What is your ultimate dream? Own a V8? Win the lottery? Travel the world? Or maybe to buy a huge home with a swimming pool?
In modern Australian society, we often think that 'bigger is better', but do these dreams really deliver all that they promise?
With its consumerist mindset, humanity is currently living a lifestyle that would take 1.5 earths to sustain, and this footprint is growing. The world is financially in debt over $60 quadrillion USD, with Australia owing $1.6 quadrillion USD. Families are breaking apart at the seams, struggling to pay off spacious houses. With the private car as the norm, road travel in Australia contributes over 46,000 Gigagrams of CO2 to global carbon emissions each year, which is about 15% of our global emissions, and can cost motorists from about $6,000 to $13,000 annually.
Why are we kidding ourselves?
Our dreams of 'freedom' can end up being our greatest slave-drivers, chaining us to the drudgery of years of compulsory work to meet mounting repayments, in a world that is being choked by pollution, further decreasing quality of life.
We try to impress others by being able to offer the latest gadgets for entertainment when we open our homes, but we are really flaunting borrowed wealth, and cannot afford the leisure time to truly enjoy what we have accumulated.
There is, however, a different tune playing against the noise, a flicker of hope igniting the imagination of the open-minded. What if we were to flip the great Australian dream on its head?
Changing the rules of the game
There is a new dream trending, which I would like to call 'smaller is smarter' or 'synergy is survival'. Free thinking people are trading their large homes for tiny houses and their cars for bicycles. Families are rediscovering the skills of 'homesteading' and taking back the manufacturing process of home products.
Groups of volunteers are gathering to plant their own food and form small, cooperative communities that value teamwork and community above independence and isolation. Mothers and fathers are reclaiming the education of their own children and modelling new (but previously universal) ways of learning together through daily life, potentially saving thousands of dollars every year in school fees.
What if we were to change the way we vied for social standing? For example (to poke fun at some classic stereotypes), guys could challenge each other to clock up the most kilometres cycled that week, and girls could admire each other's thrifty op-shop outfits. We could compete with our neighbours for the smallest carbon footprint on the block, and make it our goal to share as many of our possessions as possible to eliminate clutter around the house.
However, we can't do it alone. Small living works best in a sharing community, removing the need for each of us to have one of everything just for ourselves. In the book of Acts chapter 2, verse 44–47, the early Christians shared their belongings as if nothing belonged to anyone in particular, and they pooled their financial resources so that no one went without.
They all spent time together, eating and doing life together, and the joy of this generous lifestyle overflowed beyond their immediate group to others, who then wanted to join in!
The challenge is out there, and you might be surprised how much fun it really is to downsize your lifestyle and join the sharing movement.
'Better to have one handful with quietness than two handfuls with hard work and chasing the wind.' Ecclesiastes chapter 4, verse 6.
Rosanne Menacho has a keen interest in sustainable and healthy living, and enjoys learning new languages. She is studying a Masters of Interpreting and Translation at Monash University and is loving every minute of it. Rosanne lives with her husband and Staffordshire terrier in the outer south-east of Melbourne, Australia.
Rosanne Menacho's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/rosanne-menacho.html