Is it really one world?

Most, if not all, Seychellois would find it extremely strange that some people who “have it all” in countries like the US and UK are determined to leave “all that” behind and live simpler lives with few possessions, no television or radio, and many times living off the land. Whilst we crave for shops that contain all manner of things, thousands and thousands of people in the richer countries are deliberately turning their backs on what they believe is blind consumerism and environmental over-consumption.

I have just  finished reading what most people here would find a weird book. It is  hand-lettered and illustrated  by Dan Price, one of the growing number of Americans who has gone in search of what he calls an authentic life – “a life we’ve each “hand made” for ourselves, rather than one dictated by outside circumstances”. Price has helped to fashion a trend that’s been variously referred to as “downshifting,” “opting out,” or “simple living.”

His message is: you can live a life of freedom, in harmony with the rhythms of nature, and your own internal rhythm and you can live very well with very little. The book describes Price’s 14-year effort to find simplicity in a meadow in Oregon in the US. Renting two acres for $100, Price builds huts and experiments with reducing his life to bare essentials.

Impressed by Native American life, Price first builds a tipi, then lives in a “hobbit hole,” a shed built of old wood. He throws away much of what he originally considered important. The TV is abandoned when he realizes he doesn’t recognize programs he has already seen. He wants to be free to do the things he loves.

Reviewers of the book say it is engaging story of one man prospering spiritually and mentally by turning toward an ecologically balanced life. But most people in Seychelles would not understand this or sympathize with it. To them Price’s account is one of poverty and squalor. His account may be familiar to some only in that they have escaped such a life and do not want to return.

This illustrates a significant gap between the thinking of Western people and those from the developing world. Whilst many people from North America and Europe are weary of their lives, possessions and popular culture, people from the developing world are eager to adopt the same.  Which is the right way? The answer is of course up to the individual but in many cases one does not have the choice. Only one option is thrust upon you. Price made a choice through his own free will, and that’s the difference.

By Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles' CEO, published on The People Newspaper, Seychelles

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