In the mind’s eye of many people Japan is a land of tranquil Zen gardens, serene temples, and exquisite tea ceremonies. Both traditional and contemporary Japanese architecture, books and magazines are the envy of designers worldwide. Yet for some reason practically none of this mastery has been translated into digital products, in particular websites, most of which look like they hail from around 1998.
One of my ambitions in life is to design and build my own house. I am not strictly a designer or builder but I do have a very clear vision in mind of what I would like to create eventually. I think the first step towards this would be to start with something a little more manageable in scale and while researching the possibilities, a number of projects which make very clever use of small spaces caught my attention… Read more
A couple of weekends ago I attended DETOUR 2011, Hong Kong’s annual design, culture, and arts festival which was held at the former Police Married Quarters (PMQ / 前荷李活道已婚警察宿舍) on Hollywood Road in Sheung Wan. This year focused on the theme of “USELESS”, highlighting the impacts of irresponsible consumerism through a mix of exhibitions, performances, and forums. Read more
When I moved to China from London I took a large pay cut and left the majority of my worldly possessions behind me. It was of course my own decision but a year later I’m not missing any of it. Surprise surprise, wealth and material possessions make little or no impact on your happiness. This got me thinking about the way most of us live our lives, and in particular after watching the “Story of Stuff” which tells provides some chilling truths about the underside of our production and consumption patterns.
You might be surprised to learn that 99% of what we produce every day is thrown out within 6 months where it usually ends up in landfill, and in the past three decades, one-third of the planet’s natural resources base have been consumed. With China and India rapidly developing, turning new generations into mass consumers it’s clear that our current way of life is unsustainable.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in Shenzhen where people from around China come to get rich and spend their new found wealth on luxury clothes, cars and all manner of vice in sparkling high-end shopping malls bigger than it’s comfortable to imagine. While to get rich may be glorious for those whose parents grew up in very different circumstances it’s also destroying the world at an alarming rate and creating lifestyles which are going to be difficult to change. Most of the blame for this can be placed squarely on the doorstop of the US whose greed is unsurpassed and sadly still the envy of many.
For me I feel that a middle route is needed whereby we make efficient use of the resources we have left while developing new safe/renewable technologies to drive the future and to clean up the mess previous generations have left. This is going to require more modest lifestyles and a mind-shift in the way we behave and consume which is going to be hard for some to swallow but change doesn’t have to reduce quality of life. In fact I think quite the opposite could be true if we all made some simple choices:
- Buy less but buy good quality which will last longer and hence reduce the amount of waste produced. Buying cheap only perpetuates the cycle of replacement and poor conditions for factory workers.
- Recycle as much as you can and remember that your junk is another person’s treasure (i.e. you can sell or give stuff away).
- If you live in a city walk or take public transport. You’ll be getting fit while saving money and the environment.
- Wherever possible buy locally grown food and cook at home. It’s healthier and often cheaper than eating out or buying a ready meal.
- Work from home where possible. It reduces the pressure on public services, increases productivity and personal happiness.
- When purchasing electronics consider its energy efficiency, potential to be upgraded (as opposed to replaced) and recyclability.
- Avoid the temptations of special offers which only encourage more consumption and in reality save you little.
Whilst this thinking isn’t particularly revolutionary I don’t think we’re very good at articulating it so I’m going to coin a new word for this type of lifestyle: Comfotalism; defined as the middle path between consumerism, minimalism and environmentalism. This boils down to basically living a life more in balance with our natural environment without the need for composting toilets or any other hairy eco-warrior behavior! Free of the need to always buy bigger and better I truly believe people would be happier and less stressed – after all, for what other reason are you currently working yourself to death?
How would you fix the environment?
Not having the Christian background that the west has Christmas in China today is a mostly commercial affair aimed squarely at young people. Yesterday evening after work I went for a wander around my local shopping mall, the enormous “Coastal City”, and was amazing to see the number of people out and about enjoying the lights and blatant consumerism –
Although Christianity still generally frowned upon in China, there are an estimated 10 million baptised Christians (about 1 percent of the population) who celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas time and this number is steadily increasing.
Usually the mall is pretty quite quiet (most the shops are ridiculously expensive) but tonight things were buzzing. Most the restaurants were full and people were queuing up outside.
Classic Chinese dining with a festive twist! I’m not sure if many people knew the true meaning of Christmas but the children were certainly enjoying it and all the restaurants were doing great business.
Ice skating in a city which is usually 30°C+ – it seems that no self respecting mega-mall is complete around here without a skating arena. I’ve only tried it once before about 12 years ago when I was in France on an exchange trip and wasn’t very good!
It’s my first time away from home at Christmas and it feels quite weird not to be having the traditional Christmas lunch and sitting around the Christmas tree opening presents with all the family but it’s been nice to see at least a bit of festive spirit around Shenzhen even if it’s not quite the same. Merry Christmas to one and all!