Global Living

Earth Day 2008

Image by Ashish Lohorung Rai via Flickr

Jim Merkel defines global living in his book, Radical Simplicity, as “an equitable and harmonious lifestyle among not only the entire human population, but also among the estimated 7-25 million other species¹, and the countless unborn generations. When one practices global living, each of our daily actions improves the health of the whole — locally and globally.”

Global living is a new paradigm, one that represents a significant departure from what the average American is used to. It means living with less stuff, using fewer resources, and redirecting time and energy toward living closer to the Earth, instead of making money and acquiring things. It’s a concept which challenges us to look beyond our everyday lives, see ourselves as parts of a greater whole, and direct our lives accordingly.

“Global living doesn’t attempt to impose limits on others. It doesn’t necessarily advise one to escape to the country or move into compact urban cubicles. It seeks to inspire our creativity, our ability to see that there are infinite satisfying lifestyle packages compatible with living on a finite, equitable share of nature. Global living seeks to give you the tools to be the architect.”

These days, the idea of global living might seem more realistic in theory than in actual practice. American society teaches us to grow up, earn a college degree, get a corporate job, and buy a house in the suburbs. Anything less is sub-par. We’re taught to always be reaching higher, achieving more, and when we don’t live up to those standards, we feel like failures.

Changing beliefs and behavior patterns learned from early childhood and held over the course of a lifetime can be difficult to say the least. There are psychological hurdles to overcome by the dozen. Small, incremental changes that don’t affect outward appearances are acceptable. Doing the simple things are no big deal; things like recycling, eating locally-grown organic food, and reducing utility bills. But bigger changes have to be explained to family and friends, justified, and in some cases, defended. Sometimes it’s easier to just maintain the status quo and avoid rocking the boat.

Global living might seem emotionally burdensome, psychologically overwhelming, and complicated. It seemed that way to us when we started on this journey. We didn’t implement a concrete plan. We didn’t plot out specific steps to reach our goals. We didn’t really have specific goals. We had general, vague notions of what we wanted our future to look like. We took a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach to undoing our past choices while, at the same time, re-creating our future.

Establishing our own version of global living, what we wanted out of life, and what we were willing to give in return, was a process that took years to complete.

It truly is personal, you have to forge your own path. Anybody that tells you it’s easy hasn’t done it. But it’s worth it.

Read Chapter One of Radical Simplicity here.

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  1. Good post. I don’t always frame it in global terms (I’m an old “the personal is political” person from the 1960s) but I’m doing some writing about simplicity myself on the desirability of three things:

    1) small living space
    2) close proximity to destinations
    3) as little stuff in the house as possible to maintain

    I found your blog through the “environment” tag, and I’ll read your posts as they arrive.

    Take care, and keep writing!

  2. Love this post, will check out the book! Thanks for the idea.


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