Wednesday, February 27, 2008

McKibben on Simplicity

From Bill McKibben's excellent book The Age of Missing Information:

"We've now, as a species, lived through extremes. We know that people will flee from backbreaking labour at the first chance. But we might be starting to sense that the total abandonment of skilled and careful labor, the utter emancipation offered by light bulbs and machines, can be just as alienating, quite aside from their environmental dangers. And perhaps we're starting to sense something deeply human in a life less engaged with the world of consumption and growth and comfort offered by television, and more engaged with the the world of balance and pleasure and simplicity suggested by the natural world. You don't need to live in the country to understand these kinds of changes. City dwellers and suburbanites can continue to drive everywhere, hoping that the ever-progressing society will deliver hydrogen cars or solar cars or whatever other kinds of cars soon enough to save the atmosphere. Or they can begin to use existing technology—the bicycle, for instance. It's every bit as technological as an electric car, and as significant minority of people have discovered, it's endlessly more elegant. On a bicycle you see the world around you—you notice hills that a car obliterates; you see neighborhoods at a pace that makes them real, not a blur. You save gas, of course, but you also hear your body again. TV can't appreciate this kind of elegance—on TV, you'd buy an Infiniti and drive it quickly to Jack LaLanne, where you can pay someone to let you sit on a stationary bicycle and pump away."

Tonight's music is "Quiet Town" by Josh Rouse.


ras said...

As a daily bike commuter this passage resonates. Its funny becuase riding a bike is both easy and fun and yet people are amazed that I ride in winter. Its hardly a chore if at all.

lawless said...

I'm reading Deep Economy by McKibben currently. I'm going to have to check out more of his work. I like the simplicity which he suggests for complex problems. Mostly by bringing life back down to a human scale.

Malcolm Johnson said...

ras: i figured you'd like that one. some of my friends in TO are serious bike commuters. they blow right by all the traffic on queen st. interesting how the car is actually an inferior technology in a lot of situations.

lawless: ya, i've really been enjoying his writing. the book i quoted from there is from 1990. seems his thinking is always ahead of the curve.