The Simplicity of Sustainability

What if we devised the mechanisms that would provide those with modest means a chance to earn equity, and pave the path to home ownership and entrepreneurial enterprises? 

Let me start with the assertion that the people and societies who exhibit the most happiness and contentment are those whose lives involve the least complexity and the stress that goes along with it. 

Based on almost everything I have read or viewed over the years, as well as a lifetime of personal observations, I am convinced that true quality of life goes hand in hand with one’s proximity to, and relationship with, the natural world.

Time after time, studies show that health and general wellbeing, not to mention greater life expectancy, are traits common to those who live sustainably, self-sufficiently and close to nature. Few would dispute the benefits of growing at least some of your own food, for example, and of living with naturally clean air and water, of having less congestion, noise and pollution, and less dependency on mechanized transportation.


Each of us is entitled to our own metrics for determining what “quality of life” means. But measuring yours by the number of driving minutes needed to reach the source of your morning “almond double latte” or the various fast-food outlets available in your quest for the easiest family dinner on your commute after work, are indicators that you might want to reconsider. 

Sustainability can be described as intergenerational prosperity—that is, the outcome of ecological accountability. It requires that we interact with the natural environment with integrity. This means that we honor and respect all of the resources that bless us with abundance, and that we recognize that the world does not exist for our benefit alone. It also implies a certain frugality; that surplus production should represent the opportunity to establish savings, not just increased consumption.

One undeniable outcome from the recent pandemic is that many people who previously toiled in office settings and similar situations have discovered that they can simplify their lives by working from home. Imagine that your travel to work and back home each day took two hours round trip, five days a week. 

What would it be like to spend those 10 hours in your garden or orchard, or playing with your children and pets? Could you use those hours for more exercise, reading or hobbies? What if you could devote a portion of those hours to volunteering to help others? What could you do with the dollars you saved on fuel costs, maintenance and so on?

I am in complete support of the national initiatives to rebuild our highways and bridges, upgrade the country’s electrical grid, and make desperately needed improvements to our water supplies and public transportation systems. But I would like to make a radical suggestion: What if we also committed some of those resources to creating a platform that would encourage a return to rural living in America—a return to the land, so to speak, for those who want it?

What if we established programs that would underwrite local projects to revitalize communities and reclaim deserted storefronts, residential properties and small-scale farmsteads, making it possible for individuals and like-minded neighbors to conduct their lives at a gentler pace and on a scale that is less frantic and stressful? What if we devised the mechanisms that would provide those with modest means a chance to earn equity, and pave the path to home ownership and entrepreneurial enterprises?   

I ask simply, why not?