What's Enough? - Open thread

We all like to keep up with "the Joneses", in at least some ways. But perhaps if we focused on "What's Enough?" we would have a more balanced perspective.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

One major way we struggle to keep up with the Jones's is with housing. Of course nowadays that has turned into a bit of a joke, but that is a little glimmer of light that maybe we can use to illumine other ways we chase rainbows.

Status is a common factor in much of our chasing. So we can look at 1) to what extent is it smart to try to achieve whatever level of status; 2) to what extent will investing a lot in stuff type X actually gain us status?

An important consideration in status is community of various types, especially family and work team. We want our children to grow up happy and to have friends who will lead them in good directions. Society does run on status, and high status opens up lots of valuable doors. But there is also some paradox here - if a person is seen as a status seeker, they actually lose status.

Does a big house really gain a person high status? It can make a person look like a status seeker! And it can be so expensive that one cannot afford the car, schools, country club, clothes, vacations, fitness club, etc. that can also earn status.

Just some thoughts here to seed discussion.

A neighbor of ours once said, “I will stay where I am and meet the Joneses coming back.” A worthwhile motto is, strive to be a good neighbor.

Juliet Shor ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/juliet_shor ) and other sociologists have found that for some decades now "keeping up with the Jones's" has not been the primary motivation for consumer buying. Advertising and viewing wealthier people on TV and in Movies has been a stronger force.

Most people live in neighborhoods with people of roughly the same class. So if keeping up with your neighbors level of consumption was the only motivator, most would only have relatively modest consumerist aspirations. That's why marketers learned long ago that it was necessary to constantly put before consumers images of more extravagant lifestyles so that that this higher level of consumption would be seen as the norm to aspire to.

A good place to start getting some perspective on our completely out of whack levels of consumption in the US (and many other places) is www.myfootprint.org. "Radical Simplicity" by Jim Merkel is another place to get an idea of what low impact living looks like.

Even people living otherwise low impact lives, in my experience, don't think much of jumping in a plane and zipping across the country if the opportunity presents itself. I know it's not "owning" something, but availing oneself of this bizarre (by any historical standards) and extreme luxury involves, in the first few minutes of the flight, emitting about as much GHG as it is possible to legally. Even Merkel, after discussing one of his experiments of living well below the global consumption average, would unreflectively mention that he then jetted off to some other location for another lifestyle experiment. Plane travel seems to be a major blind spot for people otherwise seemingly quite sincere about living within limits.

I used to believe that flying was a very carbon intensive way to travel but apparently it's not, and it's better than driving as a single passenger in a car but not as good as packing 4 people into a car. This is because planes have hundreds of people in them so when you divide it out on a per rider basis plane travel works out to about 60 mpg.


I am not going to comment on the validity of this study though.

That's useful for pointing out an efficiency gained not only from bulk passengers, but also 'bulk' uninterrupted miles.. but it's still a strange comparison in practical terms, since most US cars travel under 40 miles a day, which air travel cannot compete with for equivalent travel, and then most people flying will be taking some sort of car to get to the airport.

Also, flying makes long distance travel more convenient, so it is more likely that someone will do it.

Last I saw, busses, especially large double deckers completely filled, were the most efficient way to move people across distances.

Mostly, we should stop moving across great distances.


Null, jokuhl, dohboi,

Comments in order of your posts.

The study referenced was much better if one went to the NYT article, the autoblog article clearly has at least a small bias, and one error, the airlines do not burn "high octane jet fuel", it's pretty much pure kerosene which is a very low octane (rating) fuel. As one who has a personal interest in this area I'd say that the study seems fairly valid. As we all know you can get whatever you want out of a study if you frame the question right so I tend to favour ones that simply present the unvarnished numbers. This one does that.

Agreed that "bulk uninterrupted miles" is a strange comparison. I think what it primarily does is show that air travel is not "as bad" as many people think.

This is where the biggest problem we have is, long distance travel has gotten too easy, cheap and comfortable, as a result people have come to not giving it a second thought, want to go see the relatives across the ocean, hop on a plane. In years past if an individual chose to move long distances away from their place of origin there was every chance that they would never see their family again, and even getting letters were few and far between. Not saying we should go back to that point, but it's too easy for people so they don't think about it. And a result of that is that (I think) that people have come to view long distance travel as a "need", when in reality, it's not. I find at work that when I look at the people behind me I can'thelp but wonder how many of them "need" to be going where I'm taking them. The conclusion that I continually come to is "Not many, if any" Makes for an interesting discussion with co-workers, especially during the economic turmoil over that last couple of years, I had several people say that "Oh, air travel won't be impacted all that much, all these people 'need' to go to XXX." Then when I challenge them on why people 'need' to go they usually realize that they're wrong. Leads to a quiet cockpit for a while as they digest the info.

As for the most efficient way for long distance travel, I'd go with trains, check out David MacKay's excellent book "Sustainable Energy- without the hot air" available free for download at:


(forgive me if the link isn't clickable, I haven't put one up before)

I thought the book was so good that even though it's free online I purchased a hard copy.

Thanks for listening.

Thanks for the link (and it was clickable).

"This is where the biggest problem we have is, long distance travel has gotten too easy, cheap and comfortable, as a result people have come to not giving it a second thought, want to go see the relatives across the ocean, hop on a plane. In years past if an individual chose to move long distances away from their place of origin there was every chance that they would never see their family again, and even getting letters were few and far between."

Great point, nicely put.

I saw a show about immigrants from Russia that said that the village held funeral ceremonies for those who left for America. For the village, they might as well have died (and of course some of them, at least probably did somewhere along the way).

Lots of people who would never think of getting a hummer have absolutely no qualms about jumping on a plane and going around the world if they can afford the time and money, just for some fun. We all have huge blind spots, of course, but this is an unusually big one and all too common.

I think the 'status' card is being a bit overplayed, though.

Sure, it's out there, but there is also a lot more going on than petty one-upsmanship.. and even more than the 'poor cousin' of that, which would be the folks who think everyone else has it good, and they just want the 'stuff' that would enable them to have fun and a good life as well.

Not to forget, of course, that in so many ways, the 'Joneses' are really that makebelieve family on TV that is so happy because of all the fine products they've supplied themselves with, the yummy food that the kids adore, the mighty truck that makes sure everyone feels strong and safe, the 'adequate' home.. just as much as we're all entitled to, the perfect mower, the must-have accessories for the new stainless surfaced super grill.

It looks a lot more like TV induced impulse shopping, and the status being sought is like the Pigeon in the Farside Cartoon, all agitated by his own reflection.. not a real opponent.

I was once told by a great horse trainer that the problem with most horses is due to the horse trainer.

She said ‘they never start from the beginning’; she implied that most start from an ill conceived position of post training.

On the question of ‘What’s Enough’ the beginning is who is asking the question?

It is the assumption that we think we ‘know who we are’ is really starting from some preconceived developed thought of who we think we are.

To answer the question of ‘Enough’ we must start at the most fundamental question of who we think we really are?

I am a guy living in a cave.

And everything outside my cave in the hills, and valleys is mine to look at and in some cases use. I only need what I can store in my cave and what I can eat today, or store for a rainy day, or one where there is no way to get food close by.

Since I don't live in a cave, and my house is small I can't really have a lot of things, or else I am forced to store them elsewhere, and if they are stored? I really am not using them am I?

I am a guy with a big huge imagination that does not need a lot of space to imagine a lot of space, If I want the wide open spaces I go outside, Can't box that in to easily.

My problem is, I do kinda wish I had a nice cave to live in, somewhere near a good water source and a big pool to swim in, and loads of forest gardens to forage around in, with a nice cooking setup to store the foods I could gather, for the lean times. Aw well, you did ask who I thought myself to be didn't you.

Then again my pool cue got a loose weight in it, that could not be fixed, so I had to buy another one, a bit more costly though I did get a bit of trade in value on the old one. I'd love to be able to play pool everyday, which I can't afford to right now this month, I'd have to save my butter and egg money for a while to get that luxury again. Not many cave dwellers have pool tables in the back corners, or beer taps near the wet bar up front. Just a little grain feild and I'd get into making beer on those off days in the fall.

Just a cave dweller hoping for a bit more space to grow bit more plants in his non-wilderness yard.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world( even if some people want the cave lifestyle).

Please don't fall into the assumption, deeply ingrained in our culture, that living in a cave is barbaric or bizarre. Millions of people live very comfortably in caves in China. It is a low impact form of living. Near me there is a row of earth covered houses--essentially artificial caves. The earth keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer.


Most houses are basically caves or burrows with an above ground "porch" (as Thoreau liked to point out). The fact that we have come to see the "porch" as the main "house" is a measure of how conditioned we have become to feel comfortable living apart from close proximity to the physical earth.

As global weirding makes for unbearably hot and humid summers in many places (and also more extreme winters in some places) and as electricity and power of all sorts becomes more expensive or unavailable, I expect many (who have one) will rediscover the comforts of living more fully in what has come to be seen as the "basement."

dohboi, Preaching to the choir here, I love caves, and ahve for as long as I could remember, then again I was designing houses and gardens as a kid growing up long before I figured out what I wanted to do with such talents as being able to see those great places in my young mind, and put them into form and function.

The earth shelter mode of building houses, is a cave like structure with above ground or out of the mountain features. But loads of milk sheds were caves where the milk and cheese could stay at a nice even temperature so as to stay stable longer. Wine, as well does good in a cave, or climate controled room elsewhere on the inside of a house, or in a basement just to name something else besides cheese to go about storing.

The one thing about caves you have to watch out for is stable ground regions to be putting them in everywhere, won't do if the local area is full of quakes every few weeks. though No place on earth is trully stable, some places don't have as many as others, and there are methods to build a stable floating home that will float on top of the quakes shock waves.

That is one thing I wish I had was a root cellar, got to add that to the list.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world, caves and bat caves to the rescue...

We seldom question if more of a "good thing" is desirable for our supposed happiness in life. The question, that Voluntary Simplicity helps answer, is the question of what IS enough so we may be happy right now in the present.

A life of Voluntary Simplicity focuses our attention on the fact that "everything we own take a little piece ~ peace of us." And in doing so, we can let go of peace and life destroying rituals and possessions and replace them with a contented, satisfied and complete life in the present moment instead of a life that revolves around the next thing to be acquired in hopes of satisfying our insatiable appetites.

Greed is never satisfied by attainment - it is only satisfied by contentment. This orientation of conscious thought to simplify ones life in whatever activity the individual is engaged in is the foundation of success when it comes to simple living...mindfulness of our direction in life.

Voluntary Simplicity is the tool I use to counter this desire to constantly expand my life with more complexities, stress and problems and to live within my comfortable boundaries for a serene life. I started with 12 step programs in 1974 to work on various addictions. As such, I find a less complex life very useful to my addictions recovery work. The 12 Step programs do actually touch on the VS topic, although it is not specifically called VS. Here are a couple of quotes that can be taken as their efforts at applying VS to one's life.

........From page 76 of the 12 & 12 of Alcoholics Anonymous........

"The chief activator of our defects has been a self-centered fear-primarily that we would lose something we already possessed or would fail to get something we demanded. Living upon a basis of unsatisfied demands, we were in a state of continual disturbance and frustrations. Therefore, no peace was to be had unless we could find a means of reducing these demands."

I cannot tell you that I have no 'unsatisfied demands' in my life; but, I will say that since joining the simple living movent my unsatisfied demands can now be counted on one hand, whereas in my prior life, I needed a notebook to record them all.

........Taken from pages 122-125 of the 12 & 12 of Alcoholics Anonymous.......

"In later life he (the addict) finds that real happiness is not to be found in just trying to be a number one man, or even a first-rater in the heartbreaking struggle for money, romance, or self-importance. He learns that he can be content as long as he plays well whatever cards life deal him. He's still ambitious, but not absurdly so, because he can now see and accept actual reality. He is willing to stay right size."

End of quote.

I find VS to be a very important state of mind to be in. It shows which direction a person is pointed in with their life. The same way an addiction has 3 roads to go down, so it goes with VS. An addict can be expanding their addiction, freezing their addiction or reducing their addiction. A person suffering from an overly stressed or complicated life can be expanding the complications, freezing the complications or reducing the complications.

Thoreau says that we need food, shelter, fuel and clothes as necessities. In modern times, I will add transportation to the list depending on your local. Everything else is pretty much optional. If we have these needs met and are not happy, then their is no end to our supposed needs for that elusive state of happiness that we seek. We all seem to have no shortage of supposed needs or wants as complexity addicts. We only want to go in one direction...more.

Life does not go in one direction no matter how wealthy you are, life is always up and down. My goal in life prior to joining the VS movement was to get rich and buy anything I wanted to. My goal now is to live within my means, comfortably fit within my space and gratefully accept my current position in life.

VS has contributed to this recovery and continues to do so each day. I make it a practice to wake up with VS, eat lunch with VS and to go to bed with VS the same way I do with my 12 step program work and without this constant awareness of how daily decisions affect my VS or 12 Step program, I'd be back on the road to my prior sick life.

We should not confuse Voluntary Simplicity with the misnomer of 'Voluntary Poverty' VS is not about living low, it is about making choices and balanced living. We can take a vow of poverty and not have a pot to piss in-yet we can still live a complex, sickly life full of unneeded rituals and stress. What it does take is introspection and balance coupled with working towards inner peace.

You get out what you put in with VS. If you do not cut back enough on the complexities that rob you of living life, then all you have is your same complex life back that you started with. If you cut out too many complexities and are unhappy or bored, don't worry, you can always add them back.

We suffer from no shortage of stress and complexities of living, especially if you have a family. Life gives us plenty of problems for free. You can even trade the complexities that offer no reward other than more problems for new complexities that offer rich rewards or good feelings.

For instance, I gave up some of my computer compulsion time and put that time into yoga class and meditation. I started with VS in 1996 by canceling some subscriptions to 5 business newspapers and magazines and pulled out about 50-60 rosebushes that we could not care for.

After that, I saw the beneficial results and kept at it, questioning everything and experimenting with which complexities could be removed and which needed to stay in order to live a balanced life. We make what we want of VS, there are no rules other than if you do not do enough you do not get any results.

There are no VS police to boss you around and tell you what is right or wrong. We have to decide this for ourselves as individuals. As I have said before, the program is the final judge of your success, not you, not me, not anyone else.

A lady wrote in asking if she could be into VS and still have a gold chain? Yes, we can have a gold chain, we can even have 10 gold chains if we please. Can a person have 100 gold chains and still be into VS?

No, I could not say with a straight face I was into VS and own 100 gold chains. But, the person that has scaled back from owning 1000 gold chains could definitely say they have applied VS to their lifestyle by cutting back from 1000 to 100 gold chains.

It is all relative and all up to us and what we wish to derive from our efforts at simplicity. Another fellow posted how he wanted a canoe, but his wife said he could not have one and be a VS devotee.

It is not up to others to tell us what we can have - our recovery or VS program will tell us. If the canoe would comfortably fit within a financial budget, and a person has the comfortable space required to store it and the object does not cause a person any undue harm or problems such as maintenance that they cannot upkeep, legal problems or rob them of time they cannot afford to give, I see no problem in having it.

A person wrote me and asked, "Is writing your long 5 page post really simple living?" My response was, "Yes, writing 5 pages or even 5000 pages is vastly superior to living the old, sick life that I used to live." Critics are all around us and work to tear down programs instead of building them up. Either our efforts at simplicity or recovery will promote our peace or destroy our peace - so put peace first. Always listen to your recovery program instead of the critics - it has the final say.

Below are some definitions of VS from the book The Circle of Simplicity ~ Andrews.

"For me, voluntary simplicity is living consciously, trying to eliminate the unnecessary, the superficial clutter. It is trying to live morally and ethically in the global economy by using less."

"I think that voluntary simplicity as living on purpose, making sure I have the time to do the things I want to do, not wishing my time away."

"I think voluntary simplicity is being true to yourself, true to the environment. It's finding that place for every facet of my life and defining how much is enough. For me it is spiritual."

"It's choosing to enhance one's life by surrounding yourself with what really brings you fulfillment. It is defining my own standard of success and prosperity, community and fun."

"Voluntary simplicity is balancing the realities of my life (limited economics, time and energy) with my values and implementing them into a lifestyle that is comfortable and rewarding. I think voluntary simplicity is an "art of living." I believe it is an art to live, to be true to yourself and to be open to innovation."

An in-depth discussion and clarification of the term "Voluntary Simplicity" by Philip Slater

All personal solutions to wealth addiction involve one form or another of what has come to be called Voluntary Simplicity. This doesn't not necessarily mean going "back to nature" and does not mean living in poverty and discomfort, although some people may elect forms of simplicity that would be highly uncomfortable for the rest of us. Above all, it does not mean forcing yourself to give up something you really enjoy, out of some pious conviction that it's the "right thing to do." Voluntary Simplicity merely means trying to rid one's life as much as possible of material clutter so as to concentrate on more important things: creativity, human survival and development, community well-being, play.

The key word in Voluntary Simplicity is "voluntary," which means that the giving up of the material clutter is not coerced either from the outside or from the inside. As Andre Vanden Broeck observers, only those who have experienced affluence are in a position to have a "choice divorced from need." The poor aren't in a position to make such a choice-they are stuck with a scarcity that is neither simple nor voluntary.

Nor is Voluntary Simplicity coerced from within, for to deprive yourself out of some ideological conviction is merely to feed the Ego Mafia. The word "simplicity" may have overtones that arouse our suspicions: a vaguely puritan ring, conjuring up images of drab smocks, self-righteousness and flagellation. But if this is in the spirit in which Voluntary Simplicity is embraced the result will most certainly be noxious.

There is an old Zen story about two monks traveling together who encounter a nude woman trying to cross a stream. One of them carries her across, much to the consternation of the other. They continue in silence for a couple of hours until the second monk can stand it no longer. "How," he asks "could you expose yourself to such temptation?" The first monk replies, "I put her down two hours ago. You're still carrying her."

Addiction is internal; if you experiment sincerely with Voluntary Simplicity and find yourself still thinking of money and possessions, your simplicity is a fraud and you might just as well go back to pursuing wealth until you've had your fill of it. To achieve its goal, Voluntary simplicity must be undertaken in the spirit, not of Puritanism or self-flagellation, but out of adventure. All adventurers throughout history have, after all, been people who abandoned comforts, possessions, love and security to seek new experiences in faraway places.

Richard Gregg, who coined the term in 1936, once complained to Gandhi that while he had no trouble giving up most things, he could not let go of his books. Gandhi told he shouldn't try: "As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it." He pointed out that if you give things up out of a sense of duty or self-sacrifice they continue to preoccupy you and clutter your mind. To talk of "denying oneself" is to use the language of despotism. Simplicity is an affirmation, not a denial of oneself.

It is always nice to have our own work confirmed by others that have gone before us as well as those that follow us. Many years ago I coined the phrase "Everything you own takes a little piece ~ peace of you." A couple years ago I came across Richard Gregg's original work on Voluntary Simplicity penned in 1936 and this is what he said on the subject of peace disturbance or as he termed it "SIMPLICITY A KIND OF PSYCHOLOGICAL HYGIENE".

Taken from the original work:

Pendle Hill Essays Number Three
Acting Director of Pendle Hill 1935-36

There is one further value to simplicity. It may be regarded as a mode of psychological hygiene. Just as eating too much is harmful to the body, even though the quality of all the food eaten is excellent, so it seems that there may be a limit to the number of things or the amount of property which a person may own and yet keep himself psychologically healthy. The possession of many things and of great wealth creates so many possible choices and decisions to be made every day that it becomes a nervous strain. Often the choices have to be narrow. The Russian physiologist, Pavlov, while doing experiments on conditioned reflexes with dogs, presented one dog with the necessity of making many choices involving fine discriminations, and the dog actually had a nervous breakdown and had to be sent away for six months' rest before he became normal again.

Subsequently, American psychologists, by similar methods, produced neuroses in sheep by requiring many repetitions of mere inhibition and action; and as inhibition is an element in all choices, they believe it was that element which may have caused the neurosis in Pavlov's dog. Of course, people are more highly organized than dogs and are easily able to weigh more possibilities and endure more inhibitions and make more choices and nice distinctions without strain, but nevertheless making decisions is work and can be overdone.

I'll leave you with a snip of wisdom from Thoreau from his book Walden.

"The twelve labors of Hercules were trifling in comparison with those which my neighbors have undertaken; for they were only twelve, and had an end; but I could never see that these men slew or captured any monster or finished any labor. They had no friend Iolaus to burn with a hot iron the root of hydra's head, but as soon as one head is crushed, two spring up."

thanks allenwrench; i've not read it all but will. i like the AA quote.

i once had a psychologist use the term; 'minimalist' for someone i thought was moving forward...in small basic/simple steps. i was pretty sure i would fit into his 'category'.

i'll have to think on your use/analysis of complexity vs. simplicity....i see some differing viewpoints my wife & i will gain from. she has been an avid reader of the 'simplicity'..but in school the last year or so w/ no time for such. thanks.

Thoreau is basically correct. True, I do need more than enough food, enough clothing, and a little more than enough to drink, but I don't need it all right now. In fact, right now can do more harm than never.

To your list of quotes, I would like to add one from Amy Dacyczyn: "Frugality without creativity is deprivation." I can talk all I want about how it's good to be simple and frugal, but unless I can offer fulfilling means or worthwhile goals for it, I'm just asking people to deprive themselves for no good reason. It doesn't matter if I'm right and the grass really is greener on the other side. I don't have the right to ask someone who's no harm to me to suffer just because I don't like the way they're living. The general population may fare better on average if someone adopts a simpler lifestyle, but if we can't convince that person to do something with the time and money he's saving, he is personally better off just continuing as he is.

Having a goal is the difference between saving and being a miser.

You have enough concepts.

Put them down.

Does anyone follow this guy? : http://noimpactman.typepad.com/

It's a bit of a gimmick, but if it gets people thinking, all the better.

I don't know if I will go as far as him in not using toilet paper, But I gave up wasting paper towels or electric heat drying my hands long ago--they get dry in a few seconds, and it just seems like a stupid waste just to avoid having slightly moist hands. The Japanese mostly don't have towels in bathrooms.

More recently gave up using a towel after showering. Same thing. I dry off quite quickly without it, and it saves on laundry to not constantly have to wash towels. (Of course, my daughter, to make up for my miserly ways, uses two or three towels after every shower, which usually end up scattered on the floor around the house. Oh well.)

I grew up in a small town in northern Minnesota, and many of my friends consider my stories of what it was like to be a kid back then was a pretty ideal life. Here's a few examples of simpler living from the mid '60 to early '70s:

Because of proximity to schools, and the rather large population of kids near my age, I was able to walk the 3 blocks to my kindergarden, then walk or bike the 6 blocks (Uphill, into the wind, both ways, in blizzards) to my grade school, and then 10 blocks to Jr. High. The only time I was driven was when one of my parents had to be at the school to register me.

We lived a block from a lake, so as long as there were 2 or more over the age of 14 wanting to swim, we could go by ourselves. We could go to the public beaches (where they had lifeguards) alone, when we were 8-10 years old. (I rode my bike to swimming lessons by myself.)

We had a B&W TV, that got the 3 major networks*, until I was like 14. No VCRs, No DVS, No computer games. *One of the stations lost its tower when it was hit by a helicopter, so for about a year, we had the two networks, so I read a lot of the books my older brothers got from the science fiction book club.

We had record players, but only AM radios. I did get an FM radio when I was about 12, which netted an additional 3 stations. (But remember, the new music was AMAZING then. Beatles. Doors. Jethro Tull. Dylan. Byrds.)

While my father was incredibly talented at home remodeling, but we had very few tools around the house, but they were enough. I think you could easily replace every tool we had for under $200 at home depot today. (I, on the other hand now have a rather ridiculous collection.)

One winter we flooded the front yard to make an ice-skating rink. It was the social hit of the neighborhood.

Hardly anyone I knew took major vacations, and when they did, it was usually a car trip, or down to the twin cities by bus or train.

Being near lakes, my father built a duck boat, one winter which we transported on roof-racks on the '50 Dodge, which we kept until about 1968, when it threw a rod and was sold to someone who fixed it to use on their farm.

As kids we got gifts like wood carving tools. Yes I cut the hell out of my finger once, no stitches, but to this day I have a great feel for materials and using edge tools.

We never had a snow-blower, and had to dig out frequently. (One day my dad suggested we also dig out for the neighbors who were out of town. They were very, very happy to be able to get in their driveway that night after a long drive. That still feels good 40 years later.)

If you saw someones car stuck in the snow, you just stopped and helped them out. Often the thanks were only a wave though the back window, but that was plenty.

I only knew one guy who had 4-wheel drive - and he ran the marina which required him to trailer boats from storage in and out of the lake. Everyone else had ordinary passenger cars, unless they actually had a farm, then they might have a pickup truck.

The lumber yards always delivered, even if it was only one sheet of plywood.

TL:DR (Too long, didn't read) Life was pretty fulfilling, at least for a child, back before things got so hectic.

JP: Geez! Sounds pretty much like my own experience growing up in a small Wyoming town back then! I count myself so very fortunate for it! We sure could get along real well with little of nothing.

In Western Canada we had 3 (colour!) TV channels, but 2 were CBC with identical broadcasts in English on one and French on the other. The humour in this is that we were 5000 km from many french people - except my dad's army buddy from the Korean war with a steel plate in his skull who could roll a cigarette one-handed on horseback. That always seemed a useful skill despite never having smoked, myself...

The best times of my life were back from boarding school to Mtoroshanga.
I had the hills of the Great Dyke to myself. The wind blew the grass at me in waves.
I could see for 50 miles over the savanna to the blue horizon. There were no fences.
There were baboons scolding their kids, an antelope giving birth and a magic cathedral of tall trees growing in a spring at the base of the hills.
There were tadpoles to grow in a 45 gallon drum cut in half.

Granny would walk with John and I to the local pool which had water flowing in from the creek and then simply overflowing back out to the creek. Water scorpions as big as a mans hand would float head down with their breathing tube sticking out of the water.

You had too much back then even.

And it is that stuff that you quintly remember that led to us having too much stuff now.

Got anything productive to say?

Self reflection is productive. I am helping you see yourself. It is your choice whether to make a product of it.

I am just saying the things you don't want to hear.

And I don't mind hearing what you say. The thing is, I neither want nor need your help in my process of self reflection. It is SELF reflection.

I was not talking to you. Why do you interject? I know, becasue it strikes a truth in you and you must crush it before it gets pointed at you.

Allrighty then! Carry on pointing out the truth.

I don't think so, Christian.

I think he interjected for the same reason I did. You've dropped in a steady stream of 'scolds' on this thread without really making them part of a discussion. It's like 'Nyah, nyah' .. for the one above, you start to make a connection between his memories of his dad having a few tools and doing a lot of work with them, or nobody except the farmers really having a pickup truck.. and you accuse his recollection of being the foundation for the excess that this thread is looking at. I think you have to back that up, since he's looking at a far more reasonable level of possessions and lifestyle.

If it was on the path towards this superabundance and wasted resources we have today, that doesn't mean it's really the 'cause' of it. It's like saying Pot will just lead you to harder drugs.. well, something makes that next bridge available, like access to drugs, contraband policy, international trade policies.. but it could be sensible to look at other feedins to really link that progression, whether it's alcohol addiction, gambling, psychological or family patterns of substance abuse and depression self-medicating, etc.. since there are a lot of potheads who never made that jump and don't seem headed there, and there are people, even very rich people, who live within very modest ownership and purchasing patterns.

If you really think his stories hold the 'seeds to the problem', then it's just snarky to blurt that out, and not explain yourself.

As a college classmate from Sweden mentioned to me when we were just about to head off into life, "No matter where you go, you have to bring your baggage with you.." Even your small backpack seems to have a bit of baggage in it, as do any of us in this culture, of haranguing and finger-pointing, and calling out 'sinner', it is even in those of us long-parted from any religion.

You think I am scolding you, but I am not. If you were falling out of a plane and I told you you were carrying too much weight to support a slow decent would you think I was scolding you?

With the amount of people on the earth right now we all have too much stuff. It is a truth that is talked about in third person on this board but no one points at themselves. So allow me to point at you. Besides, there is plenty of scolding going on in these threads but it is just directed at people who are not on this thread. Cowardly, I would say.

And then you go on to say that I have too much mental baggage. Do you know that is the response of an addict?

You seem to miss the post where I told someone I have too much stuff as well. I am not talking about sin or morals, I am talking about reality. With 7 Billion on this planet if anyone of us has more than a bag and some clothes we are taking more than is sustainable. Do you disagree with that?

As far as why I said the quaint stories of yesteryear that led to what we have today; I siad it because it is an historical fact. We did not stop with a pick up truck, we kept going. Whatever was in the culture that prompted the pickup truck ushered in the complexities that came after. And NOBODY BACK THEN STOPPED IT.

I am repeating this becaue I think most people here do not get the point yet. We are in a world of acidified oceans and burning crops and you are talking about compromise. Nature does not compromise.

OK, aside from the Chest-thumping that I seem to have started with Christian, let me try to get back to what I feel is a truly central point in this issue..

Can anybody ELSE help me think about what possessions are ACTUALLY a real burden on the planet and the way we live in it, and which 'Things' are not actually all that detrimental? Forsaking, for the moment, the desirability of getting rid of 'desire' and attachment for their own sake, I want to examine the ACTUAL HARM that is perpetrated by various possessions... as I will contend that they don't all fit in the same, non-judgementally despised box.

If I make a few hundred little breadbaskets out of marshgrass from the Fore River, to sell them downtown, is that inventory of 'STUFF' as controversial as the Rollerblades that my daughter got for her birthday this summer? (We did a day at an amusement park instead of a party with gifts, as it turns out, but she did get those from us, and a big Exercise Ball.. more's the pity)

Are my secondhand Skates to be weighted the same as the brand new very expensive Alesis Keyboard I bought in the 90's to be able to play some Ragtime in my very tiny apartmet? (Let's assume both are going to be used and used well..) and then, what about the 'potentially useful stuff' I find on the sidewalks, and have in my basement? I have a whole lot of Bike wheels, which I make into modular little carts for carrying things to jobs, for fun Halloween Floats, etc.. and lots of other bits of wood, metal, electrical, fabric, fasteners, glass, mirrors, adhesive and plastic Kerapp! that I hang onto to build all sorts of things with.

Yes, it's stuff. There is literally more than a tonne down in my basement. Is it a burden on the planet? If it's really a problem, why? (I still have a lot of cool rocks.. and some stamps and coins, too..) There is a systemic problem with overproduction and waste.. but what stuff and habits feeds that system, and what doesn't?


(ooh, just saw some great stuff on freecycle just now. I got the wood from a whole backyard shed last week, and I'm going to rebuild my basement door-house with it. Problem?)


Anything that someone else has used and you are using it at the end of it's life with them is okay in my book.

But things like governments buying tons of grains, only to let them rot in storage, because they were afraid the price would go up on them, but did not want to use them to feed their poor people. That is a waste we should be mindful of stopping.

Driving around and around the parking lot to find someone leaving one of the close in spaces just so we don't have to walk 100 feet extra, is a waste that we should teach people to stop doing.

Watering the lawn just so it will be green all year long, because we don't want to have brown grass in a dormate cycle, just so we can have a nice looking space in the front and back yards, but we never go romping on the lawn, because the lawn is just to look at and be a pretty even sheet of glass like green grass, not to be touched lest we harm it, and spray chemicals on it weekly to keep it that way, that is so wasteful of our time and resourses.

I am sure there are more of them I could think up, but the point is, that we have actions and habits that have been constructed to just benifit us, or just to look pretty for a while, and then discarded for the long haul.

But a lot of the things we see as wasteful and not needed are of a western leaning. There are people now in places all over the world who have just the belongings on their little carts, or bags over their shoulders, millions of them. There is suffering people all over the world who have next to nothing to call their own. All of that balanced on the stick we call the world, with people who have 2 houses to use, or two cars to use, or more than 2 hammers in their work sheds.

We will never ever be able to in this life, balance things out, we could try, but it would be a life long exercise that would never happen. What we can do is understand that some of our own habits and actions and thoughts are part of the unbalanced world. That we aren't thinking ahead for very long, maybe our next meal, maybe next year, but not after we are gone, when other people will be using what is left. Some of this thinking real hard about this topic is futile, some of it is not, and it might help someone else see where they can get just enough and not go overboard.

I have been trying to not go overboard with my need to see things sprout and grow, the weather is just not there yet. I can't just go out and plant the peas and swiss chard, I have to wait. They'd sprout and die within a few days, as it is still to hot to grow them here abouts. But those seed packets have been calling "Plant me plant me" ever since I bought them on sale a few months ago.

There are things I'd love to add to my storage for a rainy day closet, but they'd be things I don't really need and I'd just be feeding the need to buy things, which I seem to be afflicted with. I also have the "hey look something free on the side of the road, I could fix up and use" bug, which I know I don't need to feed, as I don't have an outlet for the fixed up things, or for that matter the will power to spend the time to fix them up, as I have too many other things to do with my time as it is. Though I can see the need to get most of those things out of the trash and into the hands of people that can use them once they are fixed up, as there are several places that take donations. My dad has been going through his piles and marking them donate and keep for a while now. And I did that the last time I moved, to the point that I have mostly only got the keep stuff left, though thinking about it, I could pare down some more.

There aren't any easy answers to parts of this topic. I have a bug out bag that I have empty(besides for an artist notebook), so that when the time comes, I can really think about not having anything to take with me when I leave. After all how much do I really need if I say I can do without all these comforts of western life if I had too. Oh well maybe I am just living a lie, I really don't want to give up my pool cue if I can help it.

But when it is time to go shopping, I park in the back forty and walk in from the back lot, why worry about a close in slot, I might need it later when I am dropping off a sick friend, but while I am healthy I might as well walk, even if it is raining( that'd be great some rain showers to walk in ).

Hugs from a junk collector in arkansas.
BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

Hey Charles!

Green grass.. Heck, even my push-mower is a hand-me-down.. and my way of keeping the grass healthy and green is to not mow much, and not sharpen the blades much. "Just a little off the top" keeps them from looking too unruly, and makes the pushing pretty mild.

I did water the new section where the city replaced some brick sidewalk and put soil and seed at the edge there.. but it's still going to sprout up with whatever wants to grow there. Am I the only one who thinks Dandelions are possibly the most beautiful yellow you could find? We've got too much lead in the soil to make wine or salad greens from them, sadly.

I do love my junk and my dads and grandparents' tools, and making all sorts of fun stuff with them. Somebody with a good sewing machine made Christian's backpack for him. I've got a sewing machine, and after I mend these pants that I tore picking blackberries, I'd be glad to mend that pack if it needs it.


One way to get a visual, global perspective on how much stuff people tend to have in various places around the world is from the "Material World" photos--the photographer asked people from all over the world to display all their material goods in front of their houses. Some pretty interesting contrasts between the "developed" world and the normal world. Many of them are at google images under "material world":


"Story of Stuff" is a great, short video (and now book) that goes briefly and lightly over the essential problems with our urge to accumulate--http://www.storyofstuff.com/

If people have other great sources like this that they know of, please let me know, as I am teaching a class on consumerism and would like some more sources.

you've had some interesting remarks in here this morning, would you care to comment on any of my questions about 'Qualifying' the stuff?

While I'm sure to be seen as 'bargaining' by some, I'm interested in seeing a more nuanced evaluation about when a possession is or isn't damaging to the world. I offered examples of multi-generational tools, and of salvaged materials for building projects (in my case home repairs and glass/mirror for Alt Energy Collectors.

Thanks for your thoughts.


I don't think it's a black and white thing. Obviously the longer something has been around, the more use has been gotten out it for the energy put into making it.

It seems like one could work out some kind of algorithm involving embodied energy and years of use, but those would seem to me to be the main criteria.

I suppose you could also work into it how many non-renewable materials went into it and how long it will take to decay when it is done being used (or how toxic it will be). Of course, energy use under operations should figure in, too (think hair dryers) and level of (non-)necessity. Perhaps how far the materials had to travel to get to you. EROEI... Ok, its starting to sound like a pretty complex algorithm.

It might be an interesting thing to work on, but is probably beyond my math skills. I know that many books just go by weight. I've also heard that in most cases price of just about anything is a fairly good estimate of how much oil went in to produce it--I think is was a quarter gallon per dollar (that might have been in a McKibben book).

I like to think that many books have a potentially long useful life, but then that might be rationalizing my own area of collecting/hording.

Most of us mostly just have to massively de-clutter, and if we're honest, we know what is the most necessary and lowest impact items and which are needless and needlessly wasteful.

Thanks, Doh;
You touch on some of the points that inspire the question.

I think a good bit of the challenges over having 'excess stuff' is fairly arbitrary, or at least needs some pretty clear qualifications. Sometimes, it indicates a lifestyle that uses a lot of resources and energy to feed this stuff habit, but that's not really universal, as I think my examples are considering.

There is a value judgement on attachments, but I don't see that this is actually showing a 'harm' to others as much as it is a personal challenge. Some seem to value the freedom of being able to carry all their possessions and remain nimble.. but that is a lifestyle choice, not a value-choice..

You delineate between being 'needless and needlessly wasteful', and I think the distinction is a critical one. If I've insisted on keeping seventeen Barrels full of odd nuts, bolts and washers, and a 7-foot ball of carefully reclaimed string, well this might be the very 'table-scraps' of a profligate and over consumptive society.. but to maintain a potentially useful collection of such castaways hardly seems to be a problem in and of itself, any more than someone who just fills their yard with mounds of pretty rocks and driftwood from the beach, some of which they'll apply to a sculpture project or five, but the rest may never be used at all. It is sometimes called the 'Boneyard' on a farm, where the junk is tossed and might come in handy again later, always available for picking through.

Some folks like to clean out and have a spare collection of the purest essentials. Maybe they keep their thoughts as clean and sorted as their Desk, their Fridge Door and their Dining Room table.. but I don't agree that this is a 'Better' way to be.

I do believe in right and wrong.. I think that wasted energy and polluted land is a terrible disgrace on us.. but I really don't see where 'having stuff', in its own right, is wrong.

We are definitely in need of downsizing right now, having closed down my Mom's and Dad's homes .. and we'll let go of many things, so we can get through the basement again. But I don't see the imperative to get down to mere essentials, except when I'm hiking and have to carry the junk. (And even then, I bring a couple unnecessary and fun or frivolous things with me.. a frisbee, maybe a few bits of string and cloth to make things with out there, my daughter's fleece Bunny doll 'Forest', who serves as our mascot on the trail..)

A major criterion for me is whether someone else might be able to use my stuff so as not to have to buy more stuff themselves and thus add to the total load. That, at least, is my understanding of why just having a lot of stuff that you don't use sitting around could be environmentally harmful (or maybe could be environmentally useful if it were displacing a new purchase).

Having redundant parts around for when things break down is an interesting point. Probably wise, but even wiser if you are networked in with lots of others doing similar things in small ways so you can barter or just buy them from each other.

Ebay is doubtless a source of accumulation for lots of people, but it can also be a way of efficiently recycling things that might otherwise go unused and that someone would have to then buy new with all the embedded energy and material costs involved in that.

Bob to jump in to your question as well.

Books are a hard to replace item, though we could just put them on a kindle, if the kindle or other media failed to be able to be read via data source interface, having all the books in the world on CD will be a waste of all that knowledge. We can't put them on stone tablets, so we might as well keep them on the paper they are on, and keep it as safe as we can.

Tools you mentioned, and here is were I have tons of them as well, a lot of hand me downs from ages gone by, and people I never knew, somethings just can't be gotten again easily.

I think my family has a container fetish, as we save containers, and use them till they fall apart. My dad recycles most of the plastic ones, but glass ones tend to hang around especially if they have good fitting lids.

It is the things that have no practical value that I tend to think of not being qualified to keep, or to have been gotten in the first place. I used to collect glass bottles, until one day when my collection was so vast that I had to look and ask myself why I was doing the collecting. Now I can see where a lot of them would have been a nice Ebay forsale item if I hadn't gotten disgusted one day and pitch them in hte glass recycle bins. I didn't get into the boxes of all the ones they just don't make anymore, those though I might just sell when I find them, or make some sort of useful stone work out of them. Things like knickknacks that people tend to clutter up the spare spaces with, if they aren't very useful I can see them not getting high points.

Trying to get the latest and greatest new electronic toy or gadget is another no no on my list. I try to look out for the things that can be done without power to move them.

Thanks for the soapstone stove site though, I have a few people I am going to point to there, I'd want one if I had the cave to put it in.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

"What's enough" is a learned behavior. We get it from our upbringing, our schooling, and our media influences. There is no objective standard; all concepts of "enough" are subjective and culturally based.

My mother swallowed the Hollywood/Madison Avenue agenda hook,line and sinker. All her life she was miserable, angry and bitter because she didn't have the mansion, new car, servants and diamonds she saw on tv and in the movies. Her life was consumed by and wasted in loathing of being less than rich. It always angered me, because what did she expect, with no education, no valuable skills, and of all things married to a quasi-hippie country boy? But she truly believed that what she saw on tv was the way life was supposed to be.

Her constant viperish bitching deeply influenced me; so I bought into a different version of consumerist propaganda. Just get a highly advanced college education, it said, and the world will be at your feet. So I did. I came oh-so-close to making it. But when my health collapsed, so did everything.

I learned that the very best remedy for "keeping up with the Joneses" is complete finacial collapse. And a financial collapse is not complete until it results in homelessness.

The experience of homelessness does an amazing job of reprogramming one's beliefs about "what's enough". It's a highly unpleasant and very effective way to learn what is truly important. Like a roof over your head, food, and warmth. You learn to have vast gratitude for simply being able to look out the window at the rain, instead of being out in it. For being able to wash your hair whenever you wish, or having a toilet at your disposal whenever needed. A warm soft place to sleep with some semblance of security is a wonderful thing.

In a society that is so drenched in consumerism, people come to believe they will just die if they don't get the latest (fill in the blank- car, iPhone, fashions, whatever). I know better. But I only know better because I got there first, and then lost it. A person who has never gotten there has nothing to compare to, so they rely on what others tell them is the proper goal for "enough".

There are needs, and there are wants. I think whether you end up content with your life depends on whether your personal definition of "enough" lies close enough to the needs end of the scale, and not the wants end. And knowing the difference between the two.

I was quite tickled to get this computer which was auctioned off by my work because it can't keep up with the latest versions of Cadd. $35 for a P4, 3Ghz machine. That's plenty for what I do at home.

'What's enough' is an issue that I frequently have to face up to in my family. My wife wants to have the good life - owning a nice big house in the country with all the trimmings. I'm content with our rented house in town, one car, riding the bus, etc. In a lot of people's eyes, there's a loss of status by being thrifty and being content. It's almost a status symbol to be able to afford to be wasteful.

There is a truism that if you're not content with what you have, you won't be content with what you get either. I think that contentment is independent of your circumstances. It's a state of mind that comes from within.

I like the post above. It's true that losing it all gives you a unique perspective. If you can realize that you can get through that, even that those circumstances really can't hurt you - the real you, you've made a breakthrough.

May I suggest some reading?
1. Enchiridion by Epictetus. He's a greek philosopher who lived during Roman Times. Much influenced by Plato, but he gets right to the point in short paragraphs.
2. The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca - Essays and letters.

You still have too much.

Totally agree.....too much stuff.

Simplicity is the art, of life.

Get down to 100 items.


Then follow the path of Soto Zen.

Power Down.

100? Still too much! :^)

Yes, Buddhism, I think these campfire pokers could do with a good dose of the Pali Canon. So, uhm, how about starting of with the Dhammapada:



'I have sons, I have wealth' —
the fool torments himself.
When even he himself
doesn't belong to himself,
how then sons?
How wealth?


Encircled with craving,
people hop round & around
like a rabbit caught in a snare.
Tied with fetters & bonds
they go on to suffering,
again & again, for long.

Encircled with craving,
people hop round & around
like a rabbit caught in a snare.
So a monk
should dispel craving,
should aspire to dispassion
for himself.

Buddhism is not for everyone. I live with a woman who has ADHD. Because of the low dopamine levels they are never satisfied with life... never.

Ha! Try telling that to a Buddhist!

Maybe if they were satified with never being satisfied they would be satisfied.

Christian B,

I would also say you have too much time on your hands, as you have oft repeated your words of these people having too much, while you are using a computer, if you aren't on a library or other free computer, you clearly have too much as well. Be careful of your criticisms of others, as you are being close to a hypocrite by doing so, by the methods you are using.

If you were standing on a street corner in rags and holding a cardboard sign up with your statement on it, (we could assume that is you if you had a friend take the picture and put it online for you), then we might look at what you are saying in a different light. But doing it time and time again in this forum, is getting a bit much.

Just thought I'd let you know.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

PS, Yes I know I have too much, as I can't get into my closet as it is full of things I don't wear anymore, but want to keep because I used to like them and I can't wear them anymore. etc etc etc etc on and on of all the things I do wasteful in my own life.( maybe including this post to you)

Hi, Charles. Good to see you active in this thread.

I agree with what you said. It is sort of a "remove the beam from your own eye" thing, to me. See my post below.


Jezzus effing crist. What is wrong with you people? I already said I was a hypocryte. This is not about me being better or worse.

Nevermind, I see the log in my eye, how about you?

Christian, your constant interjections in this thread is annoying and infantile and quite impolite.

But he is correct.

You have too much stuff.

And so do I, but I be a work'n it down.

He is not afraid to say it, neither am I.

Why are so many here afraid?

Co-incidentally I'm just reading a book on ancient Israel and Rome where it is mentioned that Seneca had property worth over 300 million sesterces at his death. This would correspond to about 75 million denarii. One can think of a single denarius as about $50--a typical day's wage. Something tells me that he didn't care much for voluntary simplicity.

Yah, he was criticized for that and some speculated that his writings were compensatory. Classic example of "do what I say, not what I do," wouldn't you say?

You could say the same thing about Marcus Aurelius. Perhaps in both cases, it's the story of someone with wealth trying to find meaning. Even so, the writings have value.

Stoicism is popular with the ruling class and its advisors, so long as it does not apply to them.

What is advocated here seems closer to Epicureanism. However, the society at large does its best to pursue the less restrained forms of Hedonism.

Wow, your personal story really resonated with me. Very powerful. Thank you for sharing.

We MUST never lose perspective on the things that are TRULY important.

Let me quote FDR:

In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression--everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want--which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants--everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear--which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor--anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.

— Franklin D. Roosevelt, excerpted from the State of the Union Address to the Congress, January 6, 1941

Freedom from want is the key to enough. Without that, we have NO freedom and might just as well be slaves.

If we are free of want, then we can begin to behave as participatory citizens of a democratic republic. If not, then the political cries of "freedom" become a hollow sick joke as the masses cannot participate in governance of the nation when they are too preoccupied with basic survival. If you are behind on your rent, will you challenge your abusive boss at work? Do you have the time to even THINK about politics? Can you AFFORD to fight for your rights when you can't afford a lawyer? Can you afford the right to security of person when, in illness, you can't afford a doctor? Such talk of "freedom" under such circumstances is a total, hollow joke. But, the trailer park "Tea Party" participants don't understand how badly they are being played by the Republican apparatus piped to them via Glen Beck and the rest of the corporate media. They are convinced by God and the Flag to be active participants in their own destruction.

Propaganda 1: Social Justice 0

Totally f!ing nauseating. It makes me cry for our future.

This is the core of the Republican / Corporatist agenda: screw the middle/poor class down, it is their own goddam fault for being so poor in spite of the fact that government policy over the past 30 years has shipped their jobs offshore, kept wages from keeping up with productivity growth and inflation, inflated the biggest asset bubble (real-estate) in history guaranteed to crash leaving the little guys holding the bag, etc.

No, no, tsk-tsk... it is your own f!ing fault for being poor, even if you work 12 hours / day and keep your nose clean.

Don't matter. Poor even still? Well, you must be LAZY. Just don't pay attention to that CEO who just got his $500M payday, that's got nothing to do with it... Got it? Oh, BTW, we must cut taxes so the rich can disburse their largesse a-la "trickle down". Challenge that assertion and you are a COMMIE terrorist that hates FREEDOM!!!

If you still don't understand, lets take a look at what God says because of society's SIN, yeah, that's it: the gays are the trouble, but watchout for those Mexicans, and then WHOA Obama wants to take away your GUNS because he's a MUSLIM TERRORIST antiChrist.

How ironic that the same people who use the cries of freedom to sell their pernicious lies also wear a professed belief in Christ on their sleeve. The rank hypocrisy disgusts me beyond words.

Wolves dressed in sheep's clothing, all of them, preying on the credulity of the masses wanting to find a way to alleviate their suffering, using the promise of the American Dream to ensure a nightmare.

It is time to WAKE UP and challenge the man behind the curtain.


Freedom from want is the key to enough. Without that, we have NO freedom and might just as well be slaves.

True enough, but you might note that the inflaming of wants and desires is a primary occupation of media in the US, and I think the majority walk into that condition willingly. If you think about porn - people get into that to inflame their desires, not to satisfy them. Other types of entertainment and diversion are similar in effect (including political inflammations).

Buddhism always had a good perspective on that, which was that calming your desires and stilling the mind was the necessary first step to inner peace, and real freedom (without which there is no "enough").

If you want nothing that you don't use and need, that's a good goal.


You CERTAINLY do have an ADMIRABLY BALANCED view of the world, old buddy.

It must be nice, knowing you are lined up on the side of the angels, while ALL the demons play on the other team.

I am really tied of this quintness coming from you. Someone atacks god and you think that they are being riteous? How silly.

I thought the sarcasm would be obvious enough that I would not have to LABEL it as such.

What does "quintness" mean? I can't even figure out what it may be a typo for.

Hi Steve,

I guess you can expect some kickback if you go down this road. But, I think you have touched upon many important issues.

Whenever I hear the rhetoric associated with "Freedom", "Sin", "Guns", "Terrorist", my BS meter goes off the chart.

"Tea Party" participants don't understand how badly they are being played by the Republican apparatus piped to them via Glen Beck and the rest of the corporate media. They are convinced by God and the Flag to be active participants in their own destruction.

This is a very interesting phenomena - getting people to support their own worst interests! The perverse side of my nature makes me wonder if I really missed the boat in life. I could have been a preacher or a Fox News personality and made mega bucks. Once you understand the true nature of the god and media businesses, it makes it a lot easier to lie with a straight face when your only real goal is to acquire power and make money. Even as a teenager, Brothers Karamazov gave me a good insight into the way things work.

The FDR quote was cool, The rest of the rant was a rant, and I won't say much about it. We all tend to rant from time to time, I know I do.

It'd be nice if you get some of FDR's 4 freedoms in all the world, not that I can see it happening anytime soon.

I'd love to have everyone on a chunk of land that would be able to given a normal years climate produce enough food for the people living on the land to eat all they wanted too, and have some left over for someone else who was having a bad year. The land would be theirs, no one could take it away from them for lack of paying the taxes on it, or some such thing like, we want to build a highway to the beach, so you have to move off the land so we can pave over your grapes and peaches so we can drive our single passenager cars all week long and go nowhere in them.

That would be a great world to start off with, and might be great enough to get all four of those freedoms FDR was talking about, but maybe not, we might still have to work on hatards of others. Farmer X in the next valley grew prize peaches and I hate him for it, so I am going to lob a bomb in his water supply for it, that sort of thing seems to be harder to get out of the human mind than anything else.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.
Hugs and peace from Arkansas.

My first wife was an orphan, who carried all her belongings in a bag till 3 months after her parent's adopted her, but got spoiled rotten by her new parents. My second wife had been living on next to nothing with 2 kids to take care of so she knew how to budget the money. My third wife was homeless when I met her, but she did not learn any of the lessions that you would think she'd have learned.

One out of three is not bad odds.

My parent's never were homeless, but they also never were rich in any way but knowledge of how to take care of life's worries.

I have lived out of a backpack for several months on end, and I though I had no roof over my head never felt homeless in the way that VT talks about it. But I did not stay in the cities either, they can be hard to live in if you are homeless as there are lots of mean people living on the streets that will take advantage of you if you are living there too.

I help homeless people where I find them around here, but I can't help them as much as I'd like too. Though each person has a bit of learning left to do in life, living without a roof over your head can teach you things a lot faster than living in a house everyday.

VT I hope you have things under better control now, if not write me, maybe I can help some.

In the west in the USA most people have it good, and some of them just can't see it that way and want more than they do have, when what they do have, most of the rest of the world only dreams of having. That is the shame of it all in my eyes at times like this, knowing that there are places all over the world that having a roof over their heads is a dream, and some people here in the US complain they don't have a bigger house, when they already live in a bigger house than most people do. A family of three in something bigger than 2,000 square feet is a castle, to someone living in a mud hut.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world( not a mud hut, but not a castle either )(though a well designed mud hut might not be all that bad.)

Yes, there's a big difference in the 'homeless experience' out in the woods versus in the big city. I had the great misfortune to be in the big city at the time. It's amazing how hard it can be to find water to drink in the middle of a city, for instance.

I learned a lot about how heartless, and how dangerous, people can be. Plus such lovely experiences as not being able to get any assistance because I didn't have an address(!), and dumpster diving for food. I'll never forget the day a donut shop tossed out a garbage bag half full of donuts because they were over six hours old. The girl didn't relock the little dumpster they had; perhaps she still had more to toss. I didn't hang around to find out- I grabbed that bag and ran as fast as my legs would carry me. What heaven- I ate off that sucker for four days.

We are fine now, Charles. I think my income is a couple thousand more than yours, in fact. Thank God for mobile homes, Craigslist and Value Village(aka Savers)!

I regularly go a month on less than 60 dollars of food bought from stores, doing it about once a year to check how the plan still works. Yes I could do it all the time, but don't. But I do tend to share as much extra food that gets bought around here as I can, but people tend to be picky eaters, even when they are poor.
Most everyone here has been sick off and on the last few weeks, so a lot of food that was bought has been sitting waiting to be eaten, nothing is going to waste, but we won't be buying but a few items next shoping day.

I have noticed that in years past, I could have bought a lot more with that same 60 dollars, and some of the cheaper food stores have gone away around here. I ran through what I'd buy just recently while waiting someone else to get through their shopping so we could then take them back home, and the big bags of rice at sams would last me almost 6 months, if I ate a serving of rice 3 times a day. I kinda got stuck thinking about that, and then had to leave. (the person that was shopping at Sam's was using food stamps, I helped them get the card this time around due to money issues on their part, sooner or later I need to get my account renewed to get the good deals on the bulk flour and rice there.)

Around here the donut shops all give their old donuts away to the food kitchens, so they are a staple at both breakfast feedings and lunch feedings and are given away after lunch to whomever wants to take the rest home. Even though the cities don't seem to want the homeless around, the places the serve food for money, tend to give away the extras to the homeless, or let it be known when they are putting things out back, so people can come and grap as much as they can carry.

It is one of those shameful wastes that the world seems to be full of, a full plate of food can't be served, but it is still good and it gets pitched because of government regs, and just next door is a few hungry folks not allowed to eat the plenty being tossed out.

At home we tend toward not fixing big meals to often because we usually don't eat a lot at one setting, my mom eats half of what my dad eats. Buffet places are never worth the money to go too, we won't get much for the high cost of the food there, though it'd be nice to have the selection from time to time, it's still not worth it.

I can see the cities getting harder on the homeless as the homeless ranks get bigger and bigger in the west, like they are in other countries. The new plight will be back to the we don't want you homeless out of work folks cluttering up our nice streets of fully employed people, All 10 of Us!.( imagine a city where the only employed people are the gov't workers and the rest are homeless and jobless)

The offer still stands, even if I might have less than you money wise, if you need help let me know.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

You have enough when having just a little more would kill you.

I come from a fairly religious background (not fundamentalist) and find I often have songs and Bible verses running though my head. For example

Seek Ye first the kingdom of God,
And His righteousness,
And all these things, shall be added onto you,
Alleu, alleuia

Man shall not live by bread alone,
But by every word
That proceeds from the mouth of God
Alleu, Alleuia

Ask and it shall be given unto you,
Seek and ye shall find.
Knock and the door shall be opened onto you.
Alleu, Alleuia

Seek ye first the kingdom of God
And His righteousness
And all these things, shall be added onto you.
Alleu, Alleuia

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. - 1 Corinthians 13:4 - 7

People may think this sounds crazy, but I don't feel very concerned about having the newest this or the fanciest that. My family and I have been fairly privileged financially --but perhaps that is partly because we don't spend too much, so we always have money left over at the end of the month.

A lot of people think of religion as "fire insurance". I see it more as learning from other people's experience regarding how one can live happily and peaceably in this world. If there are parts of the teachings you find disagreeable, you ignore them.

Gail: It doesn't sound crazy to me.

Good for you, Gail.

Like it or not, the fate of America seems to be tangled up in the playing out of the Jewish/Christian/Muslim drama. Personal belief in the power and simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ brings previously obscure passages in the Judeo/Christian scriptures into a new light. In one case, Daniel Chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzars's great tree dream can be in our era likened to America's role as a force for good in the world. As a transport/energy researcher, this belief system must see Dan. 4: V-15 as descriptive of peeling away of the vanities of modern transport luxuries, falling back to essentials of mundane railway connections and rebuilt local branch line connectors.

Saying the above about rail resurgence in Oil Interregnum transport does not make it so, nor does denying the role of local railway matrix in coming decades make it less true or viable. The death of Matt Simmons cut at my heartstrings, in part because of chance to speak with him on one occasion about the role of railways in America's "Plan B", and he allowed as how railway expansion & extension would be desirable, "If not so politically difficult". Rest in Peace, Matt.

Talking about "stuff" is a sideline, there are more basic and politically difficult jobs that must be done in order to preserve & provide "Guarantor of Societal & Commercial Cohesion". Banter about the acquisition of the multiplicity of goods found in average American homes speaks to China's success in applying the dictums of SunTzu: 'A weaker nation must find ways of enticing a wealthier and more powerful nation to expend wealth' and dissemble manufacturing capacity on imported "stuff". Done. Transfer of US strategic manufacturing advantage "offshore" now includes begging for loans to cover purchase of oil and military extremes needed to assure flows of the petroleum.

Scores of letters this (TOD) and other energy issue websites uniformly pass over necessity of getting together the political will and private investment imperatives to put back the local railway links needed to preserve the Union.

These versus have even greater meaning when one considers that the poor and underclasses of Biblical Palestine were living at subsistence levels. They primarily received their calories through bread. As proof, Cato the Elder mentions in his work on agriculture that shackled slaves working in the countryside ate 4 or 5 pounds of bread daily, and hardly anything else.

Don't know about the grain, based on the various tithe and stranger laws in the Hebrew Scriptures, olives, figs, grapes, calves, would have all been present for the widow/orphan/stranger/foreigner etc. A very good overview would be Marty Steven's "Temple, Tithe, Tax" directly discussing Ancient Israel and parallel ANET writings.

No religion that I know of glorifies greed except the religion of capitalism.

There are many many paths that have been taken, spiritual (in the traditional sense) and otherwise, that are sustainable. We have chosen the one path that is not--a culture devoted to limitless growth and endless greed, or as Herman Daly put it--to boundless bull.

I am uncomfortable with attributing the excess "stuff" that most Americans accumulate to either greed or a quest for status.
My observation would be that the "stuff" accumulated was borne of a desire for an experience.
Someone desires the experience of riding a bicycle so he/she goes out, buys the bike, the shoes, the Lycra, the panniers, the rack for the car, the hooks to hang it in the garage, the shoes, the helmet, the lights, a patch kit, etc, etc, etc. add it up, even for a relatively benign low-impact hobby like riding a bike one starts to accumulate a lot of stuff.
Then suppose that person wants to go hiking. Innocent enough. Again, shoes, tent, sleeping bag, pad, bug spray, mosquito netting, sunscreen, GPS,
etc, etc, etc.
Then that person wants the simple pleasure of grilling outdoors. BBQ, tongs, lighter fluid, briquettes, etc.
I go to garage sales, estate sales, and auctions. I see the crap that Americans are trying to shed. They weren't trying to impress anyone and they weren't indulging in an orgy of consumption.

They just had an appetite for a type of experience.

Even an experience such as travel entails accumulating 'stuff'.

Often the experience desired is hosting one's friends and family to a nice dinner or party, that entails a ginormous amount of 'stuff', much of which will rarely get used.
But it was not an appetite for the 'stuff' that drove it, but a hunger for an experience. We all want to be good hosts, right?

The challenge is to get more people to hunger for understanding as opposed to indulging a whim for an 'experience'.
Good luck with that. That goes back to Socrates.
Humans crave novelty, or in Socrates day, 'relishes', and this restless hunger for new experiences leads inevitably to more and more 'stuff'.

That's an interesting perspective on the matter. I don't want to judge anyone's motivation in their acquisition of stuff, but the quest for these experiences can be similar to a quest for material goods. I do see people jumping into their experiences on an impulse. Buying that bike and all the gear could easily require an investment of thousands of dollars, and after that thirst for the experience is satisfied, the person may never ride it again. That whole exercise could have been a quest for some status, or just a passing fancy. Either way, it becomes a collosal waste. Now contrast that to the person who has an old beater of a bike, loves the sport, and gradually upgrades the equipment as things wear out. That person might end up with a large collection of top of the line stuff, but the difference is, it's useful, and the experience became a way of life.

I don't disagree that the desire for experience causes the accumulation of stuff, but soemone who flits around from one experience to another is not unlike the person who has bought into unrestrained consumerism. In both cases, its seeking gratification with a short attention span.

yes, but what I am saying is, why the implied value judgement?
I mean, between the person who starts with a beater bike, rides it a lot, gradually upgrades and ends up accumulating a lot of bike stuff...
-that would be our virtuous person, one who is having a more 'authentic' experience, and someone who...
-buys all the gear, hoping, expecting that in the fullness of time they will get use out of it and that it will eventually become 'authentic'?

Consider that no consumer item in America drops in value faster and has less re-sale value than exercise equipment. Junk stores won't even take it where i live.
The impulse for those purchases was not, presumably, status or consumerism, it was because people thought that if they bought it first and had it around, they would eventually use it. So,they were wrong.

Now our virtuous person- who knows what he wants to improve his life (more better bike parts in this case),- how do we know his appetites are any less, or his net consumption any less? Only that his consumption is more focused.

Consider for a second our more sedentary fellow citizens who prefer to stay in and watch a lot of t.v.
And like a lot of people, lets say this particular person has adopted for themselves some totemic animal. You know what I'm talking about, for some people its skunks, or frogs, or monkeys, or bears.

Lets say its mice, you go in their house and they have mouse pillows and mouse afghans, mouse tchotchkes on the mantle, mouse salt & pepper shakers, everywhere you look, its mice mice mice.
But they never get out.
You know people like that?
Believe me, they're out there.
Now let's say our more virtuous bike-rider takes an eco-vacation to Costa-Rica for a couple weeks and zip-lines and paraglides and does all the cool stuff, well...
I just wonder who has the smaller carbon foot-print.
I mean, even with our American vulgarians living in a house full of junk?
So,their experiences are derived, they are ersatz, second-hand, vicarious, say what you will, but...

Sidulin asks: "...why the implied value judgement?"

My response is because this blog is full of comments about others' values and actions. That's one of the most prominent part of these discussions about peak oil and sustainability: those tacky people who just eat too much and consume too much.

Your remarks are refreshing -- honest, accurate, gentle, very human and without that typical sense of "tsk! tsk!"

Am I understanding the argument to be that in all of these cases - the person having the genuine experience, the person hoping to have the experience, and the person having the vicarious experience - each of them is responsible for the existence of a lot of stuff?

well, exactly, that is the argument.
Now of course there is going to be a qualitative difference between the type of stuff between them, the net amount of stuff, and the toxicity to the planet of the stuff consumed, but for each it is the desired experience (even if second-hand and comfort driven in nature) that drives the consumption.

But if we can somehow ... substitute... an appetite for ... understanding, for lack of a more precise term... in place of that appetite for a desired experience... I think there is a latent potential within a lot of our fellow citizens to at least defer a lot of consumption... which would be helpful, at least at the margins, but then, that is where all the action is in economics, right?

So... lower the tuition at the local community colleges and put up billboards with attractive women, "Hey Bub! Wanna brush up on that math you learned in High School? Might be useful, think about it!"

pretty naive argument when i put it like that, but i see the appetite for experiences (authentic or vicarious) as being the engine for unstoppable rapacious behavior and cultivating an appetite for understanding possibly mitigating that somewhat.

My observation would be that the "stuff" accumulated was borne of a desire for an experience.

The greed is stll there, they are just greedy for experiences.

I would go more deeply and tell you that it is an attempt to escape their suffering, moving towards happiness. But that happiness from the experience is impermanent so they always need to find a new experience.

A freind looked at some tropical flowers here in Hawaii and said how pretty they were. I told her to keep looking at them. After only a minute she started getting bored and asked me what the point was. I asked her if the flower was as pretty as when she first saw saw it. "hmmmm..yeah, it changed" is all she said.

When you find true happiness, you have no needs but to keep your body healthy, and no greed to want more sense experiences.

When you find true happiness, you have no needs but to keep your body healthy, and no greed to want more sense experiences.

now would you say that this is true for all people, or only for those who have done the necessary ground work?
In other words, are you saying that the vast majority of people are laboring under an illusion of what 'true happiness' is, a state that you have some cognition of?
But how can you know what true happiness would mean for them?
happiness begins to seem like a pretty slippery concept here...blissful monk or self-righteous martyr... maybe Bill Gates is happy giving away billions of $$...happier even than someone who has disavowed accumulating wealth.

Yes, people are chasing a false happiness because it is being sold to them by MAdison Avenue.

Yes, I knwo false happiness, and I know true happiness that is the same for everyhuman in the world.

The happiness I am atlking about is not conditional, not even on a persons preferences. "Joy at last! No more happiness!"

I am talking about unconditional happiness. Bill Gates would need to keep giving away his billions in order to be happy and even he could only do that for a short period of time.

After having scrolling through the thread and reading the majority of it, I would like to point out something that you probably don't even realize. Regardless of the point of your message or your reasons for sharing it, you are sounding incredibly self righteous and judgemental. It doesn't matter what you intended because that is the perception.

You said everything you own fits in your backpack. Based on basic human biology you probably have too much too. I do have one question for you: How are you obtaining internet access? By your definition that's too much (heck, the laptop or blackberry or iphone too for that matter).

You did not read all of my posts. I explained the computer stuff already.

I do not care about your perceptions. Why do you?

Your female friend did not look at it with the knowledge that looking at it was the experience of a lifetime. She saw the shock value of hte flower and her brain got bored after a while. She sought out highs amoung a life full of low times( we are all wired that way, if we let our brains fool us into thinking we can just go from high to high and live a happy life).

Experiences can be that way as well, or going on a trip, or going sky diving, or finding a new hobby to get the rush of the thing, then find we ahve gotten over the rush, and the thing sits on a shelf for the rest of the year, or something along those lines.

People who have their lives wired on the rush of pleasure from moument to moument, have a harder time enjoying the days when nothing is going on, and being normal is bland to them and icky as a way of life. The brain pushes out all those great rush chemicals when we jump out of a plane, and we can't always be jumping out of a plane, so we feel our life is wasted doing the mundane things like washing the dishes.

That is where you have to be happy being here, or being there, whereever you are you can be happy being there, even if it is hard to do without going skydiving every weekend. (I used to rock jump, bad on the bones if you miss a rock, or over shoot and go sailing off a cliff( pardon the likeness too peak oil))( I still get a heady feeling when I see a bunch of rocks on a hillside, even if I don't go running down them first chance I get.)

The lady friend should have said something like this. " That flower is still pretty but now that the first rush of it is over with, I am finding the other things about it that make it pretty and a sight to behold. Thank you for asking."

Having the ability to be happy all most all the time is a gift, most people can't see how to do that it seems.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed future.
Hugs from a happy peaceful person.

We are, by default, a herd animal. Enough is having the same as everyone else, or actually that little bit more because we all fancy ourselves the alpha of the pack.

Breaking from that expectation means breaking from the norm of the pack - something only a few will ever do.

The question is not so much 'what is enough', because we already know the answer to that. Rather its 'how do we move the field for comparison'?

In past times your 'standing in society' was judged on 'refinement', or 'learning', or 'charitable giving'. Today it has a component of how 'green' you are, but based on poor understanding of what they facts are. People compete on 'organic' food or 'recycling bins' and prime ministerial candidates put tiny windturbines on their roof, even though it would never payback its manufacturing cost in carbon.

So its not really a question of a big change. Just requiring that the 'ladies who lunch' (or nags that natter) have a better education of what matters, and that the 'solutions' don't impact the obvious status symbols to directly. Less 'smaller more discrete houses', more 'better built and insulated', less 'get a smaller car, you don't need a chelsea tractor', more 'smaller parking spaces and tiny gaps that only a nimble car can get through'.

Maybe the really big question is how you can sell holidaying close to home as the chic thing to do, rather than jetting off multiple times a year? The 'staycation' is a start, but a bit too downmarket. Something in the line of 'meditation', 'getting away from distractions', being pampered and some decadence would probably do it. That would save gallons of aviation fuel and tonnes of carbon.

You make some plausible conjectures.

Your analytical perspective is a refreshing addition to the more usual indictments of status seeking.

Another way to phrase the question: What do I need that I don't have? That helps in both directions: I don't NEED a new car and I don't need the latest gadget but I probably should build a big plot of top-quality garden soil, and I probably should invest in a quality 1- or 2-man crosscut saw to cut firewood should that become necessary. I also need some new skills. And I should not only stay fit but get fitter. I'm retired at age 70, and comfortable enough, and unlike young people I don't have to worry about providing for surviving the next 60 years or so. What I do not have is a good idea of how to help people who are in deep trouble in this declining economy. So far my hope is that my government will provide for them, and I am willing to pay the extra taxes as long as that burden is fairly distributed.

I think my way of asking the question throws "keep up with the Joneses" out the window and replaces it with a practical assessment... but for a younger person, "keeping up" is going to be much more relevant, as an indicator of whether I am going to make it for those future 60 years... but skills and tools and other assets are what they need, not "stuff" or appearances.

Two things:
First, most people acquire stuff as a way of representing themselves to the world. We show others who we are through our various skins: our body and hair; our clothes; our cars; our homes and all the stuff that goes with that. Our stuff is an expression of identity. Think of the tribes in High School and how they identify themselves.
Second, we need to be aware that ours has become a more unequal society. The top 10% earns as much as the bottom 90% and wealth is even more skewed to the top. Whereas the top 1% claimed 8% of the income pie in 1970, today they claim about 24%, the same as at the onset of the Great Depression. A lot of people are just trying to keep their heads above water. And the analysis of spending patterns shows that the average person today spends less on food, clothes, appliances and cars as a percentage of income than did his/her counterpart in the 1950's. What has changed is the soaring cost of medical care, education and housing. Quite often these latter three entail huge debt.

It took me a while to understand the ""keepin' up with the Joneses" thing. It's about ego, a big waste of our energy and resources and way too much work.
"Mine's big'r 'n yours!"
It's how we buy ourselves.

(I would like to have more solar panels than J.R. Ewing :-)

"What's enough?"...having spent some years paring things down and learning to enjoy "voluntary simplicity", I can look around and make a list:

A smallish house, my bedroom/bathroom/closet sparingly furnished and clean.

A simple futon bed, which I built of simple pine and cedar, and with a headboard left to me by my great aunt.

A small computer desk with a decent computer, which I also built.

Two bicycles - the heavy one I commute on, set up for every kind of weather, and the light racing bike (which I built) I ride out with the guys on twice a week.

My sewing machine on a little table.

A pine chest I built, lined with linen, with nicer clothes and things packed away.

A box of drawings, writings, and miscellaneous treasures from my childhood.

A shelving unit with clothing neatly arranged, a laundry hamper, and a washing machine. Clothesline outside.

Then there is my vegetable garden outside, and the kitchen where I cook meals, which I keep clean and well organized.

...that's all simple and rewarding, while the rest is not so much. I probably have experiences similar to many, where I try to live in a way that seems wise and in keeping with necessity, and I enjoy it in that way. The rest of the family, however, seems more and more distant and uninterested, keeping to the rest of the house; where there is continual entertainment, living in chronic clutter and waste, shopping to the limit of $ and quite upset about that, rushing about, critical of everyone, bored, strenuously avoiding anything involving physical effort, unhappy, on one high horse after another, planning for nothing beyond the day, imagining a "real world" where all that is normal and good...


...ah well, I have to say I agree.

Awesome, so now what?

Looking at your other posts, I appreciate the perspective. As for "now what?", just more of the same - I've been slowly going through a houseful of things and paring down, room by room, corner by corner. Its not in itself a particularly time-sensitive thing, so it has a lower priority than gainful employment, taking care of the garden, spending time with the kids, bicycling around the countryside (my one vice, but it keeps me sane and healthy).

I'm not too fixed on the final value of anything really, but I do what seems to make sense for the moment. Or in another way, if each step is well judged, we can walk without too much thought of a destination.


What a troll. Got anything constructive to add?

Enough: "occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations ... enough food for everyone"(from M. Websters' online dictionary).

To me, the problem is not sufficiency but greed. Enough would be, the food, clothing, shelter, and protection from heat and cold necessary for human survival and happiness.

Problem: Greed: "excessive or rapacious desire, esp. for wealth or possessions" http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/greed

Greed must take from someone else that which would allow them "enough." Result: a lack of food, clothing, shelter, protection, survival, or happiness. Anywere from one to all of those are what is stripped from some inhabitant(s) of the Earth by those who exercise greed as though it is actually "good." And, it is taken every time they exercise their greed. And, it is evil!


Nuff said!


nod ;)

I generally agree. But I am wondering if "greed" is exactly the right word. It was traditionally seen as an individual's sin or weakness. But what we have now is an entire society, in fact now a world culture, based on systemic and universal mass consumption.

I think greed is actually a requirement for participation in society. If a movement really took off that convinced lots of people not to buy more than they absolutely needed, and even that to mostly grow or make yourself or barter for--I think the PTB would find some pretext to arrest the leaders (at least) and come up with other punishments for participation.

On another note, has anyone heard of the tightwad gazette?


been lurking in the evenings for a while as I bought a house and emptied an entire lifetime of brickabrack from former owners. I can say now that I will NEVER accumulate 175 avon bottles, 10 boxes full of clear glass serving dishes, 4 rooms full of rotten clothing...a total of 6.5 tons of accumulation. There were some gems though, as a consolation prize. I even found a 1/2 gallon of milk in a freezer with a pull date of 7/20...1981 !!!!! Someone wrote on the box outside, before placing it there...7/25/81...incredible! I have friends younger than this milk carton!

I kept the carton, and so it begins...hahahaha...


Former owner must have been raised during the Depression.

Fear is what motivates such stores of junk.

Fear is the great motivator of most people... which is why it is used in advertising, and in political spin.

Fear tells others that they do not have enough. They need more. It motivates the greed, greases the gears of the modern Capitalism of the energy age. And, it is stronger in the hearts and minds of those who seek to spread it and inclucate all with it than in any others. Fear that they are wrong, that greed is evil, that they have too much, that those 'others' will come after them to 'take my stuff away from me.'

Fear of death, and certain knowledge that with death all possessions are meaningless, and hence their own misguided, misspent lives. Niggardly, cowardly, they crouch in their fine McMansions, behind their gated walls, in their enclaves of wealth and power, fearfully awaiting what they know is coming; and with no peace, no joy, and no happiness... only, some times, satiation from time to time, and that increasingly brief by its own nature. Never knowing satisfaction, because that only comes when you say, "enough."


I have a work acquaintance who was in Singapore when it was captured. She emptied her pockets filled with chocolate bars, peanuts etc.. Thin, healthy and mentally with it at 80 she knows it's silly but can't leave home without her pocket full of food.

What's your weird behaviour from childhood? (rhetorical question) I suspect it is relevant to the discussion. For me it's a shiny new bicycle, but of the 20 I've owned only 2 were new...

I bought my personal vehicle 25 years ago, now it's 40, a motorcycle. I can't justify driving it 3 km to work. So I was cycling this morning & was passed by a person in one of those massive hard working pickup trucks designed for hauling 5 roughnecks & 2 tons of drill pipe on muddy well sites, according to the advertising. (S)He travelled the same route less than 1 km to church.

I can't imagine they have thought about this as much as I have today - why would one drive a 3 or 5 ton vehicle - I've no idea what they are worth - the same distance that could be walked in 5 minutes. Yes, I know they could be a WWII veteran with a double leg amputation; but that's unlikely, as this town is stereotypically 40 year old loggers.

Fear certainly isn't the first motivator I can assign to the 'shiny car syndrome'. 'Pride' perhaps?

Anxiety is perhaps the better word - which in a sense is a wound or hole in the heart or mind, which we attempt to fill with things.

On the other hand, I have always been the one to fix and maintain things myself, so I tend to look at a houseful of things as way more work and potential problems than I have time for, In a way, everything you own also owns and obligates you...a bare room is more my idea of peace.

There's a lot of trucks like that in my neck of the woods - north-central Pennsylvania - and a lot of them with Texas plates lately - but that would belong in a different thread.

For them, these trucks are their transportation. They justify the truck for the occasional need to haul firewood, dirt, mulch, whatever. They do fall into the belief of bigger is better, more power, more everything. They think that "if I can afford it, it's justified." This is the mind set that we're questioning here. It's just so ingrained in people, it's going to take a lot to get them to think differently. Bring on the $10/gallon gasoline!

I commute by bike about 50% of the time. Take the bus about 40% of the time, and drive in about once every two weeks. It's a 12 mile trip. I tell people that if they're considering alternative transportation, "you're not going to save the world, but you might save yourself."

While I don't need them, I used to collect glass bottles, and Avon made some really nice ones back in the day, I hope you gave them a good home, and not the trash heap.

Clothes have a tendency to rot when they get wet, and stay wet for any length of time. But dry clean clothes can always go to someone else who does not have very many.

I know you yourself might not want a lot of things, but there are other people that are willing to take the dregs of others and use them, so whenever you empty a house like you did, hopefully you gave as much as you could to a charity selling items to others.

Else you'd just be adding to the local landfill. And with a lot of things that might not ever rot away, like glassware and the like.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world( even if you used the glassware in a building project it'd be put to use)

Over here in Australia we are having elections.
If I ever got the chance to quiz the candidates I would ask them
"How many doublings are enough?"


"If we have a growth rate of 3%, that implies a 21 year doubling time.
Every 21 years the economy will double.
So how many doublings are enough?
2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128....?

Clearly a 3%pa growth rate leads to absurdities.
Are we to believe that in 42 years we will be using 4 times as much oil?

So where will you draw the line and say,
"This is as good as it gets.
No more 24/7 work rosters. No more tearing parents away from their children to feed the Monster that is Growth."?

"If you cannot or will not answer the question, then a pox on both your houses and I am voting Green."

Alas, the concepts are way beyond the attention span or comprehensive powers of our candidates.
Further, I believe that the horse has already bolted.
It is too late.
It is now every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost.

Hows this:

When your things are serving you, you have enough.
When you start serving your things, you have too much.

We have enough STUFF to be happy when we have amounts of stuff reasonably comparable to the amounts possessed by our peer group;if we have a few "extra nice" items to prove we have SOME money, we can still hold our heads up if we are a little poorer than our nieghbors by pretending we are simply interested in OTHER different STUFF.

The trick to STUFF EMANCIPATION is to tune out the advertisements and other consumption oriented brainwashing that is drowning us;that acccomplished,we can begin to think for ourselves.

At different times I have lived in a camper in the woods for months on end, doing well paid skilled jobs occasionally, or from savings,thereby enjoying some very extended "vacations".Barnes and Noble was close enough by, the VCU library was not too far, lots of great hunting and fishing right outside the door.

Or I could just gas up and go "home" for a few weeks or months on the family farm-where I am now for keeps probably.

Nearly everybody I knew seemed to be convinced that I was a bum too lazy to work, or some sort of communist, or simply off my rocker.

When I happened to comment that I heard they spent THIER two annual weeks off the corporate leash in a camper in the woods, and that I was simply enjoying six months in the woods, all I ever got was strange looks.

They could never get thier heads around the idea that although they had more money than I,the better quality of life was my own.

Imposssible!Heresy!Make sure this madman does not meet our daughters-even the ones looking like good candidates for becoming old maids!

But a lot of the younger generation that was brought up by hard workers around here to be hard workers themselves do get it-they have watched thier opoprtunities disappear-they KNOW the game is rigged against them- and have made up thier minds to enjoy life as best they can, without worrying about the rat race.So long as there is a roof and food,they are content to get together and visit, drinking, smoking, playing cards, and so forth.

They are just about as happy, so far as I can see, as anybody else- happier than most,probably.

And so long as the modern welfare state holds up,they are about as materially well off as thier grandparents were working twice as hard, with only a tenth of the worries.

Food stamps, free school lunches for the kids, rent subsidies, the county (nearly ) free clinic and such programs are far more reliable as a means of making ends meet that farming on a small scale or trying to make ends meet working in a mill.

I don't blame any of them or pass any ethical judgements;they are simply playing by the rules;I would do the same in the same situation if I were young and uneducated with no better prospects.

And I am most certainly not advocating cutting off thier benefits;they would necessarily turn to crime in order to survive if that were to be done.

What if you have a lot of servants, like butlers? IS that enough? They are serving me after all.

I think that upper limit of having optimum number of servants is 4. By optimum I mean maximum ratio of utility, comfort, luxury and cost, headache. Most appropriate number is 2, one male and one female.

Ummm, how about zero? To my mind, if you are living at a rate that requires you to have others to do basic things for you--cook, clean, do yard work--you are either living too complicated a life or are very lazy.

I understand, however, that there is something of a social obligation in many countries for those with the means to employ those who might not otherwise have a job at all to do various kinds of work.

I find this an interesting tension. If it is virtuous to hire two, why not four, or ten, if you can afford it? Where does one stop?

I would expect him to say 'You would stop when your needs are met'

In the US, 'having a servant' has a bad flavor to it still, but I know it's a respected relationship elsewhere.

The US economy has been able to produce more of everything than was demanded since the 1930's. It took a decade after the depression before enough new consumer items were either developed or demanded to regain full employment. King Hubbert wrote about the 4 hour workday as early as 1936. Today's version of that is collecting social security at 65 and living to be in the 80's.

Most spending is not to keep up with the Joneses, although houses are too large, partly because it is a hedge against inflation and a tax deduction. And our cars are not just transportation but carpeted with climate control and sound systems just like home. It’s not just to impress others; it’s what makes us feel comfortable, as extravagant as it may be.

It's hard to cut back on stuff because a lot of this stuff is labor saving, like being able to drive to the store and by a loaf of bread, unlike the days when the man of the house took a pack animal to a nearby town to have grain ground into flour, which was handmade into bread back home by a woman or girl who spent much of the day cooking. And let's not forget about cutting down trees and chopping the firewood.

Up until the mid 1800's the standard work week was six 12 hour days. Women who didn't work spent many hours carrying water (100 gallons daily), bringing in firewood for cooking and heating (including bath water), growing a garden, canning and hand washing the laundry every Monday.

And if all that weren't bad enough, there was always the hunger and disease. Curing malnutrition, hunger and understanding sanitary practices did far more to extend life spans than the rest of modern medicine. But we are willing to pay a lot for a few extra years.

During the back to the land movement in our neck of the woods, it was about keeping down with the Joneses. If you had found a good deal for $10 and told someone about it they would inevitably tell you they had gotten it for $5.00 or knew where you could have gotten it for free!

Today, "enough" is an important part of peak oil prep, with what is needed being shaped by what will make our lives less inconvenient and difficult than it will be otherwise. As westexas said 2 or 3 years ago: Economize, Localize, Produce.

Spent the day on the mountain with a couple of friends, their dogs, and mine. It's been raining and so the mushrooms are up and we gathered up a nice bunch of Puff Balls for dinner with the pork chops from the pig I had slaughtered last year. The lettuce and beans for the salad came from the garden as did the potatoes and squash. After dinner we all enjoyed some good conversation on the porch as the sun set and we were all home by 9:30. A very nice day, all in all. None if us have a TV, the only pants I own are Levis, my shoes are boots, I wear my shirts until they fall apart. We all have an old pickup truck, because they are necessary here. Mine has 260,000 miles on it, and just tuned fourteen years old. None of us owe anybody any money, and as a consequence, even though none of us have ever made much, we all have money in the bank; our largest asset is the land we own, land we purchased many years ago. We'd probably be thought of as "well off" asset wise, although we all live in homes that are smaller than 1,000 square feet. Mine is 700, pretty typical. My furniture is stuff I've collected from here and there. Nothing nice, but, it all works just fine. I own two fine Saddles, a nice guitar, banjo, concertina, mandolin, a fiddle, and five harmonicas. Every Thursday evening 10 or 12 of us get together for playing music, old time, gospel, folk, 60's rock and roll, whatever. It's a hoot, doesn't cost a dime and is really social.

Deciding early on as to what is enough and what is important is the trick. Forty years ago, stuck in a traffic jam on the Bay Bridge, trying to get home after a day of work in San Francisco, I decided I didn't want to live like that. I quit my job and made my way back to my rural home in the rural west, and have been here since. My life has been rich with friendships and the satisfaction of living with and around animals, horses, mules, cattle, the cats in he barn, the goats, my sweet hens, the rooster, all of it has been extraordinary and fulfilling. Folks tell me they envy the way I live. I don't blame em. I live the way I do because I like it. Like it a lot. Best from the Fremont

If everything you say is true, then you deserve more that just a pat on the back and an 'atta boy!'

Seems like there should be some recognition, a little more honor attached.
Its not- its not- it is not- easy to live without what most of America has sold its soul for... security...(health care)...the promise of that SS check...
a sincere 'good on ya' seems pretty inadequate to give to someone whose life has a kind of heroic dimension to it.
basic human dignity, pride, and joy without mass $$ is hard to do.
But it can be done.

Material comforts are one thing. But many people seek life in the city because they want mental challenges. They might be satisfied materially with a simple country life, a field, a stream, etc..but knowing that in the city some other people are writing and publishing things or making money using ingenious schemes in hedge funds, or doing leading edge science experiemnts......well, that seems like it`s more exciting somehow. They want to be among the literati, the players, the hoi polloi..There is a competitive drive to match wits with the best.

..O.K. so they might have a simple apartment, 1000 books, a bed, a few dishes (materially not wealthy)...but if they can work for a hedge fund or a famous university and publish a few books or be in the running for science awards, they are very satisfied.

So what does someone say to these people? Your ambitions are stupid and unnecessary? go back to the farm? If there is a broad collapse and universities and hedge funds shut down, then these people will suddenly be unemployed, in my mind there is the idea that they won`t care as long as EVERYONE else in their professional sphere is also thrown out of work. What smarts is being a "failure". Being a victim of a broad collapse is not shameful.

Actually, these elites will be among the last to experience the unemployment and poverty that are plaguing the less educated now. In some ways, our society seems structured to give preference to the intellectuals, scientists, elite investment managers....I`m not sure they contribute such a great deal (they might---I don`t know) but they are valued for now.

There are many themes running through your comment. I am not certain what you are saying. Is it that 1,000 books is too much? Or that being a scientist or professional person is somehow non-productive?

As the decline continues those 1,000 books could be invaluable, depending on what they are. Books on woodworking, metal crafts, farming, medicine, chemistry, physics. These should be preserved at all cost, and made available. Scientists can serve as teachers, and as designers of new implements for the coming shortages. Agronomists will be in short supply. They will have jobs, though we may see more and more being paid in kind.

Professional people, especially doctors and lawyers, will be important to our communities. There are running jokes about attorneys, beginning in many cases with Shakespeare's "First, let's kill all the lawyers." What is forgotten is the context of that line, which is instruction as to how to destroy the state. We may have too many lawyers today, but we will need judges, counselors and the like for framing agreements, and arbitrating disputes, long into the future. Again, we will see many accepting chickens as a fee, just as we hear stories of doctors doing so during the Great Depression. I am not so sanguine about the future for accountants and MBAs. Perhaps that is why they are in the vangard of those who deny AGW, PO and insist that BAU is the only way to go.

The key to the future is going to be to position ones self and family so that 'enough' is attainable. Learning to be happy with no TV, no automobile, few toys and fewer luxuries will not make the transition easy, but it may make it endurable and even enjoyable. Enjoyment, after all, is learning to say, "enough" and being happy with it.

The first step will be establishing levels of sustainability. Those basic needs, and expectations, of the human family have levels that are required for survival. Food, clothing, and protection from the elements are paramount. When things get dicey, triage of these will become important, and the means for that selection process will be determinitive of its success. Who decides who gets what? How are those decisions going to be made? At that point, we will learn what priorities our leaders serve, and that will, in the long run, determine whether our institutions survive.

This won't be happening tomorrow. And, it has already begun, and will continue. It is ongoing, and will not stop until we have arrived at a sustainable population, with sustainable energy sources, and food sources, and transportation. It could take the entire 21st Century to unfold, or longer. Or, if the worst of the doomers on TOD are correct, it may end in a few years in disaster. But, if it does, it will be our own fault. Just as it will be to our credit if we land on our feet, with a maximum surviving populace, and a healthy environment, and with our freedoms intact.

If anyone thinks this will be easy, these years ahead of us, you need to think again. If you think it will not be rewarding, you are wrong... done correctly, we could come out with a survivable future of many millions of years. Perhaps sufficient that with steady advancement of human knowledge we might get off this rock before it is too late for that. And, even then it will be as a totally different species than we see today.

I hope a few of us who frequent TOD will be among the survivors; and that we are able to help redefine the future in a productive and peaceful manner.

That would be "enough."


kalloi kagathoi, i think you meant.
but i agree, "being a victim of a broad collapse is not shameful."
Honor and shame will presumably become even larger factors in the collective and individual psyches as current capitalist order unravels.

and being a scholar or teacher has always been seen as honorable.

What a stupid question.

It always devolves to THIS


HA! I cannot tell you how funny it is that I thought of the same clip when I read some of these comments.

These Campfires are getting silly, both the questions and the non-self-critical thinking comments.

Everything I own fits in a backpack. DO YOU HEAR ME? EVERYTHING I OWN FITS IN A BACKPACK AND I HAVE MORE THAN ENOUGH. And I still think it is too much. If you have more than that it is too much.

How can this even be a question? We were hunter and gatherers for 99% or our existence and Homo Sapeiens and we still think we need anything more than a tribe of fellows to have enough? That is what we need now more than ever, is a tribe, or tribes of us, who beleive this and will live it together in a community. Enough of this psuedo-community on the internet, pack you bags and lets move somewhere!

Christian: I expect you are a healthy individual and are able to move around without the aid of external energy. This is not the case for many people, and not because of their lifestyle. It is conceivable that the species could return to a hunter-gatherer or tribal existence, but that has a tremendous series of consequences. The current industrial society makes it possible to support many more people than would otherwise be the case, so a return to a tribal existence would mean that the global population would drop precipitously. If you are one of the winners, then perhaps that is a suitable or even desirable outcome. For the losers, however, things would not be so pleasant.

This does not mean that we should be consuming at the pace we are. However, much of what we often condemn allows us the luxury to pretend that we can do without it. If we could choose the parts of our current social structure to eliminate and create the tribal-level utopia you envision, perhaps that would lead to a peaceful and sustainable world. Unfortunately, disconnecting the parts we don't like will inevitably have adverse consequences - likely unintended and unexpected - for the parts that we would like to keep (good nutrition, health, etc.).

Getting rid of all our "stuff" may lead to inner and world peace, but if you ask those billion people who are currently living on less than a dollar a day, I suspect their view on owning only what you can carry might be somewhat different than yours.

All this is irrelevant! You are all just talk which is why you all gravitate towards blogs.

Those people who are living on $1 a day are wage slaves just like you and BECAUSE of you. They do not need to be higher up in the prison, we need to free ourselves so we can free them.

Getting rid of my stuff did not lead to peace, first was the realization, the stuff dropped away. But any path would probably work as look as you are not lieing to yourself.

Which is why I am replying to all these concepts. Most of the people who answered here are lying to themselves.


Do you live in your backpack?

Do you carry a tent and a sleeping bag and walk from place to place in a nomadic fashion?

Do you live off the land, foraging for fruits and tubers, and set snares for squirrels and hares?

If so, I salute your uniqueness.

Your attempt to convince a lot of other people to follow your example is Quixotic, though.

How much community service and of what type do you perform in order to pay back the World for your Internet usage in order to 'balance the books'?

But, if it floats your (communal, hand-paddled, wooden )boat...have at it!

Wow, so many here are just reading their own fears. I already said that I have more than enough even with my backpack.

I also never told anyone they should live like me. Go back and take a look. I just said they had too much.

Why so afraid of a guy that says you have too much stuff?

Your all-or-nothing stance alienates me.

Your binary, black or white, my way or the highway theme got tiresome after about your tenth skip of your broken record.

Of course you are trying to tell people to live like you...you bray to everyone on this list that they have too much stuff, and you recount over and over how all your stuff fits in your backpack.

Own your own words and your controlling intent, bub.

To paraphrase Bob Marley, we think we're in heaven but we're living in hell.

We think of hell as a place of suffering, and there is that, too. But really the whole point of positing any sort of hell is as part of a moral construct. But it is not immoral, by most views, to suffer. What is immoral in most religions and philosophies, is to needlessly make others suffer and die--to deprive the future of benefits you have. By having and consuming much more than we need, we are condemning others, both present and future, (and possibly even ourselves, at the rate GW seems to be unfolding) to suffering, deprivation and death. And we are all mostly blind to it and stuck in it. That is what I would call a particularly grave kind of moral hell.

CB is just pointing, rather gently, to my mind, a way out of hell.

But since we think we're already in heaven (or something far closer to it than to the other place), it seems an irksome annoyance.

I am glad it alenates you. As long it is from the countless multitudes that do not feel alienated and continue to waste.

I am just pointing at a truth, you can choose to live with the consiquences (not mine, natures). Again, I do not care what you do. You keep saying I do, but I do not.

But you like to choose your authoritarian models. You do not mind WisdomfromPakistans model of how everyone should live.


Aren't you outsourcing some of your "stuff" onto other people with the "all in my backpack" philosophy?

I mean, isn't it only because some people have tractors and garden tools that you have food?

Perhaps you're sitting on a library computer, obviously you don't own one. Aren't you in part responsible for the network server and infrastructure involved?

Perhaps you're wearing a pair of cotton pajamas. Perhaps you bought them secondhand. That doesn't negate the fact that they are a product of an industrial economy. You can only live with so little because of the support system in place to provide so much for others.

Of course we can fantasize about a return to a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, but if you aren't using stone tools and migrating with your tee pee, you're just leeching off the discards and excess of industrial society. Which is fine, and perhaps the best we can do, but let's own up to it.

I understand that it is not your choice to be born into an industrial society and so you have to work with what you've got, but I just think "YOU HAVE TO MUCH STUFF" is not a very good answer to the question because it is overly simplistic. You can't and don't have the right to wave your wand and wish the majority of the population off this earth. If it was possible then maybe we could return to running around in loincloths with little possessions.

Reality is, we have a huge global population and we need to learn how we can provide living conditions for ourselves without destroying the earth. Maybe that means living in an apartment. Maybe that means someone owns a tractor to build said apartment building. Maybe that means stuff.

It is not a philosophy, it is a reality. I have no phoilospies. They are for people who are too afraid to act.

You sy my answer is over simplistic because it scares the crap out of you. So you try to make it complicated instead of faceing yourself. YOu want your stuff so you make excuses.

I am not wishing anything, whether the human race lives or dies is not concern of mine nor the earth. We are no more importanat that any other animal.

Yes, I have a laptop. Yes, it is too much. I am not kidding myself about it. I know what it does to the earth and to me. I make no excuses. Because I bought this computer I am responsible for the death and poverty of others.

And actually, I could live with less if it WERE NOT BECAUSE OF TEH SUPPORT SYSTEM YOU PRAISE. I could be naked because there are no police. I could walk where ever I want and gather food.

These Campfires are getting silly, both the questions and the non-self-critical thinking comments.

You got that right...

"I could be naked because there are no police. I could walk where ever I want and gather food."

Where I live you can ride your bicycle naked if you want to (Portland, OR).

Anyway, you envision a strikingly different reality from the one we currently face. We can't all wander the woods gathering food. It would destroy the planet even more rapidly than what we are currently achieving.

Since you seem somehow willing to presuppose ideas about my emotions (ie that I'm afraid of what you state- which is ironic because Walden is my bible), I guess I can lob back another ad hominem: you are inflating your own ego in this ethical structure you have created.

The nuts and bolts comes to this, you are not convincing because your pretense of indifference and impartiality is betrayed by the following:

...floods in the US and Pakistan, fires in Russia, and record setting earth temperatures. If you saw a man raping a woman and he tells you that he has not had enough would you not shout at him as well?

The above clearly establishes an emotionally-charged belief system. This appeal to emotion is telling me that you're looking for good guys and bad guys -or in your metaphor a rapist and a victim. Nature wouldn't understand what you are saying, nature is nobody's victim.

What's odd is that some of your posts seem to have a small grasp of the indifference nature has to everything we do and are. Afterall, in the long run, we're just another planet in the backwaters of a spiral galaxy.

But, do please go ahead and just say that I'm afraid of what you're saying and trying to protect "my stuff". I don't want you to strain a brain cell or anything.

First, what is wrong with emotions? The environment is my support system and it is being destroyed. You do not have any emotions about that?

I do not want to be CON-vincing, another greenwash campaign that fizzles because these truths were revealed and not realized. I have no ethics. You are giving me ethics.

I have a large grasp of the indifference of nature and I mirror that indifference. I get angry like nature, I love like nature, I am clam like nature. I am not separate from nature. So when you say nature would not understand I say you are wrong. You are separating yourself from nature, that is the folly.

For all the critisism of what I have been saying no one answers this question:
Are too many people on the earth for each of us to decide what is enough?

OK, clam, I get it now...you want there to be an authoritarian power which dictates to every human being that they shall have one backpack (any color you want, as long as it the approved color and style), one change of clothes (un-dyed natural fiber, one size fits all), one water/cooking container (hand-hammered iron), and one government-issue laptop computer.

Who is going to provide and run the electric utility to recharge our batteries? Who is going to run the Internet provider?

Is the back pack waterproof, to protect the laptop from rain leaking through our log and pine bough lean-tos?

Are you Chairman Mao reincarnated?

Well, this gets at the paradox of our time, doesn't it.

We don't want government (or any other) kind of control (and anyone who suggests it is inevitably called "Chairman Mao" or worse).

We don't want a trashed planet.

So we are left with voluntary action.

But if some people are buying less, demand goes down and so does price, so others just buy twice as much.

What we don't see is that we are already very much controlled by media and by expectations of our now hyper-consumerist culture. Very powerful forces are working to control us, and I can't imagine any future scenario in which some kind of power won't be trying to control our behavior.

But somehow we see potential a potential influence that would tend to limit our ability to destroy the living planet as ominous and threatening, but we hardly notice the enormous forces constantly compelling us to in fact destroy the future. Perhaps this is just another piece of evidence of how brainwashed we all are by the current consumerist paradigm.

You said about wisdomfrompakistans long detailed plan:

"I have read a lots of history, economics and done a lots of logical thinking. At places I had to make educated guesses and it took years to develop all the system but at the end I think its realistic, consistent and logical."

So, you favor the dictator that lets you have more stuff?

I am for freedom. Freedom from oligarchs and rulers and gods and planners.

Nature, the Tao, is the only Mao we face.

Then you are like some of the homeless people I have talked to in the past, who like their lives in the simple life of living off the land, or the feeding stations in towns, but living up under the stars in camps away from the city lights.

But not everywhere in the world can you live outside without having a roof over your head and a place to have a warm fire out of the wind and cold.

And the hunter gatherers of the olden days had a lot of things that they carried with them, or could make out of the bush where they lived. Though there are current examples of hunter gatherering tribes today in parts of the world. Most of those places have a stable temperature swing and you don't have to cover up when the wind picks up and the snows start to fall, because it doesn't snow there. Maybe Eskimos class themselves as hunter gatherers I don't know, but they have a lot of things that they do carry with them, not really only living out of a backpack.

While I could get by having only my footwear and clothes on my back and my swiss army knife, not many other people I know in my family could for any length of time, due to needing the medicines of the modern world and a nice place to sleep at night, albeit they at one time slept on grass filled beds when they were kids, I don't think they really want to have to go that route in their old age.

So I'll say bully for you, and it is nice to know you can get by with only your laptop and a backpack in a land where there is a lot of food on a year around basis. But don't tell folks who are living with a lot less than the average American that they should be living like you do. The question of the day was what is enough, not what is the least you can live on!

I am willing to bet anyone who has been around TOD for any little while understands that for everything that they do own there is some costs to the world around them for owning that item, or living in that manner( I might be wrong, as I don't know all the newer posters very well).

If I use rainwater to bath with, If I use rainwater filtered to drink, and use rainwater collected to water my garden plants with, I waste a lot less energy than doing the same with city water, even if I have to use plastic to collect it( all the plastic is getting it's second or third life in my rainwater collection system). I might could do better, but right now I feel that is enough for right now.

We can't go back to the days of yore as easy as you seem to think we should, because mankind has be polutting the place up a lot more than it there for the eye to see. Water sources the world over are filled with chemical runoffs, that will make you sick just thinking about drinking them, Where once was pure mountain streams you have to wonder if a mine has been dumping waste in the water or not. Just because we think we can live off the land, as others a long time ago did, we might be disappointed that the foods out there aren't as plentiful as they once were. (Just think of all the tropical forest being clear cut to see where that thought will lead you to a sustainable hunter gatherer life.)

But by all means live out of your backpack, and be content and peaceful about your life.

I am content and peaceful living my life as it is now, so I won't be paring down to 100 items anytime soon, sorry to step on any toes saying that.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

Dear Charles of Bioscape Designs,

I suspect you are so polite because your business depends on it, and I suppose you post here to promote your business. Why should I care about what you have to say?

Nature does not care that an old person needs heart medicine or a temperpidic bed. So why should I? I am part of nature, yes?

You are making excuses for yourself and your business.

Thank you for your time Charles of Bioscape Designs,
Christian from nowhere.

Boy, Christian.
You sure have been rude in this thread. Like the old joke said, "Superman, you are one mean drunk!"

Charles is as genuine a guy as I've seen at this site. It's tough once the sniping has begun, I guess, to see when someone is being pretty reasonable and generous, but I have to say that I don't think CEO has a mean bone in him.. (well we all do, but it's pretty rare to see Charles ever get nasty or snarky.. it's really not his way) and he's not pushing a Company.. that Title at the end is a set of ideas he's been working on to try to develop good healthy ways to live and design our homesteads. If he wants to turn it into a living, I hope he thrives with it.. ( See the cartoon.. "BUT, BUT.. What if it's all a hoax, and we make a better world for nothing!!") but his courtesy is not Showroom-Glitz.

Your defensive responses now are pretty understandable, as you've been through the wringer this time.. but I have to say you also bought that ticket round-trip.


As I posted, when the bullies hit me, I hit back. But I am a big guy, most people looked and thought twice about the hitting part about the time I turned a teenager. I have had a few hard core folks tell me they noticed me from across the room and figured I could take them on in a fight and might win, I kinda nod and say not much, telling them you won't kill them just makes them more certain they have you figured out. I have gotten mad enough twice to threaten death to 2 different people, that was close enough for me to realize that I am not a nice person at heart, and I have to keep a handle on those bits of self, that could kill if I had too, but would rather not.

Thanks for sticking up for me. I try very hard to practice being nice to friends and foes, even when they are ranting at me, even if it is for good reason.

I wish I we could all get grassroots moving to make a better world for us and our future's fellow humans, sniping about silly things like having enough or not enough just acts as rootblock, where's the super grass weeds when you need them?

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world, with snipe remarkers buying the first rounds of beer, or bringing their own brews to share whichever works for them.

I am polite because I am polite by teachings of my parent's and by learning that it does more good to be polite than not so.

The BioWebScape Designs is a free gift to anyone who wants to use my knowledge and skills, I don't charge for the services, as I have posted a long time ago on my Blog, dan-ur.blogspot.com That if you find writings here that you like and want to make money off of, have at it. Free to use as you wish, I rarely talk about my grand stories that have more meaning and or are not finished in my collection, and I rarely post any of the other over a thousand poems I have written. I liked them I have them, if anyone wants them after I am dead, great, if not oh well.

I have listed the design project as a service to anyone that wants help living a better life, or really wants to know something about what I have learned in my own studies or experience.

Yet your words ring hollow because if you trully did not care about what I have had to say, or anyone else for that matter, you would say nothing and we would not know that you have such a high disregard for people's sayings.

I used to get picked on as a kid, one of the things I realized is that bullies love to be noticed, especially by their victims, it lends them power. So as soon as I stopped noticing them and stopped being goaded by their actions,( unless they hit me, then I'd whomp back (might not be christ like, but in this case I was told to do it only if they hit me, words didn't matter).

You say that as part of nature, you don't care cause nature does not care, yet you have a need to post your opinions, and nature does not post an opinion on a blog, or forum. If you are the mouth piece of nature, say so, not that any of us will believe you, but you may say what you like about being such a thing.

You hide behind the walls of the internet as a ghost with no home, and only a pack of things on your back coming out to taunt the faithless, telling us of your piety to your truth.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Oh and not having a business to make money, I post here, cause I like to see myself type, and some other folks might read what I say, if they learn something that is cool too, but not needed. Most of what I type about on here, is known amoung my other friends in the offline world, as I rarely talk about things just one place.

As to making excuses, I guess maybe in your eyes I am, but what do you care? It'd can't hurt you or the nature in my backyard.

BioWebScape designs, helping people live a better fed and better housed life. Non-profit, which in this case means I take no money for the free gift of my services.
Hugs from Arkansas, next to nowhere, but a little hotter than normal.

Look at where you and your parents politeness has gotten us:


I am not being a bully. I am arguing against those who are being bullies to the earth. You do not see yourself that way, and you con others with politeness, but I see through it.

Do you realize that all the stuff you save actually cause more environmental damage then if you left it where it was? I will let you think about that one. But you are a technotopian, still with dreams in his head that we can live in space. You are deluded and dangerous. The most dangerous because of your constant politeness.

This is my last post on TOD. The internet is not life, it is not even communication. It makes people able to find thier own little niche so they can keep deluding themselves.

Politely Waves, have a nice life.

Okay that is a bit snarky really, and I do wave at you as you leave the building.

But I still can't see where your logic comes from and that is why we don't seem to be having a conversation but a mild arguement, as your tone gets more caustic as you post.

So does this mean you are never going to use the internet again, or never post on TOD again? I guess I shoud have sent you that email I was thinking about this morning, but never did.

Hugs from Arkansas, if you ever get this way, I'd like to meet face to face so we can have an honest non-net conversation. You actually are right about the niche thing, but we did it in the real world long before we did it online, live in niches and tribes and all that sort of stuff.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world, even if the internet were to go belly up.

Charles, Nice post. Thanks. Have you ever heard of people who use their own urine as fertilizer? I just read a great book on the subject. It's big in Sweden. Composting toilets too. Very low externalization to society of the messy things, instead the urine does do quite well as a fertilizer, and fairly innocuous as well. Some extrapolation of the green benefits as opposed to the old standards are staggering to me. The nutrient level of the urine is big.

From the book "Liquid Gold" by Carol Steinfeld www.ecowaters.org " In wastewater, urine accounts for most of the nutrients -- as much as 90 percent of the nitrogen and potassium."

I think we need good grey water mixed with urine systems, which would take the "load" off of our overtaxed ponds. Steve

As my paren't have done in the past using outhouses as the great new bathroom of the day, I am not going to ask them to go back that route, and really can't as it is their house as of right now, I only live here as guest( albeit one that is welcome to stay as long as I like, they would commit me if I started talking about living on my own I expect by now.)

But I myself, water the garden with my own waste water often enough to say I do it, not enough to be called a convert.

I'd still worry about the things that people put in their systems in the first place being used later as the compost, and want to make sure the harmful things can be taken out of the waste stream somehow, I am sure smarter people have loads of information about all the drugs people take and their impacts on the food web down stream.

The best system I have seen is using a swamp system for all the water used in the house, going into a planned wetland like area, where the waste stream can be composted onsite and used elsewhere in the area for growth of plants and animals. Too many of our natural wetlands have been trashed in the last few centuries to have them still serving their role in our natural order of things.

I'll add your info to the favorites list and look around at it, thanks.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.
Hugs from Arkansas.

These Campfires are getting silly, both the questions and the non-self-critical thinking comments.

Isn't judging whether others have too much stuff kinda "non-self-critical"?

It is not a "judgement", it is a truth. They are making a judgement on whether they have enough but they are not looking at the truth.

Do you think 7 Billion people could all live on this earth like some of the people here who say they have "enough" and still own a car, a house, etc?

I, as well, hold myself to this truth as I have said in another post. I do not kid myself that my just my laptop is the cause of so much suffering.

So from you comes truth whereas from others comes mere judgement.

You seem very proud of how little you have and how much you know. Will your pride fit into that backpack?

If we all went around with nothing but a begging bowl there would be no one to fill them for us.

You call it pride but you have not answered my question.

Can 7 billion people all own a house, a car, a sewing machine?

I do not need to know a thing, I just have to look. I offer no solutions either, as I said I think I have too much as well. So how is that pride?

I am saying at our population level I have too much even with what little I have. Do you disagree with that?

7 billion is about 2.5 billion households. We already have billions of housing units in the world so for every family to have its own housing unit won't be that hard to achieve. Should the richer folks have a larger home than most? Such things keep folks employed so their families can have a home. A car? Depends on location. I think it is more a matter of the materials the vehicle is made from. Plastics can be stronger than metals and can be derived from biomass. Folks who live in high density cities where public transit comes along every few minutes don't need cars. Folks out in farm country do need a motor vehicle. I don't see a reason for not having maybe a billion sewing machines for those skilled in their use.


Jocularity is a frivolous use of scarce resources: Repent, sinner!

I answered your question:

If we all went around with nothing but a begging bowl there would be no one to fill them for us.

If you think the world could sustain 7 billion people hunting and gathering then I shouldn't be taking you seriously enough to bother replying. The planet has changed significantly in the last 10,000 years, and even then it wasn't capable of supporting 7 billion.

We now require for survival the cooperation of tool makers, farmers and teamsters, not to mention dwellings and clothing.

You seem to assume that none of the posters on this thread qualify as such, and therefore they all HAVE TOO MUCH.

I think you would like to see a leveling of the playing field so that no one has more than you. Sort of an inverse way to "keep up with the Joneses". At least that strikes me as the tenor of your sharp tongued posts.

I wonder how many folks have shied away from posting their experiences, strengths and hopes for fear (as Paulo points out) that they will be ripped by you for HAVING TOO MUCH.

If, on the other hand, you are simply attempting a sideways advocacy of hastening the die-off that is surely coming, then I have misinterpreted your motivations. Indeed, if 7 billion folks were to suddenly begin wandering homeless with nothing but a back pack the world's population would begin a drastic reduction in about three weeks. If that's what you are about, then forget I said anything.

Good luck in the woods.

I did not say we should go around begging.

And I did not say that the world can support 7 billion hunting and gathering. Why are you making thesethings up?

Let those people hide, I don't care. What should we do humor them while they continue to waste the world?

Again, I am not advocating anything and you agree with me. All of us, the whole planet of humans, have too much stuff.

In the USA there are over 16 million homes that are empty. I would be willing to bet that most of those places could hold 3 to 5 people easily. Under the rules this world has set up owning them is not going to be easy, but if there were no banks to tell you NO, every one of them could have a family move in to them in a few weeks I am willing to bet.

But seeing that floods in China and Pakistan has made several million people homeless most of them only carrying there few items with them, we aren't going to be offering them houses in the USA to give them roofs over their heads. But we could help them build new ones, we could help them get food back on the table and could give them needle and thread to do some sewing, and might even be able to give them a bike to ride to get around on. No need to give everyone a Car, a bike or motor scooter is easy enough to get for everyone if they really want one. And while a sewing machine is great, half the world likely can sew by hand, if not it is easy to teach that skill.

What you might want to say is that the world might not all be able to live in a 3,000 square foot McMansion in the sub-burbs, and a car, and a top of the line Singer sewing machine( I can't remember the brand my first wife had, but it cost $3,000 new, and had a lot of bells and whistles to boot) (I have several Singer sewing machines, one that will sew upholstery fabric). But you can still have a mud hut and a bike and a few good needles and thread to sew things and not put a big bad hurt on the world around you.

So we have to ask you, at what population level would you consider what you have to be enough and not too much?

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.


Quit shouting at other posters. You're great, were not. Stick it. You have become predictable, tedious, and ruin the stories that others have shared. What is even more dispiriting is that some may not post due to you possibly slamming them.

Is this too much?

Regards. Paul

Wow, what is with the identiy crisises on here? I never said any one was "not great". But I will say you are delusional and acting unskillfully. If you think I said anyone was "not great" that is your disturbed interpritation. People need to be slammed, why not? This board slams people all the time from Obama to people who over consume. Sorry, yes, I understand, I am doing it in the same house.

If they do not post the silliness that I have seen so far the internet and the world is much better.

I am sorry for ruining the stories while they are ruining the earth.

You want politeness while you look at the news? Floods in the US and Pakistan, fires in Russia, and record setting earth temperatures. If you saw a man raping a woman and he tells you that he has not had enough would you not shout at him as well?

All kidding aside, if you feel remorse or guilt for owning your laptop, do you keep it and keep using the internet infrastructure because you feel that your spreading the concept of more people living as you are offsets the costs of having and using your laptop?

That sounds like a reasonable justification to me.

Otherwise, if you are troubled by your possession and use of your laptop, you could take it to the Goodwill or Salvation Army or a similar organization and free yourself of that burden.

The nice thing about the situation is: the choice is yours.

I wish you success in your quest to influence people to live well with less stuff. It is a worthy goal, although your 'all or (almost)nothing' criterion may prevent people who listen to you from achieving lesser but otherwise still important lifestyle changes.

I use the internet because I use the internet.

My compassion on the use of it has yet to excede my addiction to it.

We are machines, we make no decisions.

Sophistry is a waste of our energy: As your penance you must surrender your laptop to the maximum leader who allocates the strict minimalist quota of approved stuff to the new world order drones.

So...I guess you hand it to yourself?

I think the point of this Campfire discussion is to ask each of us to look within and say to ourselves, "what is enough for me." It has provoked some good discussion from introspective individuals, and some nonsense from some who want to tell everyone else what is to much for them.

Yes, I know, people have too much junk. I have probably ranted in the past about that, most likely about the uselessness of it, and the extravagent waste involved, and how advertising and greed have stipped our planet of so much of its natural resources for no good reason.

Still, the point to me on this one is, what is enough, for me! questions like that help me to gain persepctive - to stand back and assess my own position as to the environmental crises abounding today... and the economic one for that matter. I recognize that I am not blameless... and regret the excesses that are involved.

For me, enough means having the means to support my family for whom I am responsible; to provide food, clothing, shelter, protection and the means to a basic satisfaction with life. I recognize that more than that involves exploiting someone else, somewhere, who is by my excess deprived of thoses necessary items for life. I have no way to say what is enough for you... that is judgmental in any context. Enough means your needs are satisfied, your responsibilities discharged, and sufficient awareness to know when my footprint on Planet Earth is harmful. And, making the effort to lessen that footprint while still taking care of those others who are in my charge.

Furthermore, it does me no good to point my finger at others, saying that they have too much... I can only deal with my own place on Earth, and you must deal with yours.


Gail, this is key to accepting what we are heading for. Most of us have too much today.
I know, since my wife and I are preparing to move into a flat from a villa (house) these days.
The chinese used to say: "If you own more than three things, the things own you".

Although my wife and I both came from simple backgrounds (much like the Minnesota description above), we used to have a villa, one holiday house in the mountains, two cars, an airplane (glider), and a boat (cabin cruiser), plus a variety of bikes, skis, and canoe, etc. The spring always just disappeared in preparations of the varous items, and yes, the things "owned" us.
Happy to get rid of the plane and boat now. These things were partly keeping up with the neighbours, but also because the economy allowed for it.

One saying goes: Men never grow up from playing with toys. As you get older, the price of the toys just go up. A friend of mine (from Denver, CO, now Norway) used to have a T-shirt:

"The one who dies with the most toys, is the WINNER".

I liked that. It makes you think, and it reminded me that the only things you really can bring with you over to the other side are "opplevelser" (a Scandinavian word which combines "a positive, enlightening experience" into one word).

A nice sunset, the birth of your kids, encountering an eagle in the air (glider), seeing a beaver swim by at 10 feet distance while the kids in the canoe sit quiet to not scare it away, teaching your kids to ski/ride a bike - and their joy when they make it, reaching a summit with its fantastic view. These are priceless collectibles, and far surpasses "things" in value. Most of them are even free or just moderately costly.

We need to get back to appreciating the value of riches via "opplevelser", not just keeping up with the Joneses in having the things they have or better.

I have had more than one boat owner friend quip that the two happiest days in a boat owner's life is the day he or she buys the boat...and the day that he or she sells it!

I believe this largely pertains to owning powerboats, be they speedboats, fishing boats, pontoon boats (party barges to you folks down in LA)...from my experience, the smaller and simpler the boat (assuming it is in good shape), the less of a burden it is to own.

If I lived in an area with lots of water again someday, I would buy a 2-person kayak (for me and my wife...and our backpack!). Great exercise, peacefulness, companionship, and being out in nature. No motor, no instruments, no lights, no battery, not even a sail...although a sail would be cool.

Takes me back to my friend's best line,

"I don't want to buy Happiness.. just a boat and some other stuff."

Money can't buy ya love...but it sure can rent it by the hour...

Either Rodney Dangerfield or Chevy Chase?

Mae West

Being an optimist, I think the internet is having a positive influence on "How much is enough".

It is making the impact of distance much less than it was, and so rural and small town property values, are not falling in a relative sense.
(at least not in this part of the globe)

If a real crunch comes, the Internet should also allow social-function, with less use of the car.

The internet having apositive influence on enough? Are you kidding me?


I think you are a technolover making excuses for the things you don't need.

The ideal world is one in which freedom is maximized. I define freedom as the ability to live whatever lifestyle one wants consistent with two limitations.

1… It must not infringe on someone else’s freedom.

2… The individual must pay the full cost of the lifestyle they choose.

So the answer to the question, "What's Enough?", is different for each human and varies with time.

The most annoying people are those who think they know what lifestyle is best for everybody, except perhaps for themselves.

1… It must not infringe on someone else’s freedom.

Who is to judge that, the infringer or the infringee?

2… The individual must pay the full cost of the lifestyle they choose.

And again, who tallies the costs?

Oh, you make it sound so simple to justify your current lifestyle, yes?

Yep. And my best friend and I are going to take our raft, which we built the frame for from conduit we scrounged, drive to Montana and do some fly fishing! Cheers

I never said that achieving the ideal world is easy or possible, but it is a worthy goal.

The dividing line between one person’s freedom and another’s becomes more difficult to draw as the world becomes more crowded, but there are many obvious infringements. For example, if a person has six kids and puts them in public school at $8,000 per kid that is a $48,000 per year lifestyle subsidy, not to mention the associated tax deductions.

A sustainable lifestyle is one that everyone could live without resulting in exponential growth. Any lifestyle that produces less than 3 kids is sustainable. Any lifestyle that produces more than two kids is unsustainable. My lifestyle is sustainable, is yours?


Your statement about having no more than two children per woman per lifetime is one of the most fundamental and important things said on this post.

First rule of getting out of holes: stop digging.

It is certainly also the second fundamental thing that people need to stop growing their per-capita consumption.

When I travel through (or over) neighborhoods I wonder why every house 'needs' its own trampoline, its own basketball hoop, and its own swimming pool. Usually many of these things were not being used at any given time.

I remember my youth in a mid-sized (~65K) town in Central PA where each elementary and junior high and high school had paid city workers in the summer who attended play grounds and athletic facilities. They connected up tether balls in the morning, handed out basketballs, kick balls, whiffle ball bats and balls, a.and these little four-wheeled, four cornered, square carts to put you butt on and roll around (or be pushed by a friend). The city also had several public pools, and there was a state park with a little lake with lifeguard-attended beaches just outside of town.

My point is, lots of stuff could be enjoyed through rental shops or by instituting and using facilities partially supported by community tax dollars. I scoff at folks who own their own swimming pools (and pay all the Mx costs keeping them in good repair and in safe chemistry/biological condition) and at the same time throw a rod at the idea of paying their tax dollars for community facilities.

I guess they do no understand, or more likely do not care, that having several community facilities is much less wasteful than everyone having their own pool, tennis court, etc.

The ability to infringe on your neighbor's freedom is dependent on two things, population density and technological sophistication. When the next valley had no one living there a person could go over the ridge do anything he pleased. But if the next valley has a million people with cars, trains, planes, ships, and nuclear power plants and lots and lots of guns of various sizes then the rules of life multiply exponentially.

...all well and good, but "the ideal world" is an impossible abstraction, existing nowhere. Every society is loaded to the gills with laws, regulations, customs, values, etc, all infringing upon our alleged freedom to do as we wish. As social animals our "individual freedom" is far more constrained and managed than we like to think.

The cost of one's lifestyle is difficult enough to calculate if you try to work it out equitably against what you demand from others and how much you deprive others. It becomes impossible to calculate if you include the lives you take - such as all the animals you eat and so forth...essentially, in a finite world the cost of every life is other life. We aren't in the midst of an historic extinction event by coincidence, but the cost of it is another matter. A person needs to look fully into the real consequences of actions before volunteering to pay the costs!

When the opposite sex is no longer impressed with conspicuous consumption, then it will end. How can I let my prospective mate know how successful I am unless I drive a fine car and have a huge house? I have no cars and live in a modest house, so I should mention to all my dates my bank balance to get respect? Most people want to be associated with those who are successful and not those who are successful by being frugal (cheap). It's a peacock display, even for those who are married. If my wife is not kept in the finest cars then I am a failure and so is she for marrying me.
I believe that being happy with what you have is more important then having more. I have taken a year off from work because I think I deserve it (I've been working since I was 14, now I'm 47). I'm living off my savings and not on the dole, but many people think I am a lay-about even though I pay all my bills myself with out any hand-outs.
I have been thinking about the future, as I waste my time surfing the web, and have found many interesting facts.What about the new carbon based tech?
Global warming? sure it exists, but is it from CO2? Maybe the increase in CO2 is from the warming, not the cause.
Maybe the changing land uses and de-forestation has led to warming which has decreased the ability of the oceans to adsorb CO2? Recent CO2 reading are much lower then expected, is that from the extra polar seas exposed by warming and ice sheet reduction? The numbers show that northern seas adsorb CO2 and southern seas release it.
We do not have the power to destroy this planet, only to make it less then optimal for our survival.

This 'prospective mate' question also depends on what kind of mate YOU are interested in.

There are women who are not impressed by these things, while there are still parts of a woman's approach to 'nesting' that does have to see that there is a safe and abundant place to create a family in.

There is also a vicious cycle that creates this assumption of what 'plenty' really amounts to.

I don't think it's the '100 Possessions', or Christian's 'My backpack is still too much' that our 'stuff' comes down to. Not all stuff is created equal..

Maybe it's as much about 'Flowrate' and 'Quality' .. how much of your stuff comes and goes quickly through the mill? Through the marketplace? Through the trashcan. I've got a good pile of tools, almost all of which are from my grandfather, or are recovered and repaired from the waste stream. Maybe it's 'too much' according to Christian's rules.. but with such heavy and long-term 'REUSING' of these tools, I'm not sure I see the problem. Similarly, many of the 10,000 things I'm sure I own are a large collection of Paintings and Weavings, and Quiltings and Knittings by some immensely talented grandparents and parents.. I am holding some books that go back to my Great-great Grandfather. I can't say that I agree that the number or the poundage or the volume of these things is really to be dismissed as quickly as I would shun a similar count of the Plastic Bins, the Fibreboard Furniture, the one-use Throwaway Tools and Toys (SWIFFER! - fie on you , Swiffer!), and the parade of surplus Sweaters and Shoes that come through some closets to be worn once or twice, if ever, before being thrown out in a rash of 'simplifying' ..

There are migratory people, who like to travel light, and there are Settled People, who may have Basements and Garages full of old treasures.. sometimes the roving lifestyle leaves a stream of one-use materials, throwaway containers and temporary solutions that is more consumptive than someone who has settled in, and has the things they need, and a few extras that they loan to friends who are more spartan in their possessions. I must have six snowshovels.. but I know they'll work hard, and I'll pass them along (cause I like to have good ones when I can get them) when someone needs one.

My elbows are resting on a fine, Oak desk that was my Dad's Dad's.. same as that excellent Bandsaw that I've been using for the last 20 years. You can't take it with you.. but that's ok, I'm using them here and now.

"Lord my body has been a good friend, yeah; but I won't need it when I reach the end.."
- Cat Stevens, Miles from Nowhere

You have too much.





I'm hearing a lot of self-righteousness from you and Christian on this, but it isn't really telling me about the 'Stuff'.. it seems to be a key for you guys to mark between Right and Wrong.

I posed a question about which stuff is tied to a high flow-rate of energy, which I can see as a harm that acquiring Stuff can do.. but beyond that, what is the shame of 'stuff'? I just spent a couple days up at the camp (another of my 'things') where the mice have been acquiring all sorts of stuff, largely fiberglass and other bedding materials.. but also a stockpile of food. Do they have too much stuff, too? Of course, while I was annoyed at having to clean mousepoop off of everything I wanted to put food and utensils down onto, I could hardly fault them, as we spent much of yesterday afternoon 'Stuffing' a lot of tupperwares and plastic jugs with a ton of blackberries to put in the freezer for winter. I'm happy to have too much of that stuff, though it would be better if I were to can them and not keep this freezer going.. but alas, baby-steps.

By the way, how do you propose that I have too much food? Are you pretty sure that I'm wasting a bunch of it, or that I overeat? What is your basis for that statement?

I'm hearing more John Calvin than Prince Gautama in the protests from you guys today.

It is not right or wrong. It is not a judgement. It is a fact.

I did not say you have to much food, but you probably do. Can 7 Billion people live like you? If not, then you have too much stuff.

But you are happy, so I guess that is all that counts, yeah? Just like the guy that buys a new car is happy.

Nature does not care if you are happy.

Mice, like humans, can have too much stuff if they over populate. BUt unlike us they do not keep trying to over populate by inventing new was to leverage nature until we are up on a delicate pedistool looking down at a long fall.

And both the Buddha and Calvin can bite me.

Mice, in fact, do keep trying to overpopulate by any means they can establish.

Mice procreate in only one way... people do likewise.

We don't have to stop. Nature will take care of that. When there is not any stuff left... when no one has enough. Then we die off at least until we reach a sustainable population level.

Problema: It is a haphazard way to handle excess population. There is a danger we die off completely. It will be painful, frightening, and lonely. No one will want to be with you if they have enough to survive, b/c if they share with you they won't have enough either. And, if you have enough and want to survive, who would you want to be with.

Far better that we plan for the coming shortages, establish a regimine of sufficiency, learn to make do with that and be happy with it. Meanwhile, I suggest we preserve our knowledge base, since that will be needed for extended survival. There are many things we can do in preparation, but acknowledging what is enough is a very good start. Perhaps that insight might help some in overcoming their greed.

I won't claim to foresee a 'good' outcome to our Planet's present dilemna. Just that it is possible, and far better than just drifting on until we are gone. That sucks.


Hmmm, I never have seen a mouse invitro fertilization center, or a mouse premature birth ICU, or a mouse prenatal magazine. Do baby mice get shots when they are born too?

Other facts about mice:
A single female produces between 5-10 litters each year. Humans can only do one.

Each litter consist of 5-6 young that are able to reproduce at approximately 30 days of age. The average form humans is on and it takes 12 years at least to reproduce.

Mice produce a great number of young, but have a high mortality rate.Humans keep fighting against high infant mortality.

Care to agree that that was a bad analogy?

I am with you on the this Bob, there are a lot of things in my house that are older than I am, things that were other's trash, and I have, or my dad has made new again. We don't tend to buy things that are not made well, and if we have to repair things that are made poorly, we fix them to last a lot longer than they would have otherwise. All the pots and bins and barrels and buckets in the back yard were not new when they came into my use, they were found or given to us or bought second hand.

What gets me about a lot of the what is enough talk, is that there are a lot of people who don't buy new except for some clothes, but those they wear till they wear out. Yet someone else is still telling them that they have to much stuff. "Well gee whiz joey! Lets all throw our clothes off and go into the woods and deserts and die why don't we, then maybe we will not have as much stuff but bones left behind. Oh but that is having too many bones cluttering up the place, we should just vanish and all will be right with the world when we are gone!"
(sorry for the rant in the middle there)

We are where we are, now what are we really going to do about it? If you can get yourself down to 100 items in your house, or backpack, great, just remember that everything you don't want, give it a nice new home, to someone that did not have that item or might be able to use that item for a good use, don't just burn it and put it in the local trash heap.

I see people tearing down houses and all I can think about is what the stuff could have been used for if they had taken care in pulling the houses apart. How many people could have used those windows in building their little shacks in the woods. Or for that matter all those 2 by 4's and joists, or other bits of scraps. If it all goes to a land fill, it is just adding to the trash problem and did not solve anything in it's dying. If you must throw something away find a recycling center that will take it please, or maybe have a yard sale and see if others will take it off your hands if they won't buy it. Think off all the places in the world where people pick through the waste heaps, before you add to them here at home.

Maybe we need to work with people making things and tell them to make them to last, and not make them out of junky materials that die when they get older than a few years old. Build things to last and maybe we can pass them on to our heirs.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world, tools of the trade are expensive and not on my get rid of list.

Charles, great post! You and I think VERY much alike, it seems.

If we wackos don't back each other up, who will?

(I'm off to one of my apartments, to create a couple Bathroom Valence lights out of old, trashed fixtures. The Mirror on the First Floor is from an Antique Window, and it's WAY more classy and appealing than these crappy plastic, chrome and fiberboard Fashion-fests that you can get at the Big-box stores for a short-lived $29.99 or whatever..)

Bob ... A Rusty old American Dream

(Great David Wilcox song!)

For awhile I was living alone on about a fifth of my paycheck, while sorting out my life. My budget (this was 1999) was $450 a month. I lived in a campus quad (I was a manager in a university library). I did my laundry in the sink. I had a bicycle, five changes of clothes, a rice steamer, a few dishes, a laptop, and, of course access to a 2 million volume library. And health insurance. And the love of my family, who were waiting for me to come back to them.

I was incredibly rich.

As ever, how much we want is probably a function of biology and thus not something we can ever hope to change on a significant scale. Here is wikipedia on intersexual selection for example, with obvious implications for those who have recognised the importance of female and male concession in the reproduction of Homo sapiens, and who also recognise the link between resource consumption and partner "quality":

“In species where the reproductive success of one sex depends heavily on winning the concession of the other, as with many polygamous birds [and humans?], sexual selection will act by increasing the degree of preference to which it is due, with the consequence that both the trait preferred and the intensity of preference will be increased together. This process causes a fervent and rapid evolution of both the conspicuous ornamentation [branded clothing and other possesions?] and the preference for such, until arrested directly or indirectly for ecological reasons [peak oil?]. Thus, in many cases a positive feedback loop of sexual selection is created, resulting in exorbitant physical structures in the non-limited sex, the most notorious example being the peacock. It is important to note that while a peacock may have exorbitant plumage, the peahen has even more exorbitant taste for such [if high “consumption is a marker of reproductive fitness, is sex driving the consumption bandwagon in humans?].” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_selection

You only need to watch a music video to see the "fervent and rapid evolution of both the conspicuous ornamentation and the preference for such" to accept the sexual foundations of what Thorstein Veblen called "conspicuous consumption":

“Conspicuous consumption is a term used to describe the lavish spending on goods and services acquired mainly for the purpose of displaying income or wealth. In the mind of a conspicuous consumer, such display serves as a means of attaining or maintaining social status. A very similar but more colloquial term is "keeping up with the Joneses". Conspicuous consumption is antagonistic to sustainability because it greatly increases resource use and environmental impact.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conspicuous_consumption

Basically, how much we have is an honest signal to others about our means and I cannot see how anybody can reasonably expect the voluntary elimination of honest signalling while attracting (and keeping) the best mate remains important (it may even apply to friends and business partners). We are competitive and competition always leads to escalating resource use:

“…the fundamental object of contention in the life-struggle, in the evolution of the organic world, is available energy. In accord with this observation is the principle that, in the struggle for existence, the advantage must go to those organisms whose energy-capturing devices are most efficient in directing available energy into channels favorable to the preservation of the species [/race].” A J Lotka

The fairytale ending will only occur when all competition is eliminated, everywhere, and that is just not going to happen:

“Only a minority of zero would permit a voluntary system to work. Obviously we would be fools to adopt any political or economic system that functions successfully only if literally everyone is virtuous.” Garrett Hardin

None of that is true in my own experience. I somehow never had any interest in piling up wealth, and didn't and stayed happy. Lots of people I know did the same.

As for getting a mate. I got a very good one by answering correctly her question "can you fix my bicycle." My winning answer over lots of guys with tons more money, better looks (and even, with some- better brains!) was " I can and I will". I still have that mate, and that bicycle.

So, I have never felt a lack for anything-- except, more understanding, more wisdom to use it, and more community to use it with.

BTW. any military leader, from ancient times to today, knew full well that when it comes to serious business, close cooperation is essential.

Great story!

Great philosophy!

I know It's been posted frequently, but around $12,000 auffices for individual income, so if the question stands as "what is enough?" then we need to move beyond asking 'what is enough' on and individual basis and ask what what is enough as a group


I know It's been posted frequently, but around $12,000 auffices for individual income, so if the question stands as "what is enough?" then we need to move beyond asking 'what is enough' on and individual basis and ask what what is enough as a group.

Actually, if we are heading into av post-peak-oil world (and we ARE), quoting numbers are meaningless. Where the prices are heading, and even what goods there are to buy will dramatically change.

Several job categories will disappear ("personal styling consultant" and "stock analyst" are two of my favorite surplus guesses...) and many of us will have to look for developing skills related to handicraft and practicaL work.

I do not regret that such change will happen, but it will not be without pain I am afraid.

Whats enough?

Housing: 100 sq meters / 1000 sq ft plot per person. One quarter of that in the main building with atmost another quarter in auxillary buildings (kitchen, toilet, garage / stable, well / pond) separate from the main building. Its assume that there are 4 people in a house in a single family living. Therefore at the minimum, each housing plot is 400 sq meters, has a main building of 100 meters. The main building is of three levels: ground floor is just one big hall, basement is for storage and bomb shelter, top floor is for bedrooms.

Income: Twice than needed to buy following items per person per year:


100 to 120 kg. Items vary but one choice is:
                            40 kg wheat, 30 kg rice, 20 kg oats, 15 kg barley, 5 kg pulses.


156.25 kg raw with edible portion 100 kg.


40 kg raw with edible portion 25 kg.

Milk: 156.25 kg including milk for tea, milk drinks (lassi etc), milk dishes (custard etc), milk items (yogurt, butter etc).

Oil: 12.5 kg

Dry fruits: 12.5 kg

Honey or Sugar: 12.5 kg

Spices: 12.5 kg

Meat: 50 kg. Quarter each from goat, cow, fish, birds.

Clothes: Total 6.25 kg cotton or silk or other fibers. Supposing 20% of it get wasted in threading, weaving, cutting, stitching etc we are left with 5 kg cotton. Use 1 kg cotton for raw cotton use like for filling pillows, mattresses and for making bandages. From the rest 4 kg cotton weave 40 sq meters cloth.

Use 10 sq meters cloth for family stuff usage like for curtains, bed sheets, table covers, cleaning clothes etc that all members of a family share.

Use 20 sq meters cloth to make 4 dresses per person per year, each dress consuming 5 sq meters cloth. So, every person gets a new dress every 3 months.

Use 10 sq meters cloth to make under garments, socks, handkerchiefs, amamas etc.

Shoes: Every person get 2 shoes a year. They have to be designed in such a way that the same shoe / sandal, slipper can be used for all foot wearing purposes including work place requirements, casual wearings, party wearings etc. If such a multipurpose footwear can't be made then use 1 footwear for formal wearing for office, party etc and 1 footwear for casual wearing.

Vacations: Out of 365 days in a solar year, give vacation of 15 days for religious and national holidays. Rest 350 days means 50 weeks. Give one day off each week. From the rest 300 days give 30 days off for sick, leisure, rest leaves at minimum and 60 days off at maximum, former is for city / industrial / trade / crafts workers and latter for farm / govt workers. For former 6.66 hours a day work so 270 x 6.66 = 1800 hours a year work (6.66 hours a day means 400 minutes). For latter 6 hours a day work so 240 x 6 = 1440 hours a year work (6 hours a day roughly means time between sunrise and noon with no breaks).

Working age: 20 to 50 years for manual workers like those who work in farms or factories. They require little education and training. Due to hard work its reasonable to give them early retirement. Between age 50 and 60 they can be hired at supervisors or trainers or given light office work. 25 to 60 years for govt officers, engineers, doctors, accountants etc that require high level of education. Due to light work they can be expected to work till age 60. Note that in both cases, the working age people are 50% of the total population in numbers.

Open place around buildings: For proper ventilation, its required to have a 10 meters / 11 yards open place outside every window and every door of every building. At the end of those open place no building greater than a height of 10 meters / 11 yards should be made. At a distance of 20 meters / 22 yards from a window, door a building can be of height of 20 meters / 22 yards and so on.

Lets define a term "sky angle". Its the angle between foot of a wall to the roof of another wall in front of it. Its the angle which determines how much of sky would be visible looking out from a window or door in a dense living of city or close village. The preferred sky angle is 30% which means that distance between buildings must be twice than the height of buildings. Expected sky angle is 45% which means both distances would be equal. The very extreme of accepted angle is 60% which means distance between buildings must be half than the height of buildings. Note that the least height of building is 12 ft to put a 6 ft tall person in it so least distance between buildings is 6 ft. Assuming that all buildings would be 2 storey, means 24 ft high and adding something extra for ground base and roof thickness, a 33 ft height of building is very much expected.

Thickness of walls: For single family houses, 9 inches to 36 inches (0.25 yards to 1 yard). For joint family houses, public buildings etc double than that.

Fuel:: 200 to 400 kg wood per person per year or some other fuel equal in energy.

Personal servants: Given to only managers (that includes all people whose primary work is to take work from others and not work themselves). Each such manager have to have on average 8 workers under him which can vary between 4 and 16. Such a manager gets two personal servants who are atleast 5 and at maximum 10 years younger than him. One such servant is male who work as secretary / driver / guard etc and another is a female servant who work as house maid / nanny for kids etc. So, on average, at the lowest level, 10% of workers is managers, 10% is personal servants and 80% are workers. At each level up in management, workers underneath get multiplied by 8, salary by 4 and personal servants by 2.


Did you derive these ideas yourself, or are they codified in your society, or did these ideas come from someone's book?

You (or someone) have certainly put a lot of thought into this.

I would like to have a version of Sim City where I could set up a city with your ideas and see what it looks like...

I have read a lots of history, economics and done a lots of logical thinking. At places I had to make educated guesses and it took years to develop all the system but at the end I think its realistic, consistent and logical.


Have you considered publishing a book, or a web site, with your ideas?

I am not endorsing them (and I am not disparaging them)...I just like to see ideas communicated.

Thank you.

I bookmarked your site and will enjoy having something unique to read.

For another South Asian perspective, you might want to read the Indian economist Ramachandra Gupta. In his book "How much should people consume" he talks about local versus global consumers. Really how FAR you consume is as important as how much, and the former has an automatically limiting influence on the latter. The lowest caste Dalits generally don't consume anything from further than about 100 miles from where they live. Americans, on the other hand, famously get even our food, on average, from something like 1500 miles away. We may have seen the world as our oyster, but, given the heatwaves this summer, it looks like it's turning into more of a clam bake.

I live next door to the "Joneses" -- they have a huge house, 5 cars (including a Porsche), motorcycles. Absolutely anything they want, they get.

But this Spring when my expanded garden was producing like mad, I got to play a new role -- I had something the Joneses wanted that they never would, because you can't just go buy yourself a garden so full of goodies. I'll not claim it was a turning point in my life, but it does reinforce in a way that building up something by hand has genuine value, and, of course, that money can't buy happiness.

The Joneses put in some herb boxes, but mine are so much bigger it is scary.

I was one of only three veggie gardeners in the area, one of them moved away, and his raised beds in back were taken over by someone who has her lawn mowed by others, as she does not do plants. The other one has a plot in the back corner that is small and didn't get much tending due to his owning his own business and him working to many hours. Mine is smaller than I would like it to be, but big enough to have given just about everyone on the block and in the family and friends something to munch on from it this year, and it is still growing along even though the heat has been taxing on it.

Gardens are a great way to see smiles from others( unless they tend toward envy when they see them). But you as the gardener have to know that not every seed or plant you plant will grow, and you'll be seeing a few things wither and die when you least want them too, so be happy you got the chance to get out there and do some planting, even if the garden gets tosted in the summer sun one day, or forst kills all the vines the next month, you at least are will enough to get out and plant, something to be happy about.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

I can't say that money can't buy a garden, as I am a Trained Landscape Architect(someone would shoot me).

Who needs to grow food, Charles?

You can buy lots of stuff that looks just like food, down at the Gas Station, day or night.

(Just Froze up several bags of Blackberries.. man, I love them free sweets!)


Whats enough?

A farmer family living traditionally in isolation needs a total of 20 average acres inside a village. Let me describe what I mean by each term (written in bold):

Farmer: A person who works on a farm and own that farm. He is employee of nobody.

Family: A group of very close relatives from which there is only male of age 20 to 50 years. This is the primary worker. His corresponding female can work too as a secondary worker but only half as much because she has to do house work and take care of kids too. There can also be teritiary workers like males and females of ages between 15 and 20 or 50 and 60.

Traditionally: It means without use of any fossil fuels, electricity, automatic machines (cars, tractors, water mills, wheel barrows, wind mills etc). For farming there is no use of any inorganic fertilizers, there is no use of any pesticides. There is one crop a year. All the water for the crops comes from rains. All the work is done by muscle power of humans and farm animals.

Isolation: Almost no trade except of one time buying of machines, annual buying of salt etc. All the food, clothes, shoes, housing, fuel consumed by the farmer family is produced by the farmer family.

Needs: 1/8 of production goes in charity, 1/8 of production goes in fighting depreciation of soil and tools, 1/4 of production goes in taxes. Half of the production is used by the farmer. Given that it takes 0.8 acres of land to support one person, 0.2 acres of land to support farm and draft animals for that person, 0.2 acres of forest to provide wood, herbs for medicines, honey etc for that person and 0.4 acres forest and grasslands left for wild life (one quarter of arable land), the land in possession of farmer is 0.8 acres per person (half of the arable land), the 0.4 acres arable land in form of needed forest and grassland for the supported person is around the village that is outside the village and the rest of the 0.4 acres is far away from any village in deep, dense, vast forests.

Its simple to visualize that. Out of all the arable land in world, humans use half directly, quarter semi directly and not use quarter at all. Direct use of land means owning it, plowing it, seeding it, harvesting it, putting nutrients in it etc. Semi direct use of land means just taking what nature grows, taking animals there to feed on naturally growing land, take wood from naturally growing forests, taking fishes from arable land under rivers, lakes etc. No use of land means leaving land for wild plants, wild animals and insects, not going to such land except once in a long while for hunting, no use of land also means giving some place for those people to live who want to live outside society.

Average: Land which gets 10 inches rain water or 1 acre ft canal water per year per acre. It means 800 cubic meter effective water per year per acre. Effective water is that water that the crops gets when they need it, for example in the rainy season right after summer etc. Such a land can grow 400 kg wheat or 800-1200 kg rice or 500 kg sugar or 2000 kg wood or 1600 kg hay per acre per year.

Village: Village is 80% arable. All the arable land corresponds to 0.8 acres needed per person per year directly, that is, not the grassland or forest or wild forest or wild grassland. Since a farmer family needs 20 acres in the village so it means 16 arable acres directly farmed. That is enough to grow food for 20 people.

Usually villages are 85% to 90% arable but I am taking a small number here for resilience.

It takes about 40 hours work per year per acre in actual farming (plowing, seeding, harvesting, caring). Since each person needs 0.8 acres so 32 hours of work. Each person also needs 0.4 more acres in form of grassland and forest but since that grow naturally so only takes a quarter as much effort. So, for those 0.4 acres, there is a need of 4 hours work. 32 + 4 = 36 hours work at farm per person supported is needed.

It takes 36 hours work to grow food, get woods and keep farm and draft animals for each person.

It takes another 18 hours to do supporting activities like milking, preparing animals' feed, butchering, skinning, milling, oiling etc. For each person there is a need of 156.25 kg milk. At speed of 31.25 kg milking per hour, 5 hours of milking. Each person needs 50 kg meat. At speed of 12.5 kg meat butchering (including mincing by hand, taking out brain, skinning etc), 4 hours of butchering. At speed of 6.25 kg oiling per hour, 2 hours work for 12.5 kg oil producing. At speed of 12.5 kg sugar making per hour, 1 hour work for 12.5 kg sugar producing. At speed of 160 kg excretions processing (taking dump from animals to ground, bury it, taking out and spreading on farm), 960 kg means 6 hours work there. Total 18 hours farm supporting activities.

36 hours of work to do weaving, making shoes, making dyes etc for each person supported. Weaving takes 1 hour of work to prepare 2 sq meters of clothes, adding threading and cleaning it takes like 1.67 hours for 2 sq meters cloth. Given that each person needs 40 sq m cloth so 24 hours work there per person. 12 hours work in producing shoes, dyes etc.

36 hours of work in making buildings, copper utensils, iron tools, wooden furniture, glass etc.

Altogether, as far as goods are concerned, each person needs work of 108 man-hours per year: 36 hours farming, 36 hours farm supporting activities, 24 hours weaving, 12 hours shoes and dyes making, 36 hours in light industries like construction, metal works, wood works, glass works etc.

A farmer can work 240 days a year. It is because in winter and in between sowing and harvesting there is lots of free time which means lots of holidays. During each working day a farmer works only from sunrise to sunset, 6 hours. Total a farmer works 240 x 6 = 1440 hours a year. Farmer is of age between 20 and 50 years which means half of male population and quarter of total population. Given some level of unemployment, lazyness, disability etc we can assume that at all time atleast 80% of males between age 20 and 50 works, this implies participation rate of 20%, 1 in 5 people works. The farmer's wife (or anybody of age 15 to 20 or 50 to 60) also works, but only half as much per day, so 720 hours there. Total 1440 + 720 = 2160 hours. I emphasize that on a per family basis, 2160 hours a year is the most expected number. Note that if there is only one worker in every family, who work like a person in city, 270 days a year, 8 hours a day, then that also means 2160 hours a year (270 x 8 = 2160).

Since there is need of 108 man-hours work per person, so each farmer family can produce enough farm and industry goods for 2160/108 = 20 people or 4 families. So, in short, one worker can support 4 workers. It includes growing food for 20 people. Since, to grow food for one person we need 0.8 arable acres inside the village, so for 20 people we need 16 arable acres inside the village per family. Since village is 80% arable so for each family we need 20 acres in the village.

The farmer family produces enough for 20 people in farm and industry goods, lets give this unit a name "p". One "p" is equal to all the food, clothes, shoes, dyes, raw cotton, furniture, utensils, buildings, tools and glass needed per worker family person to live and work. Note that p is not a measure of money, its a measure of stuff or goods. If you have to buy one p equivalent stuff from a market then in terms of money you have to give off stuff (or services) which value more than one p because traders need to make profits.

The term "p" btw corresponds to sub-continent coin "paisa" which people of the region use as a metaphor for all belongings, wealth, status etc. In english it can simply means "person".

The farmer family like all worker families needs 5p. Being owner of their farm they take 5p in rent too. It means if they don't own the farm and are working as labor for somebody else then they take only their salary and no rent. Having accounted for 10p we are left with another 10p. Out of this, one quarter of production, 5p goes in taxes to govt. Out of the rest 5p, half or 2.5p is given in charity and half or 2.5p is used to compensate for depreciation. Compensation for depreciation may means buying back excretions of humans and animals from city where farm goods were taken, or using effort in getting green stuff from a forest or simply doing more effort in recycling farm wastes.

Altogether, for each farmer family, there is a need of 80 acres in the country as a whole if that country is 40% arable, 160 acres if that country is 20% arable and so on. Note that here I mean just acres, not arable acres. If country is 40% arable, and there are 80 acres in country for each farmer family, then there are 32 arable acres per farmer family. The farmer family itself owns only half of the arable acres, 16 arable acres (and village being 80% arable each farmer family has 20 acres in a village). In the surroundings of each village, there is 8 arable acres per farmer family of the village. Given that village is 80% arable and surroundings of village is 64% arable, a 1000 acres village added in its surroundings means 1562.5 acres. Its like having a 2 x 2 square with walls 0.5 units thick, so the entire thing is 2.5 x 2.5 units.

Note that each worker family works 2160 hours and each person needs 108 hours work. Given that there are crop failures and usual crop failures means production fails to half and assuming no storage mechanisms (no refrigerators to store meat for example), we can at maximum have a population that consume only half as much as produced. Taking average this compensates for extra consumption of govt officers, traders and other service people. It implies that half of the country's population need to be farmers.

At a 40% arable country, where each farmer family requires 80 acres, there is 16 acres per farmer family person. Since half population of country is farmer, so there is 8 acres per person in country. Given that one sq km equals 250 acres, there can be 31.25 people per sq km in such a country.

I said in above post that there are managers and each manager manages 8 workers and have one personal servant. I also said that each level up in management, the number of sub-ordinates get multiplied by 8 and personal servants by 2. Adding that to all the human population, 1/8 of population need be managers, 1/8 be personal servants. That makes a quarter. Lets assume another quarter of freely living service people and knowing that half of the population need be workers we get a complete plan for population.

Here I want to show that in all ancient civilizations, that is where farms were traditional, there used to be 31.25 people per sq km on average. This number used to double at times of peak of those civilizations probably by buying food from outside (in return of taxes on occupied territories in other countries, in return of excessive industrial production like in mughal india, by over utilization of land as in roman europe, by cutting of trees as in 19th century ireland etc).

I'll say it again: I want to put these ideas into Sim City, or Civilization, or maybe Age of Empires, and see what your ideal society looks like...

Maybe TOD could host one of these Simulation games and we could all post files demonstrating our ideas of goodness.

Maybe some kind of mash-up or Federated super-sim/model consisting of Sim City, Sim Earth, Age of Empires, Civilization, and, for Alan from NO, Railroad Tycoon!

We could all comment on and rate each others' utopias (or dystopias)...

Maybe we could play together in MMO mode...like WOW except focusing on building our Sim ecotopia.

I smile to think what the government and industry/commerce scene would look like and who would play which roles...Don Sailorman running the banks or 'Fed' for example?

Some of Wisdom's basic assumptions might have to be available to the 'Sim's' core setup, if it is to model things very well. Hard to know just what kinds of blindspots (or US-centric visions of 'how things work') fed into the core formulae for such a program. Or is this open-source and can be evaluated right to the bottom?


I have never played 'The Sims' (although my daughter was hooked for a couple of years).

In fact, I have never played Civilization either.

I have played all the Sim City variants, as well as Sim Earth, and Railroad Tycoon (my fave).

My son is an Ages of Empire aficionado.

I doubt that any of these commercial programs have their source code free and open...I imagine there may be crackers who have opened these programs' code, but I am not of that World!

I was always partial to the 'God games', the strategic-level simulations...liked them much better than first-person shoot-em-up games.

Interestingly, I do some process modeling for a living...nothing nearly as fancy and polished as these products though...building simulations is a rather involved venture, and there is a limit to what 1-2 folks on a limited budget and schedule can do.

There are others. My all time favorite is "Stronghold" with a close "Caesar 3". Both of these deal with a farming economy with substantial industralization yet all ancient or medieval technology.

"Red Alert 2" is very excellent for a 1950s, 1960s style economy building.

Wow, you want to "simulate" this life? Why not do it for real?

I would need a sandbox as big as the World (if I modeled at 1:1 scale).

Not everyone likes to keep up with the Jones. If one must have something that makes them feel better than others, culture an attitude of pride for living on less ie have a goal of being better than others by using less.

Isn't it strange that in a "Christian" country the two commandments on not coveting are so ignored, and coveting is actually seen as a positive value along with greed. It has turned out that somehow capitalism and Christianity are linked, when in fact socialism is what Jesus and his disciples practiced - heck one set of greedy humans got killed by God when they joined the Christian commune but lied about how much goods they really had - see Acts 5 http://www.gnpcb.org/esv/search/?q=Acts+5

What is enough is whatever it takes to pass your genes on. That is our biological imperative.

I'm from a hard working family. I was always a hard worker. I like the basic American Dream, but it should not be only about getting for one's self. We have important institutions that are a part of us. For us to see them as detached, is, relative to attitudes of years ago, a new genre in our culture. Many churches are closing. My church is doing well, but there are extremely few young people who regularly attend. The social clubs used to be much more popular, ie: Masons, Knights of Columbus, Lions, Elks, Odd Fellows, etc etc. So some things fade. The connections people have now are less centered in conformity, but rather more rooted in the individual appeal. People in the past owned these things in some external way, and now those particular linkages to community are very faded. But new connections take their places naturally enough. We all have the internet, which I find more rewarding than church, from a moral perspective. The internet is a new possession for us all. With it we are more connected and our pride in community may be detached from the local, but to me still community nonetheless. I have a nice Mac. My TV is ok. I look down the channel of Hyannis harbor and see the boats coming and going to Nantucket. I drive an old 1986 Ford Ranger.

If you have your freedom you have something. The old timers used to believe more in citizenship, and we are losing one very valuable possession by default.

I am a welfare bum. I am diagnosed with seven major mental illnesses that I don't have. I'm just a regular guy, a fisherman. Fight the government and they make you pay. When the two parties get together, and you don't line up, you pay with your freedom. I have an issue with the gov about a dna test and can't get off of welfare because of it. So I do hard work on the fisheries work I do, and on ideas like the tripe system report on my web. www.environmentalfisherman.com. Even though I get a government check that I should not be getting, I have some pride and do work hard, and that I have. I am a hard worker. That's the best thing to own.

Yes, the 'Prosperity Gospel' is a real strange twist on the Bible. The credo seems to be : "Have all the stuff you want and strive for the right to tell others how to live their private lives."

Basically a false prophet getting air time in america, spreading false teachings that Jesus warned everyone about happening. And not to be lead astray by their lies.

It seems a lot of the false prophets are on the air waves these days, I thought it was bad once before like this, and all those guys and gals got found out for the liars they were and knocked off the Air. Now the new batch of them have the internet and TV to spout off on.

Jesus did not say, you will know them by their love of money, or maybe he did but they were the people not willing to give up money for heaven.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

Whats enough?

If consuming the balanced diet I stated above and amount of clothing and shoes I stated above (a new suit every 3 months, a new pair of shoes every 6 months, 2000 calories diet a day per person and 2500 calories diet a day per average adult person and 3000 calories a day per person per adult male working person), one half of income goes in buying food, one quarter of income goes in buying clothes and shoes, rest quarter of income goes in buying house, utensils, tools etc. For a city person, this last quarter can be used in paying utility and transportation (by bus) bills.

If half of the income is going in buying food then its the lowest level of income needed to live and work. Lets call this Level 1.

A family can live where all the income goes in buying food but then its very hard for them to work. Lets call this Level 0. Its really like living animals, getting food and nothing else.

A family can live where all the income goes in buying half-than-needed food but then this family can't work at all. Lets call this Level -1. Its the level of beggars, refugees, new immigrants.

The preferred level is when 25% of income goes in buying food. At this level there is enough flexibility. The family actually earns double than it needs. Lets call this Level 2.

The highest level where waste is still very little is when 12.5% of income goes in buying food. Lets call this Level 3.

In america today, on average 9.5% of income of people goes in food. I assume that part of this goes in buying packaged food, already cooked food and in eating at hotels. So lets say 6.25% income goes in buying food. This is level 4.

We can define line of poverty as level 0, when all of the income goes in buying food. People survive but in poor condition, have no money to buy clothes, shoes, medicines, houses etc.

In Pakistan, 50% of income of people goes in meeting basic necessities. So, Pakistan is at Level 1. Same is the case for more than half of world's population today, including people of india, rural china, africa, south america etc.

There is actually no need to become richer than Level 3. After Level 3, wastage starts. It also means that america can happily go through a 50% fall in standard of living before noticing it.

Getting 4 times than needed, that is when 12.5% of income goes in food, is indeed the highest level with little waste. Its because, on average, it takes 2 average or 4 lowest items to get 1 high quality item. Consider for example food, organic foods, those that are really organic, have to be twice as much expensive as industrial food. Genetically modified food can be as cheap as 4 times organic food and 2 times industrial food. Consider sweet apples as compare to average apples or sour apples. Consider quality of cars. Even consider quality of people. You can hire two average engineers at cost of hiring one high quality engineer. (I call this 1-2-4 rule).

Having 4 times than needed makes sense. Use half to get high quality and half to get flexibility. It really makes no sense in going further.

Note that I am talking in aggregate. Individual incomes could and should vary.

Interesting post. One of the big issues with living simple in the US is access to health care. There was a woman who had a bad accidental that cut off her arm. A hospital that could have possibly reattached it was within air transport range. They we ready to send her but the hospital refused to take her. No health insurance, and the outrageous cost meant the woman was unlikely to ever pay the bill.

Level one people can usually get health care coverage from public assistance. Lots of stigma comes with it and the reimbursement rate, payment to doctor, is so low that some doctors will not accept patients with this coverage.

Level two usually have jobs that do not include health insurance. Wal-Mart hires all part time people to avoid having to pay health insurance for there hourly employees.

Level three some do, some low paying public service jobs, but most do not. Even above this many do not have coverage. I am self-employed and have very limited coverage. Good health insurance would cost me and my wife almost $2000 a month. We have what is call asset protection coverage for $400 a month. After a $7500 deductible they will pay 80% till a higher deductible is reached then they pay 100%. There are all kind of exceptions and possible additional co-pays but it provides some protection from total financial wipe-out.

Good access to health care only comes with moderately high to high paying jobs for the most part until you get old enough to get Medicare. Even if your employer provides coverage get sick lose job lose coverage. Have a sick child with high medical cost and getting fired for some bogus reason is possible. Some coverage only covers 80%. 20% of a high dollar medical bill can quickly financially destroy a family.

Maybe the new health care reform will help some, but maybe not.

Thanks for all the perspectives you've added here today.

One thought about the US citizen being at a level 3 or 4 relative to food buying, is that many other life-necessities have been steadily 'monetized' in our society, so that services become a further burden, and sometimes an unbearable burden on an otherwise 'level 3' household. As Ryeguy mentioned, healthcare has driven many families into poverty.. and in fact our food-supply has driven many people into the healthcare system (obesity, hypertension and diabetes epidemics, to name a few), then childcare and preschool, energy costs, utilities, various services etc.. which had once involved many things families and communities could do for themselves, and now come out of the paycheck.

I don't disagree that there is a lot of excess throughout our system, but there are also a lot of heavy drains on the average working class families as well, as our society has 'eaten its own young' in order to keep fed. Capitalism has gotten close to Cannibalism, it seems.

Wisdom, I hope you and yours are riding out the horrific floods and heat this summer without too much damage. There is not a lot of reporting about it here, but what I do see looks overwhelming.

I can sum it up in four words:

Live within your means.

You used four words and a period.

I would add--"Live within the world's means." This is even harder for most people.

Again, for one guide to this see www.myfootprint.org.

"Keeping up with the Joneses" implies getting rid of something with plenty of useful life in it for something bigger, "better", newer, more up-to-date, more functions, etc etc etc.for the sake of appearances rather than utility.

Like trading in a perfectly serviceable vehicle with 50,000 miles on it for a brand new model. Or trading an older home for a new home with all the latest gadgets.

This really is consumerism at its worst, and the doomed treadmill we are on. How many people lined up to by a new iphone, even if the one they already had was perfectly useful ? I still have an old flip phone, whose only additional feature is it takes photos (which I don't use).

One could say nobody "needs" a cell phone at all, but my work requires that people can get ahold of me when I'm not in the office, and I'd have no work if I didn't have a cell phone. It's where society is right now. However, I don't need to have a cell phone that does any more than make phonecalls.

My personal philisophy is that there isn't any point trading an old house for a new one, even if it does have a smaller footprint, have the latest eco options, etc etc, because the "greenest" house, and the one which uses the least materials, is the one you didn't build.

We're at a point where there is already so much "stuff" in the world we should make a concerted effort to get as much use out of it as possible, and then recycling, shredding and/or composting what's left, if that's possible.

If that means trading it to someone else for them to use, great! Just don't replace it with the newest, latest model. When it falls apart, or is no longer serviceable, if one still has a need for it, source another from a recycle shop or yard sale.

example : I have an old washing machine and drier. I could trade them both for the latest energy-saving models than use 30% less energy, and produce fewer emissions. Or, I could just do half as much laundry, and line-dry the clothes, and save more energy, more CO2, and save the materials for a new washer and drier. Of course, people would probably laugh at my 1980's washer ;)

When they both finally die, I could move to only hand-washing and line-drying.

There's likely to be a thriving trade in used items and parts, as opposed to new items.

Edit : somewhere in the back of my head is an old sci fi story about a guy living in a world where one is required to consume, consume, consume, to keep the economy going. He gets worn out trying to use up all his "stuff" and buys a couple of house robots to use it up for him, while he relaxes and reads the paper. (funny how the sci fi authors could imagine household robots but not the demise of the newspaper ;))

In Babylon 5, they had to deposit the old paper to get the newest issue, it was a form of recycling on the space station.

Locally I know two places that recycle old household big ticket items, like washers and dryers and fridges and such, they either pick them up off the street and fix them or use them for parts or they pick them up and fix them and return them for low cost, or pick them up when a new ones shows up and fix them and sell them. One place is a small business with several employees, the other place is a guys front yard and front porch as his shop and storage area.

Ages ago I wrote a story where people did just that with the waste and throw outs of others, gleaning the good and fixing or recycling the rest of the stuff people throw out.

If you had the time and energy some old couches and chairs can be fixed, if you take off the old upholstery and put on new or just as good as new threads on the old frames. Letting the stuff get wet though tends to ruin that idea in most places, and all you can do is salvage some springs and wood for the fire place. If it gets to wet the wood parts tend to misshapen to much to be repairable.

Too many people don't use their stuff till it dies though, like you said and only have to have the latest in the gadgets or threads of living rooms they barely use.

I have a cell phone, the last one was used till it died, as will this one, I like the flip open phones a lot better, I'd have a bigger version of an old rotary dialer if I could, we even have several spares of the newer kind that had push buttons, but have the old barbell handsets. One of my dad's self taught repair skills was in repairing them back when the place he worked had hundreds of them. I am sure he has all the repair parts for several more than he has working models. They might come in handy someday.

I'd still like to be able to move into a better energy user than this house, but likely I won't be able to do so anytime soon, as I don't want to have to raze this one just to make room for something smaller( it is under 900 Sq Ft as it is), Maybe I'll just convert more of it to workshop sometime after my parents are gone, or get a roommate or something like that, I'd like the parents to stay around as long as God wants them to, if I can't talk him into making that longer.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

Before we can meaningfully address the gigantic human-induced challenge posed by the unbridled growth of absolute global human population numbers, we need to widely share an understanding of human population dynamics. Without this knowledge, which is already living in the world but universally denied by the brightest and best among us, we will simply do what we are doing now: playing around the edges of what ails humanity in our time and threatens the Earth as fit place for habitation by the children. We are filddlin’ like Nero chose to do while Rome burned many years ago. Today the Earth itself is beginning to combust.

How much is enough is a valid question, but it is inevitably wrapped up with the question of how MANY (of us) is enough.

We, AS A SPECIES, must address the problem of fundamentally unsustainable population growth. Unless and until we do so, the question of how much is ENOUGH dims to irrelevance.

Agreed. Always a touchy subject to talk about. So many get all uptight and say any talk is like unto genocide. Unfortunately the ones who get no say in the discussion are the unborn (for obvious reasons). I would say at the least that their right to a relatively good life trumps the right of any human to give birth. The good life is not just material things but also love and stability. Given the state of the planet at present, I can't imagine any unborn if they could wish anything to wish to become born. But at the very least every prospective parent should not imagine the future they hope for the child they wish to conceive, but rather the future of that child living in a world of global climate change without cheap energy.

We know that natural systems not only osscilate but are often either growing or declining exponetially. Enough is having your needs rather than wants met. It sounds basic but that doesn't mean in the future we will have enough. Working with what you have at the time is the best you can do.

Whats enough?

Govt Servants / Govt Size : Once we found out that the most appropriate number of subordinates under a manager is 8 (with variations from 4 to 16), we can think about having one lowest level govt servant (that is a soldier, a constable, a sweeper, a peon etc) per 8 workers. Since there is 1 primary worker per family of 5, there are 40 civilians per govt servant. Lets suppose that govt servants are given personal servants so counting that and family members of govt servant himself, out of every 50 people in country there is 1 govt servant of the lowest rank.

Lets look at the salary structure. There are 8 workers per lowest level govt servant. Each worker produce 20p. Lets suppose all land is of govt and govt takes rent on it. If rent is 5p, from 8 workers there is a collection of 40p. Govt servant gets 20p, 10p goes to retired, disabled govt servants (like soldiers injured in wars), 10p goes to high officers. In this way we can keep one lowest level govt servant per 50 people and adding high officer govt servants one govt servant (of any rink) in every 8 workers. If govt servants have servants too then there is 1 such servant per govt servant on average, so a quarter of population is directly depending on govt.

Now assuming that among all govt servants, one quarter is soldiers, one quarter is policemen, rangers etc, one quarter is in administration like judges, intelligence, governors, tax collectors, record keepers etc and one quarter is in welfare services, that includes teachers, doctors, para medical and para education staff. That way there can be one soldier in a population of 200 people.

Note that in a farm based economy (and infact in every economy) due to droughts, excess rains, floods, recessions, wars, diseases etc production can fall to atmost half than average before the collapsing of economy so taking this into account we must reduce the number of govt servants to half than calculated above. That way we can have a soldier per 400 people. Thats infact how its in pakistan, 200 million people and half million soldiers. The policemen, rangers etc are called reserves and can be called in times of trouble. Usa has a population of 300 million and a military of 3 million soldiers, thats 1 in 100, 4 times than normal.

Note that level of industralization do not effect this ratio because if productivity per worker increase due to industralization then need of industrial goods by military also increase proportionally (and may be more).

Note that I have made a system in which salaries of govt servants comes from rent and rent is always 25% of production. Infact rent would be a fixed amount and do not vary year on year as production varies because govts needs stability. When production fall to 15p at a farm, factory then govt let go the rent.

To pay for actual expenses of govt, like for office expenses, weapons, ammunition, making of buildings etc there is a separate 25% tax on production. This do vary according to level of production year on year.

If the total income of govt (25% by rent, 25% by tax) sounds too much then please note that this is what for almost all the time of civilization people are paying their govts. In usa today federal govt takes a 28% income tax, then state and district govts have their own taxes (for example property tax). Then govt print money / do quantative easing etc so almost half of income of american workers and businessmen go to american govt. In mughal india there was a straight 25% khiraj on farms and in addition there was lots of other taxes including on imports, exports, toll taxes etc.

The overall tax rate as a % of GDP is not so high.
It was about 25% of income(in Sweden it is 50%, in the UK 35%).US taxes are general fairly flat so GDP reflects income pretty directly.


The system you present is where the central government owns everything and it assigns people to jobs and income
under a social contract(regimentation).

Actually, in most countries rich people own most everything, including the government politicians and there are many protections for property rights and civil rights.

The middle path is socialism like they have in Western Europe but there is always a tension between the two models.

I think both systems are workable models each with certain problems. Under state socialism, everyone has a job but everyone is more or less poor(with certain exceptions).

Under capitalism, people have a right to get rich and ignore the poor. It is suggested that OTOH capitalism produces more gross wealth than socialism, but OTOH that wealth never really does benefit society as a whole--unless it is redistributed by the government as in West European socialism.

You might think with all out scientific knowledge and historical precedent we might know the correct path but
it's largely a matter of taste.

Boy, Wisdom;
This question sure got you going today! Hope I find a little more time to read some of it.

I'm supposed to be painting and plastering right now.


And if my wife comes downstairs again and sees me on TOD again instead of working, she's going to have ENOUGH of me!

That's MY wife you're talking about! She's mad at you, too?

That's funny. lol. The work can wait. We've got a world to save!

We are beyond enough when we have a foreign policy to control oil through war.

The statement "Iraq will soon be the number one oil producer" illustrates the point of why we engage in the war there.

In the realm of addiction there is no such thing as "enough".

In the realm of addiction there is no such thing as "enough".

But there is such a thing as too much... an overdose.

I suppose it comes down to whom you love the most: Yourself or your fellow man?

If you become convinced that he—not to mention all the other creatures with whom we share the planet—have just as much a God-given right to be as yourself, then you will naturally begin to live your life to be in harmony with that conviction.

You cannot change the world. But you can be scrupulous—consciously and determinedly scrupulous—in the use of her resources. It is not meet that one grows fat while another starves. You will thus be frugal with nature's bounty. To not eat too much, to bear some of the summer's heat, to suffer some of winter's cold, to not squander the riches you are given, but to husband them, to preserve them, to pass them on—this is how a virtuous man lives.

If we practice virtue—and shun its antithesis—we need not fear harm.

I think I have to love myself RIGHTLY, before I can love others RIGHTLY. I can easily fall into liscence, and bring myself to ruin and deprive my family of the bounty I have been given. I could fall into legality and think too highly of myself, therefore self-righteously claiming everything as my own, thus depriving my family of the bounty I have been given. I dont try to be frugal and thrifty because it is a virtue, but because it is the good and meet( right ) thing to do. and the good thing is there is a surplus to share with my famiy and friends and others in need. I still try to good things for others even if it is to my loss. I must decrease. they must increase. I dunno.

I dont try to be frugal and thrifty because it is a virtue, but because it is the good and meet( right ) thing to do. and the good thing is there is a surplus to share with my famiy and friends and others in need.

So you aren't sharing because it is the virtuous but because it is logical--though the logic isn't clear.
Would you be ashamed to be thought upright and honorable?
Are people practising being upright and honorable actually
only being hypocrites?

The philosopher Kant thought a person should act on the precepts of the Golden Rule out of a sense of "perfect duty", but he would'nt restrict the Golden Rule to family and friends('imperfect duty' as we are biased towards them alone- it would be hypocritical) but extend it toward the whole human race and probably the planet as well.


LOL! The fact that we are here on the internet with a computer means that we are not in any way qualified to say how much is enough. Grossly ironic, kinda like one of the banksters telling one of our tent city people how they should hold their fork while eating. I'm outta here! Have a nice day.

Praise the sweet baby jesus for you sir!

Question for TODers. I'm currently heating with an old Vermont Castings Vigilant wood heater and am considering getting a more up to date catalytic stove. I wonder if anyone has had experience doing this and what kind of efficiency gain might be expected. I figure the old stove is probably ~50% efficient and the newer ones advertise 70% or higher, but I'm always skeptical of these kinds of figures in terms of how much less wood I might actually burn.

I'm a long time wood burner, so I know my way around wood for fuel in terms of varieties, seasoning and so on, I just need some real-world examples to go by.

Thanks for any input.

Or would a fancier stove be too much?:-(

Just from my own experience, I would aim even higher, and look into Masonry or Finnish Stoves, one of the brands being the Tulikivi, Imported from Finland.. It produces a very complete burn, so you're using your fuel fully.. and has a LOT of thermal mass built in, so it carries and dissipates the heat much more steadily, not overheating during the burn.

Of course, this thermal-mass means you have MORE STUFF, and that might get you in trouble around here, but it also means that you are chopping a lot LESS wood, as well, so your cumulative 'Stuff-meter' might actually show a significant improvement over time.. if you can afford to wait, and if you can afford the stove. Quality comes at a price.

My mom built one into each of two different houses, and they were great! (and I was able to retain my love for splitting wood, since I didn't have to do all that much of it with these stoves..) Sometimes, a single, two-hour burn would leave the brickmass warming the house for the next two days.. and the Cats would sleep up on the top of it.


This is the site for Steve Busch, the guy who built both of Mom's stoves by hand, while he now sells and installs the Tulikivi's .. laying stone beats a man down after a few years, he tells me!


(ps.. Efficiency rated from 85-95% -- http://www.speksteenkachel.be/tulikivi.htm )

Of course, this thermal-mass means you have MORE STUFF, and that might get you in trouble around here

You really are incorrigible, Bob. ;-)

[Most days I'd settle for a padded cell, but that seems somehow wasteful.... oh, look, there's blood on these hands...]


TOD, it seems, IS my padded cell.. well not MINE per se.. I'm happy to share!

“'But I don’t want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.
'Oh, you can’t help that,' said the Cat. 'We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.'
'How do you know I’m mad?' said Alice.
'You must be,” said the Cat. 'or you wouldn’t have come here.'”

I really am very fortunate to have a decent personal life and enough STUFF that occasionally I haul some off to charity sales;and I am not addicted to much, excepting my books and my personal freedom-my time is mostly my own.

But there is a sort of madness I crave-and here is the only place I find it almost anytime and everytime I look.

Hope I'm contributing decently to that effort, Mac.

This is, I suspect, one of the very few places many of us can have this conversation at all. It's hard to say whether we'd even be able to talk as we do if we were standing face to face.. there are rules we've all been steeped in that make it harder to do in person.

I have friends I cover SOME of this stuff with, and the gist of it comes out in some comments and actions.. but otherwise, my real claw-sharpening happens here.


This brings up another point. Is some of our desire to learn a lot ultimately another manifestation of a desire to have lots of "stuff," but this time "stuff" in our heads?

It strikes me that in one of the very few communities that are anywhere close to living sustainably in America--the Amish--they limit formal education to 8th grade and lots of Bible learning.

I feel uncomfortable about limiting the mind, but I do wonder if a voracious need to "consume" ideas is really another manifestation of our general desire for MORE of everything.

ET, 30+ years ago we built a house and installed a fireplace. The fireplace was pre-fab, with blowers and air circulation spaces and an outside air supply. Glass doors "sealed it" for more efficiency. I never liked it. The masons bricked around it so it looked quite nice.

About 16 years ago, I tore the firplace out piece by piece and had a mason build an alcove for a wood heater. That took minimal work since most of the brick was there to start with. After much research, I installed a Vermont Castings Defiant Encore. Looking back those 16 years, I would do exactly the same again. I used the existing outside air supply and piped it to the back of the Encore. Seems like an inexpensive kit was required for that. As an airtight stove and with the catalyst, it is very efficient. It smokes for about an hour after startup. After that, you close the bypass damper which routes the smoke through the catalyst. After awhile, NO smoke is visible from the pipe, even at low settings. The smoke is fuel too and burning it gives the efficiency increase. You have to look close at the pipe to tell the stove is burning. I can heat the whole house with it. The fireplace would never do that. I even installed a room-to-room fan to move extra heat down the hallway to provide some forced convection. Wood use was about a third of what the fireplace gobbled up.

The Defiant Encore is durable, like your old Vigilant, and will last many years. Mine still looks like new. So, it wouldn't be "too much" because it's a long-term investment and makes good use of renewable resources (wood). Of course you know to cover the wood and let it season well before using.

My parents had an Earth Stove. No catalyst. Smouldered and smoked half the time. A chimney fire got their attention one day. My pipe has a stainless steel liner and AFAIK we never have had a chimney fire. A little hard residue comes out each year when I brush it.

Caveat: I haven't done any research on new products lately but I'm sure you have. Good luck.

PS: Just me, but I would avoid a stove with a "reburner" for the smoke. IMO the catalyst is the way to go.

Thanks EJB and joecool. I'm pretty familiar with masonry heaters as one of my friends in WNC built them. My only reservation about that kind of thermal-mass heating is that the climate of Western Oregon may be too warm for it. We need a fairly short-cycle heating as many winter days are fine with no heat, especially if the sun is shining. Also, the ground floor of my house is on a slab (with perimeter insulation) and earth-bermed to 4' on the northern side, so the mass of the house does a nice job of evening out the temperature variations (it's wonderfully cool during the recent heat wave). I'd be afraid that with the thermal mass stove, we might end up venting a lot of unused heat on warmish winter days.

Anyway, thanks again for the feedback.

A lot of great suggestions already. For tons of advice on the subject I suggest reading the forums at hearth.com

We have an older Vermont Encore catalytic and like it, but be warned that a lot of folks report bad luck with their recent stoves. The company got bought and sold 3-4 times in the last decade and it seems quality has suffered. If not a Vermont there are many other good brands to consider - Jotul, Woodstock, Blaze King, Pacific Energy, etc.

Personally I love the looks of a VC so I deal with the maintenance.

Re. efficiency. My father still burns a 1979 VC Resolute. My catalytic VC's chimney is cleaner on the inside after an entire winter that his is after about a week so....

As to catalytic or non-cat. Its a matter of preference. Catalytic's tend to be slightly more efficient, but are a bit more of an art to operate and are NOT tolerant of burning anything other than well seasoned wood. Anything non-wood that gets in there can potentially poison the catalyst. If you go non-cat, agree with the earlier poster and avoid a separate re-burn chamber. You want the type with air jets inside the main firebox.

The masonry heaters mentioned above are also a very nice option if you have the space/budget.

What are the problems with the secondary combustion chambers? I had thought that the masonry stoves were largely built to work with this principle; while I've also heard that designing the right flow and proportions for that chamber is potentially a tricky art, and might be flukey on a given design, or when burning the wrong wood.. ? (The tulikivi site claims it's happy with soft, hard and junk woods..)

Bob Fiske

What is enough? Here is another way to look at it. What is enough for those who make and harvest the goods we use. What is enough for a strawberry picker in California? Obviously the wages and the conditions in which those wages are earned are enough since if they weren't enough no one would cross the border to do that work. What is enough for a Copper Miner in Chile? Since people still mine copper in Chile what they earn must be enough (at least to keep them alive to age 45 the average age for those doing that kind of work). What is enough for the people who make our Nike's and keyboards, etc. Since they are able to do the work and we get our products obviously the wages they earn and the life they are able to live on those wages is enough.

The question is of course unanswerable without qualifiers. What is enough to keep a person alive? What is enough to allow them to reproduce? What is enough for them to feel safe and secure? What is enough to allow them to feel well off? What is enough for a person to feel like they are keeping up with or beating out the Joneses? Unless by "enough" you mean bare minimum for survival, "what is enough?" is a pretty wide open question.

After several moves with my ex husband that involved moving far more things that I thought were worth moving, I was watching a news program. It was at the end of US involvement in Vietnam and many Vietnamese were fleeing - I saw a family fording a river with everything that they could manage to take in bundles on their heads. That appeared like it was going to have to be enough....

Sociologists note that "keeping up with the Joneses" has taken a darker twist in contemporary society. When the phrase first came into use, it meant roughly keeping up with the family doing the best on your block. Given the realities of housing policies at that time, it meant that you were competing, if you will, with people who were in the same general social class -- rich, middle-class, working, poor, etc.

With the widespread adoption of television, the Joneses became a family on TV. This led to a variety of distortions. Depicted living space was unnaturally large in order to accommodate the needs for staging. Costuming tended to reflect the producer's budget, not the character's. Product placement often meant that the characters "owned" new things, with all the options. Over a season, a character might own several expensive items in order to facilitate several story lines. Any one of the items might have fit within the character's budget for a year, but not all of them.

Many people's take on "what's enough" is badly skewed by the fictional depictions they see on TV every day.

That's a good point on TV use - I haven't watched for years myself, but its still not unusual when thinking of what "typical family life" should be like to find myself imagining the Brady household, or Mayberry.

In any case, I think when tshtf the Jones's are going to be the first ones rounded up, and I want to make sure I don't get mistaken for one of them!

Keeping the TV off saves an awful lot of brain-space.

The question of enough is also a question of how much is not enough. Allowing folks within our society to not have enough may subconsciously afflict those in power with the realization that some folks have way too much. As Americans we permit some folks to not have enough food, not have adequate clothing, not having any housing at all, not having the ability to go to where the jobs might be, and not having access to adequate health care. Even with our current economic hardships there are folks not far away who go hungry for part of the month even as Congress voted to cut food stamps. Empty houses are all around but still we have the homeless and then send in the cops to clear them from their encampments. Where there are job openings they are mostly a few miles from the nearest bus stop. We have the most advanced health care methods ever but it is too expensive to use. The biggest factor in determining life span is poverty. Not having enough means dying decades before your neighbors who have way too much. Out of sight is out of mind and our obsession with stuff means we are truly out of our minds.

Rather than keeping up with the Jones's, I'd like to take a different tack, and that is keeping enough food on the table.
How much is enough.... food?

A study of wheat prices over the past 800 years (prior to 1900) shows the average price of 100 kilos of grain was about 100 grams of pure silver. It went as high as 225 during wars and revolutions, and as low as 50 grams of silver in times of plenty.

At 100 grams this works out to one ounce of silver per bushel, or $18 per bushel today, and wheat is now trading at $6 per bushel. So you could say, well, a triple in wheat prices ... not too bad... to bring us back to historical norms.

Except the value of one ounce of silver today is not historically normal.
John Williams at shadowstats.com shows that historically, silver was trading at about $100 in todays dollars.

So for wheat to get back to "normal" it would have to increase 20X.

How wheat got so cheap has been shown in other TOD posts, and the effects of cheap food on population has also been shown.

Its not the same wheat. Traditionally more than 500 species of wheat were grown resulting in lots of bio diversity, quality, taste and good health. During the two world wars when farming was still traditional in most of world people were able to handle extremely bad conditions and still survive. Today only 2 or 3 species of wheat are grown, those with highest yield, lowest quality, lowest taste. Its results in bad conditions even in peace time.

In a hadith we are told that near end times there would be little good in food. We know what it means.

One pound = 7,000 troy grains. These are grains of wheat or barley.

One pound = 423 grams. Therefore, one gram = 16.549 grains.

In pre mughal era india, there was a coin called jital which was equal to 57.6 grains silver (3.48 grams silver).

1 maund = 40 seer. One seer = 910.6 grams. Therefore, one maund = 36.424 kg.

Following is prices of food items with time era in india. Blank spaces for data not available:

ITEM    1296-1316   1324-1351    1351-1388

Wheat             7.5                 12.0               8.0   
Barley            4.0                                    4.0
Paddy rice        5.0                 14.0
Pulse (mash)      5.0
Pulse(moth)       3.0
Refined sugar   100.0
White sugar      60.0
Red sugar        13.3
Salt                                                     2.0

7.5 jital for 36.424 kg wheat => 26.1 gram silver for 36.424 kg wheat => 1 gram silver for 1.4 kg wheat. You say 1 gram silver for 1 kg wheat. Approx equal. Note that price of wheat do vary to 1 gram silver for 0.872 kg wheat. Quantities of other stuff in terms of 1 gram silver for the era 1296-1316 are: 2.62 kg barley, 2.1 kg paddy rice, 2.1 kg mash pulse, 3.5 kg pulse (moth).

Prices of animals in the era in grams of silver: Horse -> 1,231 - 513. Ox -> 51.23. Meat cow -> 15.39 - 20.52. Goat / Sheep -> 1.7442 - 2.36.

Monthly salaries of foot soldiers in Akbar's era (1555 A.D - 1605 A.D.) vary from 6 rupees to 12.50 rupees, enough to buy 502.1 kg wheat to 1046 kg wheat. The entire mughal empire had an income of 9.9 crore (99 million) rupees in the fiscal year 1595-1596 A.D. One rupee equals to one tola (11.663 grams silver). So, income of empire was equal to 1.15 billion grams. Note that this is income of govt, which take 25% tax on farming and 12.5% tax on trade. That was almost all the taxes taken in akbar's era. The 50% income of country going into taxes happened later on especially in ShahJahan era.

Given that 80% of population lived in villages and 20% in villages and city income have to be atleast twice than villages income so we assume that 60% income of country was from farming and rest from industry, trade and mining. A 25% tax on farming (60% of GDP) means 15% of GDP goes in taxes there, a 12.5% tax on industry, trade, mining etc (40% of GDP) means 5% of GDP goes in taxes there. Total 20% of GDP goes in taxes, therefore GDP of india was about 5.75 billion grams of silver. At a population of 100 million at that time, per capita GDP was 57.5 grams silver.

At Akbar's era, wheat was 0.30 rupees per 25.11 kg. One rupee was equal to one tola or 11.663 grams silver. So wheat was 7.17 kg per gram of silver. Therefore, per capita GDP was enough to buy 413 kg wheat.

If empire's population was 100 million and GDP 495 million rupees, then per capita GDP was 4.95 rupees or 57.73 grams of silver.

I discussed india here in detail because at the times discussed india was considered "golden bird", the richest land of earth, land of opportunity. It was the peak per capita wealth of pre industrial era.

An interesting tidbit is that both the French and Russian Revolutions peaked - almost to the day - at the same time as the highest price in bread in Paris/Moscow

Wheat is empire maker ... and ... empire breaker !!!

Nope, water used to be the empire builder. Which leads to wheat...

Almost all of the traditional farming was done on rain water. So water was not a thing to fight on.

And empire baker!

Ok, but is that a cause, an effect or a correlation?

There is a Swedish word Lagom, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagom

Its a word that, perhaps should have an English translation or maybe "lagom" should be adopted.

It reminds me of a sentiment in "Mary Poppins", of all things, an old adage that says "Enough is as good as a feast."


An English expression and the subject of a paper on sufficiency see:


Dayenu seems a bit heavy. Is it used in an everyday context?

Well, for me as a Unitarian who's gone to a lot of UnOrthodox Passover Seders, Dayenu has the connotation of Saying a very serene 'Grace', or 'Thanks for all the fish' (Douglas Adams) .. or in other words, 'Even if we didn't have much, it was enough, and we should count it AS a bounty, so thanks!'

During the 1950's the highest tax bracket was over 90%. Did these high taxes slow down the US economy? No, it encouraged a sharing of the wealth. As taxes on the very wealthy have gone down, so has the US economy.

Thom Hartmann makes this case regularly.

Funny how a whole lot of conservatives (Fox noise ditto heads) pine for the 'good ole days' of the 1950s...

The rich who made big money never paid anything like ninety percent-the incomes of the upper clsees element were sheltered then even as they are today.

Only people who suddenly found themselves earning really serious money, such as actors or athletes,ever had to pay the ninety percent.

I may be the only person here tonight who ever read the life story of RR-better known here as Ronnie Raygun .

If anyone wonders WHY he was so anti tax and anti union,they would find it instructive to examine the story of his life in Hollywood.

It certainly helps to actually throw a little light on a subject sometimes, if you want to UNDERSTAND IT,rather than simply make yourself feel good.

Today the wealthy have a lot lower maximum theoretical tax rate, and they have access to more and better tax attorneys to avoid even that reduced rate.

At any rate, we can each end this debate by electing folks who will cut the U.S. budget by one-half, including the military budget.

That includes Social Security and Medicare.

Ronald Reagan gave an impassioned appeal about the evils of Medicare back 'round 1965.

We can note that he neither reduced or canceled either SS or Medicare. Nor did he repeal Roe v Wade. Nor did he only cut taxes...he raised some, too.

He did exhibit pragmatism...I'm afraid that today's so-called Republicans would run him out of town on a Faux Noise rail.

Good thing no one on this lists expects/wants/needs Medicare or Social Security.


you should probably look at the US gnp vs ROW (rest of world), per capita, % of steel production, and a slew of other industrial issues. The 1950's were a rare moment in the US economically vs the rest of the world.

I want more! I want a big buffer, toys, a new car and power to get things done.

I also wanted more room in my home and I recetly got that and has for some months been
sorting thru my old books and leftover projects. Another room would be nice but I dont rely need it now.

And I got a small economical buffer and I also live in a rich society.

Got a new tool and toy a few days ago, a fairly cheap Android phone, need to learn more abut Android and start migrating my Palm pilot stuff to it. This will take some time and then I will buy a better one when I know more about what features I need.

If I won a few millions on the Lotto it would not change my life much, but it would give me an opportunity to directly invest in things I am sure will be good or worth a try. It would be very nice and consuming some more would also feel good, I could then have a two or even three course restaurant meal each week with my fiance, that would be nice.

But my main need is to get some realy critical personal projects moving instead of being depressed about these hard global issues I have some partial solutions for. I need more time and I need to actually meet more people to share thoughts in a way that gives me more energy.

I got enough of on line time sinks, they are fun, stimulate new thougths and give fast gratification but I got too much of a good thing.

I have had fantastic opportunities for influencing things and have used some of them and let most of them slip thru my fingers. I need to pick up what I can in a way that lasts for manny years, I can do very little of this here on ToD, to little feedback and the wrong audience.

I got enough Oil Drum and needs to cut the hours here way down. It should have been obvious earlier but that is in the past and I can only change tomorrow. I will peek in sometimes and be back when I have prepaired something substantial to add. I hope I dont miss a nice Aspo meating or so due to this.

And I think I will sell my spare summer bike to a student and buy a new cheap one of medium quality, and buy some clothes since most has been worn out and buy a new car since my old one soon needs to get an owner who can weld. I got a buffer even if it is small, I better use some of it for substantial stuff that I use right now and 2-10 years into the future.

Yes I can use a car, 2x or 3x higher fuel prices is not a problem with a small car and little driving, other demand will be destroid before mine. ;-) But it is a pity I can not afford nor calculate a profit in buying a biogas car or even a diesel. This will probably have changed in 2020, then might even EV:s be a lot cheaper and I ought to be able to earn more money.

Bye and see you later! And it is very easy to find my email adress if anybody wants to contact me.

Live long and prosper. And thanks for your honesty!

Two years ago, someone at the farmers market I sell honey at gave me a bottle of mead.

I've been keeping it for a special occasion - today was just a beautiful day and I decided to open it.

1. I have new respect for the Vikings
2. One bottle is enough

Best of all, I have the recipe....

A bumper sticker I own that resides on someone's car somewhere:

"Live simply so that others may simply live."

Lovely! :-D

I've seen a lot of those around here. I always find it a bit odd to see such messages on cars, the ultimate symbol of overconsumption.

I like the more whimsical ones, like:

God WAS my co-pilot, but we crashed in the Andes and I had to eat him.

Pee for enjoyment, not for employment.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but whips and chains excite me.

Come the rapture, can I have your car?

People are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it's easier to harass old women than motorcycle gangs.

BUCKLE UP! It makes it harder for the aliens to suck you out of your car.

More at http://www.northernsun.com/n/s/scan/MM=26cdbab185c718aeb65ac06646badace:...

What the Cubans have, i.e. the same life expectancy as the USA without all the material goods:
Life After Oil: Cuba Can Teach Us How to Live Without Our Dirty Fossil Fuel Addiction
By Jill Richardson, AlterNet
Posted on June 18, 2010, Printed on June 26, 2010

As oil pours into the Gulf of Mexico, providing a painful reminder of the cost society pays beyond the gas station pump for fossil fuel energy, it's hard to even begin to imagine what a post-carbon future would look like. If you can't picture it, try looking about 90 miles south of Florida.

Cuba, which enjoyed plentiful oil during much of the latter half of the 20th century, entered a crisis when the Soviet Union and the Socialist Bloc disintegrated. In late 1989, Cuba saw its access to oil, food imports and chemicals used in industrial agriculture whisked away practically overnight. A few years later, in 1992, scarcity increased further when the U.S. tightened its blockade of Cuba. After 20 years of painful transition, Cuba is now a living example of how a society can flourish while treating oil like the scarce, filthy and increasingly risky-to-procure energy source it is.

It is long past time to lift that stupid, useless blockade on Cuba.

After that, if the Cuban people did not want to engage in trade or didn't want the flood of tourists, then more power to them.

But it should be their choice.

Exactly my thoughts, indeed.

Furthermore, we could learn from the Cubans as to how to adapt to an oil-free economy.

It is long past time to lift that stupid, useless blockade on Cuba.

I definitely agree with you, but then again "free trade" would likely cause chaos in their largely self-sufficient economy. "Cheap imports destroy domestic industry" might be the headline, and perhaps just in time for "round two" where global trade seizes up...

The current situation requires them to live with a discipline that we in the US have completely forgotten, and it is just what is needed to face net energy declines. They have some current advantages that I hope are held onto, whatever happens.

Hello gang.

I will not get into the "philosophy" of this debate, I have been around this wheel all my life.

Everyone talks about "stuff" and wealth. No one talks about security and freedom.

Quick test:
1. Can you tell your boss "no" if he or she asks you to do something, and be able to survive with the consequences?
2. Can you change what you are doing without fear of being homeless, sick and starving?
3. Can you wake up in the morning feeling sick, and actually not HAVE to be somewhere?
4, If you are really sick, can you hope for some attention and assistance from someone?
5. Is there a spot on earth you can hang out with friends without paying a fee or buying something, which you have to do at restaurants and such just to have a space to be social?
6. At your level of existance, can you have hope of friends and or prospective mates?
7. Can you survive your climate in relative safety and maybe even comfort?
8. Do you live without real fear of hunger?

If you can answer yes to the above questions, you probably have enough. You also have much more than most of the humans on the planet.


Yes, access to quality affordable medical care. Of course that means living outside of the US since we have neither.


I do most heartily wish you were a nieghbor of mine.

Here is an example of needing more stuff in order to keep using the stuff we have:


Sometimes complexity breeds complexity (and using more stuff)...sometimes that is necessary...unless you can live with less stuff (or you like fouling your own nest).

First off you assume that we all like to keep up with the joneses, when that is not always the case.

I (humor here) don't know any joneses, so why would I want to keep up with someone I don't know.

But seriously, I have never balanced my life on what other people have had, learned early on that I could not get away with doing things that other people were doing in school or elsewhere, when I tried to use the excuse for doing something by what others were doing with my parents. They always taught that you don't care what other people are doing, you do what you want, for the reasons that you know what is right and good, and because you want to do them, not someone else's excuses for doing them.

I have found that in a recent newspaper article that I am one of those rare people in Arkansas that saves his water usage, and collects rainwater, and is very frugal with water use, in a state that is normally wet with water supplies. They were talking about the need to reduce water usage in the state because of the energy costs, and the costs on where they are going to have to go after more water if they don't slow the growth.

But the water issues aside, I also don't do many things like other people do in my neighborhood. There are too many green grass lawn (freaks) for my taste, I'd plant it all in edible plants and get it over with, but my dad doesn't want the front yard gone that route yet. I'd get rid of some of the city codes about that sort of thing if I were in power. But seeing all the problems with city and state government lately I really don't want to stir that pot anytime soon either.

What's enough?

Just having everyone with a little piece of land to call their own. Being able to pay the taxes on it, and being able to live off of it as best you can, without someone ranting about how many trees or gardens you have planted on it, or not on it. ( guess that makes me a bit of a hypocrite for ranting about all the lawn freaks around here).

Of course do we have a country where we could hand out bits of land like we once did ages ago? No, not unless you do a lot of juggling the laws and land issues that have cropped up in the last 50 to 100 years. It'd be nice if we could start fresh and try this all again with a bit more foresight, but that is just wishful thinking.

If I had the money to buy up failed farms, and failed properties, I'd try to do some of that re-juggling of land to people that are willing to use it for themselves and for their children, but just don't have the funds handy to do it all themselves right now.

All that aside, how much is enough for me is the only issue I can really speak on, as everyone else is another story, one that I can't really write without it being just another work of fiction.

I'd barely get by on my $8,600 a year. I'd be able to do it, I'd need to change a few things about our I live now, as I don't live as frugally as I could, if I were forced too do so. (right now I live with my parents and have the benifit of some of their income for expenses, but I'd use a lot less just living by myself here.)

But those changes would not be to much of a shock, as it is not like I am living that high on the hog as it is. Even with the changes coming in the weather, I figure I could still grow about 25% of my food on my little lot in town. I'd still go out food gathering.

I know that a few people on TOD have bare bones living arrangements, but not everyone lives like that. Some people as in a recent Yahoo news article said they couldn't live off anything less than several thousand dollars a month, even one claiming that 300,000 a year would be the lowest they'd want to go if they could have it. Guess that might strain the " what is enough " budget a bit.

What is enough, should be low impact on the environment around you, as we all have to live with any changes that do occur over time, as we are finding out these days in ways that most people wish had been viewed in a better caring manner in the past. Can't just trash the planet and expect it to bounce back trashing after trashing and still support us all without us doing more care and maintaince on the systems we have all taken for granted.

53 more years and I will be 100, and the world will be so much different in 5 years I might not know where I am if I were to fall asleep and wake up just 5 years in the future, let alone 25 or 50. Not going to be an easy road whatever happens, I am just glad I have enough to get by with right now. It might not be the case next year, or next month.

Thoughts from the edge of nowhere, hugs.

BioWebScape designs for a better fed and housed world.

Fear, the great motivator, is the tool that the architects of American society now use to sensitize optimal behavior among the American population. Most times, our government uses fear to advance its agenda.

Employers use fear to motivate and control the workforce. In the final analysis, it is fear that sells cars and big houses. This goes along with belonging to the highest social class one can manage; this is now generally perceived to maximize the future prospect for survival.

Buying the right car may lead to a mate that might advance continue propagation of your particular gene pool.

During the dark ages it was the fear of eternal damnation that motivated and controlled the populace.

Coming out of the depression, those that survived that trauma were loathed to spend their money because they were fearful of returning to the horror and the stigma of destitution; but no more.

The consumption economy requires profligate consumer spending to function well and it’s the old standby motivator: fear that still does the job.

You are being manipulated from all corners like a puppet on strings. Think about it.

The key question that Darwinian periodically brings up when people (including me) talk about slashing government jobs and eliminating many non-essential commercial and manufacturing jobs and services is:

What would all these previously employed people do? What would we do with a U6 40% unemployment rate, for example?

Do we de-automate our processes? Do we job-share and each person work a 20-hour workweek?

Do we all attempt to emulate the Amish lifestyle?

The real issue is that we can't just throw a switch and go from here to there at the drop of a hat...there would be enormous turmoil and suffering.

The conundrum is that few people will heed Cassandra and thus we will not take the opportunity to plan for as orderly a transition as possible over a span of years/decades.

Not happy with the statement that "All of us like to keep up with the Jones's."
I for one don't feel the need.

How about this?

Ask yourself, does my family and do I go to bed hungry? If the answer is, 'no,' ask, do we throw away food that has spoiled because we prepared too much? If the answer is yes, that is enough.

As the same question about clothing: Are we clean, and kept warm by our clothing? Do we have clothing that we do not wear?

And, about housing: Are we kept warm/cool and dry? Do we have sufficient space for basic needs? Do we have rooms that are seldom used (think a formal living room, only in use when teacher or preacher stops by)?

Do I earn enough to pay for necessary items, like food, clothing, shelter, education for my children, tools of my trade, etc.? That would be enough. Am I making so much that I spend money on frivolity? Do I make so much that I now worry about being taxed too high, or my investments failing? That would be too much. Do I want more from need, or from greed?

And, finally, again, introspectively consider your state of being, and whether it is sustainable. If so, take that final step and be satisfied.

Enjoy the finale... there won't be a replay.


China just passed Japan and now has the World's second-largest economy:


If their growth were to continue unabated at their current pace, China may eclipse the U.S. economy for the number one spot as early as 2030.

How much Chinese growth is enough?

I imagine the answer is not less than achieving the status of largest economy in the World.

We can't complain...our leaders for decades have been preaching the foreign policy of spreading the American way around the World (chasing the almighty World reserve currency unit) and building and having the most stuff.

I have my doubts that the World's sources and sinks are going to allow all this growth to come to pass though...

Приветствую всех жителей блога. Позвольте к вам присоединиться. Хорошего блога должно быть много, поэтому, народ, активнее .. Комментируем...

Welcome to all residents disk. Let you join. Good disk should be many, therefore, the people, more and more.. Comment on


Друга, что Вы пытаетесь сказать?

My family of 4 went to a small green(ish) festival this weekend. It was 70 miles and we drove there in our 5/7 seat car. The car is larger than we really need, (we rarely carry more than 5 people in it) so we loaded up the space we had with an extra small tent, and a few luxuries like pillows. We met my friends, a family of 4 who arrived by train and folding bikes, from 20 miles away. Their journey took longer than ours, and carrying their minimal kit and two tiny tents was a burden on the trains.

We offered to squeeze their luggage and tents into our car for the return trip, as we were driving close to their house on the way home. This we did - all their bags were old and tatty (not that they lack money) and we left them at their back door to await their return.

Unfortunately I failed to drop one bag which got lost in the piles of our own stuff. Now, one of us must make a round trip of 100 miles to return some low (monetary) value items of clothing or spend more than the bag is worth to have it posted back.

It will probably be a larger use of resources than the entire family consumed during their visit to the festival.

Sometimes it is hard not to consume.

'What is the value of solitude, peace and quiet, the ability to be free from overstimulation?' I wondered this morning as I walked to my favorite coffee spot with the intention of preparing to sell some refined version of myself to some new corporate overlord, as the noise of cars and trucks and buses reverberated through my cranium. No, I don't particularly care about making bank, nor climbing the corporate ladder, but for seeming lack of any other options, that is what I am doing. Or trying, anyway, admittedly half-heartedly.


Each new gadget, each new material fetish, comes with a price tag much larger than what the Apple Store (over-)charges you for it. The price is sanity, and now that we've (most) all bought into it, insanity appears sane and those who seek a simpler existence strike us as the strange ones. The idea that a more plugged-in life doesn't actually make you happier is somehow news. Well, maybe not to most TOD readers, but you know what I mean: look at the hyper-specialized, hyper-connected world we've built. We're living in the age of Information Overload, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Most of it is just noise, but we start to crave it when it becomes the only stimulation we get. The man without a BlackBerry is now some odd relic of an age gone by. Maybe this is why most of the corporate drones and overlords can't read the signs in the world around them. Looks like Jay Hanson had it right, the corporation has, like some kind of patchwork monster, grown beyond the control of those who created it. We serve it, it serves itself and doesn't particularly care if it isn't sustainable.

Forget keeping up with the Joneses. These days it's all about keeping up with the Jones-bots. And yes, we're going to need covers on ALL those TPS reports.

Looking for a way out? That's fine, the modern world can accommodate you. It needs its outsiders, its critics, and its oddball novelty simple living freaks to legitimize and replicate itself. Just look at those dirty hippies - wouldn't want to live like them, right?


I have noticed that buying something usually means buying several other things. It also gives you a reason to buy other stuff. You buy a car, then you need insurance, and also you want an air freshener because now you are suddenly transporting more everyone and the dog. It also gives responsibility. Suddenly you are opted in automatically to be a designated driver. That is what people need to factor in before they buy. The hidden charges, demands and responsibilities that come with purchases.
The demand to have fun on holiday at all times, so no cooking yourself, over-priced excursions and cheap tat so the people at home don't feel forgotten for instance.

I know very few people that "keep up wth the Joneses". What I do see are a lot of people getting large items on credit because then they can have it now. People buying stuff they need because other stuff needs it, or buying stuff because it was cheap and they like to hoard.

My personal experience is that the majority of the people I have been socializing with are quite reasonable when it comes to purchasing items. However, NONE are preparing in any way for the time of diminishing resources - most believe everything will be solved by the government in a way that will maintain BAU or nearly BAU. A very few can see it coming, but resign to a state of apathy.

There has also been a few who seems to be spending all their income on traveling, expensive cars and likewise. Most of them have been caught off-guard by the financial decline and are now dirt-poor. They still have their oversized house and expensive car, but everything else has been cut away - and it is just a matter of losing a job or a new decline or even a prolonged status quo and they are bankrupted. Unlike in the states, there are no jingle mail or "re-play" option here. If you fuck up - the only way back is paying the debts.

But i can see that the people who has lead a reasonable life within the means and paying off debts (or even saving up) as fast as possible are now in a very good position to scale up on housing and a few are doing it.

I have been one of the most extreme - living on 40m2 for the past 15 years with my wife with no vacations abroad. Now I am scaling up - having purchased a house - I mean, ruin in the country and are now renovating it completely myself. In that process I have purchased enough solarpanels to cover the entire roof and expect to produce enough electricity to cover my heating, rent and, of course, my electricity consumption.

Right now - Im speculating wether I should also invest in a battery park - so that i am not dependent on the electricity company in the winter - where I purchase the electricity that I sold during the summer, but it is very expensive and not very durable. I hope for better battery solutions to come in a hurry !!

I am going for the self-sufficient lifestyle with all the speed possible. I cannot see it being a bad disposition in any possible future scenario - in some scenarios it becomes irrelevant, but a liability it only becomes if things go so bad that my house gets destroyed or confiscated - in that case - i believe nothing really can do a difference to the good side. I do not consider a hole in the ground with 10 years of food storage a real option, but maybe I should reconsider...?

Therefore - I think it is useless to prepare for a complete collapse for normal people - since in those cases the enemy will be in the millions and you will be hopelessly outgunned or your wealth destroyed - crops ruined/stolen - house ruined/burned down.

If things go really wrong with a collapse in production and therefore forces a collapse in population - then I believe this scenario will play out during many years. With groups warring on each others continuously until a stability has been attained. This level is so low compared to the current level because of several reasons: We have an overshoot situation where the natural resources has been eroded - so it is not possible to maintain a pre-industrialized population size. Also large amount of the population are useless because of their illnesses and lack of knowledge to live as before.

But hiding in a hole until everybody up there has killed each others off - without discovering your hole seems to me to be unlikely to succeed in.

ᾧ ὀλίγον οὐχ ἱκανόν, ἀλλὰ τούτῳ γε οὐδὲν ἱκανόν.
Nothing satisfies the man who is not satisfied with a little. -- Epicurus

I want as much land as possible because I know I will take better care of it than 99% of other people out there and upon my death I would likely donate most of it to become a park.

Lots of interesting vewpoints.

Observation: Is there a paradox in that folks who advocate a simpler, sparser lifestyle appear to be in need of much communication - i.e. highly technical manuals on pastoral life, long and often bitter reparte from a self-describel rural recluse, very verbose descriptions of low-impact activities, etc.

Just sayin'...

Are you sayin that people like to toot their own horn?

Interesting. I just finished a 2 month kayak trip up the coast of BC. I like my technology -- cameras and the associated gadgets needed to operate them and deal with the images and videos. I am a technophile in this sense. I tried to live off the land as much as possible, eating fish and wild plants when I could. Mostly I ate dried package food I brought with me because I had to make good time and it would take too long to get the calories by living off the land. I charged most of my batteries with my solar panel, although I did have some problems with certain batteries.

I loved being in the wilderness, at times in COMPLETE isolation for a few days at a time, but I also really missed the internet. I consider the internet to be an essential part of modern life for functional people in this day and age. Without it, you have no force, no weight, you can be easily railroaded by those with power and who want your resources. Of course, you can also be swindled by the internet....

I tell you, every week or 2 when I came into a little place with a basic store with some dried and canned foods, wow holy cow do you appreciate that. And when I came back afterwards on the bus and stopped in the towns and went into a fully stocked grocery store ..... it was like a mirage.

Anyways, my point is that many who have no nature in their lives and long for it, tend to worship it, which I do to some extent, but I also realize that we are no longer creatures of the wild and can't be, we are way too wimpy physically and mentally. Europeans tend to worship our wilderness over here. But when you are stuck out there with no water, forced to go out on the seas in gale force winds in the hopes of finding water somewhere in an archipelago of small islands with no running water, in the middle of a major drought, or risk death by dehydration, well then you start to appreciate the conveniences of modern living.

I would often wonder, was my previous life in the city all just a mirage? How can all that abundance exist right over there on the other side of the water? What is real life? Is it the untouched nature we long for while in the safety of our pampered societies, or is it the pampered societies making the wilderness comfortable and removing us from thinking about the most basic necessities of life?

We need a better balance. We need more nature and wilderness close to cities and better parks systems.

`What difference does it make how much is laid away in a man`s safe or in his barns, how many head of stock he grazes or how much capital he puts out at interest, if he is always after what is another`s and only counts what he has yet to get, never what he has already ? You ask what is the proper limit to a man`s wealth ? First having what is essential, and second, having what is enough`. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca 4BC-AD65

And IMO enough is plenty.

Someone who, here in the U.S., did live on $100 a month (or less) for years, to make a point ...


The world we inhabit appears to be "suffering" from a disease. Some call it "The Big C", which is spreading like a wildfire, destroying the integrity of Earth, and threatening to irreversibly degrade its ecology in our time. But before human beings with feet of clay can do anything to sensibly change the current unsustainable circumstances to sustainable alternatives of a sustainable planetary home fit for future human habitation, we have to become willing to widely share an understanding of what ails humanity, I suppose.

A lot's been said on this thread and what are we to come away with? For one thing, I've learned that I have too much stuff. But now that I have that stuff, what am I supposed to do with it? The stuff exists, I have it, the damage is done. It wouldn't make sense to just put it in the trash, now would it?

I'm surprised that no one mentioned Freecycle in this thread. It's a network of people who give stuff away to keep stuff out of landfills. Check it out: Freecycle.org

Any time you can acquire something used instead of buying new, or give something away instead of trashing it, you are making a difference. I hold on to some of the stuff I have because I know that someday, someone will be able to use it, and then I can give it to them.

I am hindered by an immediate family who values consumerism, having stuff, having nice stuff, and having new stuff. Do I run for my life or stay engaged and try to make a difference? Just a couple weeks ago, my wife came home with a huge TV. I mean this thing makes the lights flicker when you turn it on. I don't need a huge TV. There's few things worth watching on a small TV. Does a big TV make the shows better? The only good thing is that her sister gave her the TV because she got a new one. But it'll make it harder to ignore the ghost hunter shows she likes.

That brings me to my last point: How do you get people to change? Some people will change through education or example when they realize that there's a better way. Most people though won't change until they're forced to, or when the reward for changing out weighs the cost of changing. People really aren't stupid, they do what seems to work for them. Despite the apparent differences of opinion on this thread, I'd say that for the most part, the participants are "preaching to the choir." So how do you get people to change - the ones that need to change (at least in our supposedly enlightened opinion)? The answer is, you don't. People have to make up their own mind. All some people need is a slight nudge, like increasing energy costs. Others will need a catastrophe of biblical proportions before they get it. And even then, some will be trying to find someone to blame.

While our participation in this thread allows us to compare notes, vent, and even debate, it's seems like just so much talk. On the other hand, I look at life as a series of many little choices, instead of few big choices. If the thread helps us make some better choices, that might be the best we can do. We could die at any time, after that we're pretty much irrelevant. Somehow the world will continue to muddle along.

No fault for missing it, but I did mention getting some great stuff from Freecycle up above. I've also given many things away with this service, too. I posed a couple questions about such stuff, and how it compares.

As far as TV.. I gave my 26" CRT away (on Freecycle) when we moved this summer, and we've considered getting something again.. just for the Occasional Movie Experience.. but my wife's job has a Projector which we currently will borrow, and I've made a big movie-screen from a few yards of Window-shade blackout Fabric.. which is about a 12' diagonal.. very fun for our rare DVD-nights! I'm looking forward to hooking up the Fancy Computer Speaker System with Surround and Subwoofers (also from Freecycle..), to let us bask in some deeply mythological rumbles.

Is it all 'just talk'? Maybe, but I don't think it's fruitless at all. Of course it will all be over sometime and so what.. but today, we're in a unique and unprecedented situation. I'd rather be discussing things like this, than be in some group where 'we don't talk about that' ... Talk gets a lot of dissing, since it's not concrete. Guns, it seems, get a lot more 'raw respect' than talking does, because we live in a time that respects hard things, and dismisses the intangibles as 'hollow' or 'valueless'..

"The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that knows the servant and has forgotten the gift." - Albert Einstein

Cool, Jokuhl

Nothing wrong with talking, but listening is better, (chuckle). I agree that we are in a unique point in history. It would have been interesting during the time of "peak greek" civilization or "peak roman" civilization. I think that we are in a similar situation right now. I've had similar discussions on a history forum that I belong to. I really doubt our ability to make that much of a difference. We can live responsibly, and try to have whatever infuence we can, but sadly, for the most part I think that we just have to try to enjoy the show.

Uuuh, I think, after reading nearly all 313 comments to date, my answer to the question is enough to meet basic needs, and to live in freedom with dignity.

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People have got to speak out loudly, clearly and often about what desperately needs to be said regarding whatsoever is occurring in our planetary home these days that no talking head, thought leader or opinion maker in the mass media is ready, willing or able to articulate. Much more needs to be said that is equitable, authentic, sustainable and real......and much less that is self-serving, clever, patently unsustainable and unnatural.

If experts keep willfully refusing to straightforwardly examine the scientific evidence of human population dynamics, and choose as alternatives to focus on other global challenges, the human community may end up, if lucky, winning some Pyrrhic victories. But in the long term the failure to acknowledge, address and overcome the proverbial “mother” of global threats, human overpopulation of the Earth, will cause the family of humanity to lose the struggle for survival, I believe, as well as precipitate the extirpation of global biodiversity; the wanton dissipation of Earth’s resources; and the irreversible degradation of its environs.