film simple living

A Simpler Way – the documentary

A couple of years ago I read and reviewed Samuel Alexander’s book Entropia, a work of speculative fiction about a utopian sustainable society. At the end of the book, Alexander added an invitation – if anyone wanted to help set up a little eco-village and try out some of the book’s ideas, they should get in touch. Remarkably, people did. With a handful of volunteers and access to a plot of land, the Wurruk’an community was formed.

They would live by permaculture principles, use natural building techniques, and try to live and demonstrate a simpler way of life over the course of a year. Would the book’s ideals work in practice? Or would it turn out to be a fantasy? There has to be an alternative to unsustainable and inequitable consumerism. Perhaps, as the film’s narrator says, “we just need to live it into existence”.

For the benefit of the rest of us, the experiment has been documented, and this is the resulting film. You can view it below, or find out more about it from the Simplicity Collective if you’re interested.

PS – for the reader, who shall remain nameless, who objects any time I mention Sam Alexander – if you know you won’t like the film, don’t watch it.

15 comments

  1. How lovely and self sustainable, until one of them has a bad accident or falls dangerously ill. Then they will mooch off the medical care and knowledge our unfair and unsustainable world produces.

          1. The point is that little self selecting communities, especially time limited ones are utterly unrepresentative of anything that could work in the wider world. Self sufficiency communities showed nothing of use and failed or changed and this film is nothing but a pleasure trip away from the real world by a very unrepresentative group. Very nice for them but tells us no more than reanactors who live for a year in a bronze age village.

          2. I agree that we already know that self-sufficiency communities didn’t successfully demonstrate an alternative. But this is a one year experiment to see if people can create a good life for themselves in a much simpler lifestyle. Do we need all the trappings of consumerism to be happy?
            It’s a more modest and honest endeavour than you’re implying.

  2. Hope you don’t mind me jumping in, having read the post via seekpeaceadmin2’s blog.

    In response to the Devonchap and Jeremy discussion above, I, for one, am interested in what makes alternative communities (self-sustaining or otherwise) fail or work. Better to be open to new social models, as the current one is very much in crisis. Yes, it is good to learn from history, but there are incredible community successes in addition to those that floundered. An analysis of the factors involved would make for interesting research.

    Thank you for sharing this Jeremy, look forward to watching the video and will add Entropia to my reading.

    1. I think the role of these alternative communities isn’t to invite people to replicate what they do, but see what’s possible. If they can live that simply, then I can do without a 4K television, or whatever it was we found ourselves considering. If they can grow all their food, maybe I can manage an allotment.

      In the same way that Usain Bolt isn’t going to inspire me to go out and train for the Olympics, but he might inspire me to go running more often.

      If you take that view, then there are thousands of people and projects to draw ideas from all over the world.

      1. I agree with that; replication isn’t their role, and also it is impractical due to environmental differences, local context and group dynamics. However, do we have time to continue experimenting?
        Permaculture, for example, doesn’t offer a blueprint of ‘what you must do’ that is replicable, but rather a set of design principles which can be used as a guide for successful regenerative edible gardening and reduced impact living. It’s highly practical, can be as large or small scale as the situation demands, but does provide the individual or community with something they can go away with and implement in their idiosyncratic way – like as you said – inspired, but with a means to put their thinking into action. Similarly, participatory budgeting in Porto Alegre has been particularly positive, but in other cities, has less engagement. Those involved in the early days, said after the first year, they needed to organise more efficiently – how they did that would help another intentional community who wanted to do something similar, but lacked the skills and experience to do so.
        To use your analogy – I’m inspired to go running because of Usain Bolt – but I’d look to someone with more knowledge and experience than me to help me to improve my times, go a bit further, help me with my hamstring problems. I’d be interested in a collation of experiences and stories that arise from the thousands, so that as we transition, we’re a little less naive.

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