Saturday, February 6, 2010

Less is More

In January 2010, the New Economics Foundation, an independent "think-to-do" tank, published a report entitled "Growth Isn't Possible." The report outlines the physical and environmental constraints to unlimited GDP growth. It poses the challenge to cultures: how to create good lives and flourishing societies that do not rely on infinite orthodox growth?

I vividly remember on the last day of Ecological Economics class with Professor Herman Daly. A classmate asked if he was pessimistic of humanity's ability to make the necessary changes. Professor Daly said he was pessimistic, but hopeful. The two should not be confused.

Living in Morocco presents a refreshing break from the clutch of limitless material desires. 1) I'm sheltered from much of the consumption crazed US $643 billion worldwide advertising industry. 2) My Peace Corps budget forces me to evaluate spending with increased scrutiny. I can't have good A and good B. I need to chose one. 3) I will have to give, ditch or ship any accumulated stuff. "Do I really need this? I have 9 months and counting...." 4) I live in 214 sq ft house. I value space. Having stuff is a burden, not a sense of joy. 4) The ladies, who have become my lifeline here, have been wearing the same jellabas, scarves, pajamas for over ten years. Not having anything new, isn't new.

The best part is- I don't think I've missed a beat. Peace Corps Morocco is a slice of life to the fullest.

I've dug my toes deep into Morocco's beaches.

And stopped to watch sunsets.

I've recreated my favorite American meals.

And shamelessly indulged in my favorite Moroccan dishes.

I've enjoyed nature's beauty in unexpected ways. Morocco is NOT all desert and camels!

My night trek is lit up by starlight.

I've come to absolutely bath time! I've scrubbed myself clean and exfoliated like never before in my
neighbor Fatima's private hammem. And I only use one bucket of water!

I spend 30 percent of my time in time either coloring with neighborhood girls or getting kisses from them.

I drank glass after glass of masous (bland aka sugarless) mint green tea because the ladies know that's the way I prefer my tea.

I delight when finding unexpected space with skinny-hipped people, 6 passengers to a grand taxi.

I've fallen in love with olives and fresh squeezed olive oil.

I generally eat seasonally and locally... and love it.

I've learned some new things. (Photo of me learning how to make jellaba beads.)

I've taught people some new things. (1st Photo: teaching persuasive writing in Agadir. 2nd Photo: new jellaba necklace design with Amina Yabis. 3rd Photo: our new crocheted bangles.)

I've jammed out to Moroccan music with my Program Manager and Assistant!

I've enjoyed the company of my fellow PCVs.

I've enjoyed countless hours with the ladies of the Association.

And I've seen them reach new milestones. (Photo of our beautiful and growing collection of crocheted accessories.)

Having more doesn't make me happier. Can we outgrow the notion that GDP growth is golden? What about gross national happiness? What is your happy planet index? What can make your happiness higher? Most importantly, how much consumption of how many people can mother Earth sustain? It seems that nothing short of a fundamental transformation in how we live our lives will be sufficient.

In 2006, 10 friends in San Francisco opted out of the retail rat race. They formed "the Compact," pledging not to buy anything in that year aside from food, health and safety items and underwear. It has become a growing cultural movement. I can see why. Less is more.

** Annie Leonard's 20-minute film, "the Story of Stuff," wonderfully summarizes the realities our consumption-driven culture.

1 comment:

B said...

oh, Joy ~ this post makes me so happy. Thank you!