Throwback: Henry David Thoreau on Small Living
Recently, I wrote an article for another website (full disclosure: I decided to stop writing for this website) called, "What's the Deal with Big Green Homes?" The article lead to some good comments and discussion, but I've been nagged by some thoughts that were in the comments. Two of the homes that were discussed in the article were very green by almost all green measures except that of size: one was 4,700+ sf and the other 6,000+ sf. I readily admit the superior green amenities and features of each home, but here's a portion of my argument:
Think about all the materials that went into such a behemoth. In many ways, big a** homes represent the unsustainability of gross commercialization and over-consumption. Good old fashioned American waste. If you're the Cheaper by the Dozen family, a big house might be necessary. Otherwise, big does not equal green.
One of the entrepreneurs of this green website disagreed stating, "if it's Green, go as Big as you can and want." I don't understand this line of thinking because for this to be logical, a green home would have to have absolutely zero impact. But there's always an impact, even if it's managed or negligible or offset or balanced. There's always an impact, even if it's the impact of taking something that could go to someone else.
And then I decided to pick up Henry David Thoreau's "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For." It was a breath of fresh air. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom that apply to this situation regarding unbridled consumption and the modern equivalent of "keeping up with the Jones."
- If there is not a new man, how can the new clothes be made to fit?
- While civilization has been improving our houses, it has not
equally improved the men who are to inhabit them. It has created
palaces, but it was not so easy to create noblemen and kings.
- As long as possible live free and uncommitted. It makes but little difference whether you are committed to a farm or the county jail (speaking with respect to people that can't afford the homes they live in and that work their entire lives trying to pay them off successfully or unsuccessfully).
I finished the book thinking that the people who deserve the biggest houses probably have the smallest houses. It's good to live lightly.