July 2, 2018

Is Voluntary Simplicity The Moral And Ethical Thing To Do?

Of the 7.6 million child deaths (under-5s) in 2010, the vast majority occurred in just two regions.

Is voluntary simplicity an appropriate response to planetary and social crises? Is it the moral and ethical thing to do at a time when human economic activity is rapidly degrading the natural world?

Certain brands of hand bags can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The most expensive can cost millions. I'm not making that up, although it does seem unreal in a world where tens of thousands of children die every day as a direct result of a lack of basic necessities of life. 

Save lives, or buy a hand bag? Would not buying the bag create any kind of hardship? Is it beneficial for humanity for some to indulge in frivolous distractions while others are dying preventable deaths?

There are many benefits to living a low-impact lifestyle, but perhaps one of the most attractive is that it is a powerful moral response to the insanity found in the consumer world.

There is a statement that sums this all up, but has been used so much that it has become dangerously diluted for those living high consumption, me-oriented lifestyles. 

But I will repeat it here because it still means something to me, and surely must to many of the wonderful people that visit this blog.

"Live simply so that others may simply live."

Wasting money and resources on frivolous things, while people die as a result of not having the basics of life, is not only a brutal form of insanity, but also seems immoral and unethical when you really think about it. 

But how often do we think about it?

Voluntary simplicity is not just about saving the environment, or saving money, or saving your freedom. It is also about trying to do the right thing for struggling people everywhere.


  1. Anonymous7/03/2018

    I once asked a Buddhist monk who lived in a remote area what the point of his practice was, he said by being here and not doing anything this is what is important.
    I guess I now see his point. The more we grab and distort wealth the more others must have less as is the law of dialectics. Simple living with the important goal of liberation of all sentient beings and ecosystems is the way.
    Peace Alex

    1. Alex,

      I'm with you, and the monk. Liberation for all!

  2. Anonymous7/03/2018

    Hello Gregg,

    such an interesting question. It's one that I often pose to very religious students. Is it okay for us to have flash holidays and continually upgrade our 'stuff' each year while even one child goes hungry? The reason I ask these kids is that often their religion is used as a vehicle to judge people, but surely at the heart of religion should be deeper ethical questions about how we treat one another. If all people who claim to be religious really explored these questions and acted on their conscience I think we would be living in a very different world today. Of course I'm not blaming religious folk for the troubles of the planet! It's a responsibility for all of us. I am simply questioning students to open them to deeper thought about what living a 'good' life really means.


    PS I watched a TED talk yesterday called - This country isn't just carbon neutral - it's carbon negative. It's about Bhutan and really worth a look. The kings of Bhutan have clearly asked themselves the deeper questions.

    1. Madeleine,

      Unsurprisingly, we don't hear much about the good things going on in Bhutan, or any other places for that matter. In our system we are told that, "there is no alternative". There are many alternatives, but they threaten the domination of what we currently have. I am hopeful that eventually the alternatives will reign, because they just make more sense.

      Perhaps religions will change, too, and start to promote what is really at their core, which is the same for all of them. If a belief doesn't make the world a better place, why bother?

      Deeper thought is an awesome thing to promote among students... or anyone else.


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