If you think about the basics of what people need to survive and be happy it starts with essentials like food, water and shelter and gets even better with some healthcare, fun and a sense of community and belonging.
Despite people having a fairly short and simple list of basic needs, modern society makes life surprisingly complicated. Particularly when it comes to housing.
One could argue that this is inevitable when space to build homes is finite and the global population continues to grow but there’s more to it than that. Houses are considered assets and therefore people speculate on their value and this pushes the prices up for everyone. Sometimes also causing financial crashes when over-extended buyers suddenly can’t afford to keep their homes and wealthy speculators can buy up properties at knock-down prices.
In a capitalist system this may perhaps be unavoidable but one of the many problems this pattern causes is that it means many people are not free to invest their time in the ways they see as most regenerative and fruitful because they are under financial pressure to pay for their homes.
Rental payments, saving up a deposit, mortgage payments…. this can become people’s’ life’s work without it ever truly being their passion or interest. Just a necessity that has gotten out of hand. Fundamentally, there is a lack of supply in low cost, environmentally regenerative and attractive homes.
The wider implication of this situation is that a culture of short term thinking is created – aimed at paying off costs rather than building regenerative communities, cultures and connection.
We know that the earth is being destroyed so that people can extract profit. Collectively, this is being done by the majority of people in a fairly unintentional way as they work for companies in order to pay for their lifestyles… lifestyles that are, in turn, shaped by the process of having profit extracted from them by the companies they work for. A vicious cycle that is ultimately unsustainable and highly destructive for all.
The tedium of a life spent paying off debts and the fact that, for some, home ownership simply feels impossible means that there is fertile ground for growing interest in alternative ways of living and thinking about homes.
Building home’s in harmony with nature out of natural materials such as the inspirational cobb houses in developments at sites such as Lammas in Wales – where planning laws have been set up to encourage eco builds. Earthships constructed out of old bottles and earth in experimental communities around the world. The Tiny House movement radically rethinking how much space we actually need. Meanwhile around the world there is the popular hashtag #vanlife being used to share beautiful examples of how to live simply in vans, motorhomes and converted vehicles to travel the world and not be bound by expensive house payments. Boats, too, deserve an honourable mention. For example, based on my own experience, in London you can feel like you are part of a floating village when you buy a boat and start to travel around and live on the city’s canals.
Our culture’s collective pursuit of profits has not all been bad too, it has also led to some incredible innovation and products. Some of these can, in turn, be used to create innovative and productive solutions to the problems we are now facing. High quality solar panels, low energy kitchen appliances and ways to stay connected to the world without ever needing to be plugged into the grid are prime examples of how the fruits of our capitalist system can be used to imagine a new kind of world.
Perhaps eventually we may even be able to apply the same principles of pursuing productivity and growth that have created the problems in our capitalist society and harness them differently to create an equally powerful shift towards regenerative cultural practice for the future. Imagine a FTSE looking at the growth of community gardens or productivity gurus focused on building effective communities.
Once people are less bound by the pressures of paying for where they live they can start to think about what truly matters to them. When they don’t need to try and maximise profit in their work they can look for what they find rewarding or they think is important.
This is not an attempt to romanticise nomadic and eco-homes. Although if you check them out on Instagram they do often look pretty damn romantic! This is an application of permaculture principles such as “creatively use and respond to change” to think about the opportunities that our “housing crisis” may also present.
More people living in affordable eco homes and nomadic homes could help lead to people living more healthy, happy and environmentally regenerative lives. People building communities, connections and sharing new information. A cultural shift to a future of earth care, people care and fair sharing for all.
This opinion piece is posted in the hope of sparking conversation, sharing of resources and ideas and developing more projects to bring about the kind of future our people and planet need. So please do share any questions or suggestions in the comments section below.