lifestyles and simplicity common in today's popular media:
1. Crude or Regressive Simplicity
The mainstream media often shows simplicity as a path of regress instead of progress. Simplicity is frequently presented as anti-technology and anti-innovation, a backward-looking way of life that seeks a romantic return to a bygone era. Profiles often depict a utopian, back-to-nature movement with families leaving the stresses of an urban life in favor of living in the woods, or on a farm, or in a recreational vehicle, or on a boat. Often it is a stereotypical view of a crudely simple lifestyle -- a throwback to an earlier time and more primitive condition -- with no indoor toilet, no phone, no computer, no television, and no car. No thanks! Seen in this way, simplicity is a cartoon lifestyle that seems naive, disconnected, and irrelevant -- an approach to living that can be easily dismissed as impractical and unworkable. Regarding simplicity as regressive and primitive makes it easier to embrace a "business as usual" approach to living in the world.
2. Cosmetic or Superficial Simplicity
In recent years, a different view of simplicity has begun to appear: a cosmetic simplicity that attempts to cover over deep defects in our modern ways of living by giving the appearance of meaningful change. Shallow simplicity assumes that green technologies -- such as fuel-efficient cars, fluorescent light bulbs, and recycling -- will fix our problems, give us breathing room, and allow us to continue pretty much as we have in the past without requiring that we make fundamental changes in how we live and work. Cosmetic simplicity puts green lipstick on our unsustainable lives to give them the outward appearance of health and happiness. A superficial simplicity gives a false sense of security by implying that small measures will solve great difficulties. A cosmetic simplicity perpetuates the status quo by assuming that, with use of green technologies we can moderate our impact and continue along our current path of growth for another half century or more.
3. Deep or Conscious Simplicity
Occasionally presented in the mass media and poorly understood by the general public is a conscious simplicity that represents a deep, graceful, and sophisticated transformation in our ways of living -- the work that we do, the transportation that we use, the homes and neighborhoods in which we live, the food that we eat, the clothes that we wear, and much more. A sophisticated and graceful simplicity seeks to heal our relationship with the earth, with one another, and with the sacred universe. Conscious simplicity is not simple. This life way is growing and flowering with a garden of expressions. Deep simplicity fits aesthetically and sustainably into the real world of the 21st century.
Few people would voluntarily go through the difficulty of fundamentally restructuring their manner of living and working if they thought they could tighten their belts and wait for things to return to "normal." A majority of people will shift their ways of living only when it is unmistakably clear that we must make dramatic and lasting changes. Has the world reached a point of no return and crossed a threshold where a shift toward the simple prosperity of green lifestyles is the new "normal"?
Maddy Harland on Transformational Media
Media has become a dirty word lately, especially in relation to news gatherers, but if we are to return to our mercurial roots as winged messengers of the gods what is our role? I believe the true purpose of media, like art, is to communicate new ideas that deepen our understanding of humanity and our capacity to live in a more creative and gentle way on the planet. We are here to learn how to make peace with our fellow human beings and to nurture and steward the Earth and all its wonderful myriad of species. I do recognise that this model of transformational media is a million miles away from Rupert Murdoch and the News International group. That is why it is so important to discriminate what media we consume.
Permanent Publications' mission (publishers of Permaculture magazine and related books) is to publish information which encourages people to find more healthy, self-reliant and ecologically sound ways of living.
Our intention has always been to change the way people think about the world and thereby change the world.
The most important change that people can make is to change their way of looking at the world. We can change studies, jobs, neighbourhoods, even countries and ontinents and still remain much as we always were. But change our fundamental angle of vision and everything changes – our priorities, our values, our judgements, our pursuits. Again and again ... this total upheaval in the imagination has marked the beginning of a new life ... a turning of the heart by which [human beings] see with new eyes and understand with new minds and turn their energies to new ways of living.
Barbara Ward, Writer and economist, in a paper on global governance
Transformational media is:
- uses mixed platforms
- puts social and environmental responsibility centre stage
- promotes practices, strategies, ideas, technologies that are life-enhancing and sustainable.
Maddy Harland, editor & co-founder of Permaculture magazine & Permanent Publications