Sunday, 1 January 2017

Living without technology for a year

Some three years ago, Mark Boyle hit the headlines:
Mark Boyle: How I lived by spending nothing for two years - Telegraph

His books are inspirational and have became bestsellers:
The Moneyless Manifesto | Mark Boyle

Which has elicited some comment:

Mark Ira McMillan ·
"Click here to buy The Moneyless Man"
LikeReply2Mar 29, 2016 11:38pm
Chris Yates ·
i think he uses the money to buy land and help set up a monelyess area for people to grow food and have a gifting pay it forward economy. Mark doesnt spend the money on himself. he goes over his money decisions in his first book but feels it is for the greater good. i feel mark is a genuine person
LikeReply1Sep 21, 2016 7:41am

Mark Boyle's Books Changed My Life

Which is part of the 'gift-economy':

Futures Forum: Sharing economy or gift economy?

This blog has also done a piece on Mark Boyle:

Futures Forum: How I lived by spending nothing for two years

Just before Christmas, he took a further step:

No fridge, no TV: send your questions to the writer ditching technology | Sarah Marsh | Opinion | The Guardian

Technology destroys people and places. I’m rejecting it 

Monday 19 December 2016 

From Wednesday, I’m going to live without my laptop, internet, phone, washing machine or television. I want my life back. I want my soul back

Mark Boyle: ‘Technology separates us from nature, while simultaneously converting life into the cash that oils consumerist society.’ Photograph: Sam Frost

I’ll never know how many people liked this article, shared it or found it irrelevant, anti-progressive or ironic. Nor will I get to read comments about my personal hygiene, or suggesting that a luddite like me needs to embrace industrialism. And that is no bad thing, for the moment writing becomes a popularity contest – rewarding sensationalism, groupthink and deceit over honest exploration of complex matters – people and places lose, and those who need to be held to account win. Win, that is, for a shortsighted moment.
The reason I won’t see any web reaction is because I live in a cabin – built with spruce, oak, hands, straw, Douglas fir, stubbornness, earth and knees – without electricity or so-called modern conveniences (I’ve never found doing the work to buy and maintain them particularly convenient).
From Wednesday, I’m rejecting the world of complex technology entirely. That means no laptop, no internet, no phone, no washing machine, no tapped water, no gas, no fridge, no television or electronic music; no anything requiring the copper-mining, oil-rigging, plastics-manufacturing essential to the production of a single toaster or solar photovoltaic system.
Having already rejected these industrial-scale, complex technologies, I intend to move fully towards what is pejoratively called primitive technology. Insofar as engaging with civilisation allows, I’m also trying to resist the modern domination of what Jay Griffiths, in Pip Pip, calls clock time – and failing daily.
That probably sounds like I’ve given up a lot of stuff. But while I intend to be clear and honest about the difficulties involved over the coming months, especially in the digital age, I’m just as fascinated in exploring what lessons about life – myself, society, the natural world – I might learn; perhaps things my cyborg-mind cannot yet imagine. That was my experience of living without money for three fine years.
Rejecting technologies that my generation considers to be the basic necessities of life wasn’t done on a thoughtless whim. I already miss not being able to pick up the phone and talk to my parents. Writing is different, my pencil unaided by both copy-and-paste and the easy delete, two word-processing functions reflective of a generic, transient and whimsical culture; and it has been a while since the media and publishing worlds worked by snail mail.
I decided to eschew complex technology for two reasons. The first was that I found myself happier away from screens and the relentless communication they generate, and instead living intimately with my locale. The second, more important, was the realisation that technology destroys, in more ways than one.
It destroys our relationship with the natural world. It first separates us from nature, while simultaneously converting life into the cash that oils consumerist society. Not only does it enable us to destroy habitat efficiently, over time this separation has led us to valuing the natural world less, meaning we protect and care for it less. By way of this vicious technological cycle, we are consciously causing the sixth mass extinction of species.

Technology destroys places. Aside from the oceans, rivers, topsoil, forests, mountains and meadows, it helps us massacre and pollute with ever-improving precision and speed, its complex set of cogs quickly spreads us out all over the world, safe in the knowledge that we can stay in touch with loved ones via technologies that offer what is really only a toxic substitute for real connection and time together. It is badly injuring, perhaps fatally, rural communities, luring their youth into industrial and financial centres – cities – whose existence is premised, as the American writer and environmentalist Wendell Berry said, on the devastation of some other far-flung place, which consumers don’t have to look at thanks to the out-of-sight, out-of-mind distance afforded by technology.
When I walk to the spring to collect water in the morning I meet neighbours and we talk. Yes, it takes time, something I found frustrating at first, but slowness only became a bad thing when time became money. Walking four miles to the post office to send my letters takes time too, but it ties me to people and place in a way that sitting in my bedroom on my own, writing endless emails, could never do.
Technology destroys people. We’re already cyborgs (pacemakers, hearing aids) of a sort, and are well on our way to the type of Big Brother dystopia of the techno-utopians. And look at the state of us. Our toxic, sedentary lifestyles are causing industrial-scale afflictions of cancer, mental illness, obesity, heart disease, auto-immune disorders and food intolerances, along with those slow killers, loneliness, clock-watching and meaninglessness. We seem to spend more time watching porn than we do making love, relationships are breaking down because we stare into screens instead of eyes, while social media are making us antisocial.
Living without complex technology has its own difficulties, especially for people like me who were never initiated into those ways. But already I much prefer it. Instead of making a living to pay bills, I make living my life. Contrary to expectation, my biggest issue is not being bored, but how to do all the things I’d love to do. Of course hand-washing your clothes can be a pain sometimes, but that minor inconvenience is hardly worth destroying the natural world over.
Well-intentioned friends often try to convince me to go off-grid, but in using batteries, electrical cables and photovoltaic panels (as I once did), I would still be connected, by a peculiar sort of invisible cable, to the global network of quarries, factories, courtrooms, mines, financial institutions, bureaucracies, armies, transport networks and workers needed to produce such things. They also ask me to stay on social media to speak out about the technology issue, but I say I’m denouncing complex technology simply by renouncing it. My culture made a Faustian pact, on my behalf, with those devilish tyrants Speed, Numbers, Homogeneity, Efficiency and Schedules, and now I’m telling the devil I want my soul back.

My life has its fair share of irony, and it can look hypocritical. Despite originally writing these words (a technology) with a pencil (a technology) in a hand-crafted cabin (a technology), the irony of this being an online blog is not lost on me. That is my compromise for now, for if you want to contribute to a healthier society, compromise can be a healthy thing if you know your boundaries. Being a hypocrite is always my highest ideal, as it means I’ve set higher standards for myself to strive for than I’m achieving at any one moment.
We know that, at the very least, some technologies are harming our natural world, our societies and, ultimately, ourselves. Therefore we can recognise the need to reject some technologies. If we’re to avoid technological extremism we’re going to have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. I’ve drawn mine, and I will only move it in the direction of my home.
 Get in touch with Mark here or in the comments below, a selection of which will be posted to him
Technology destroys people and places. I’m rejecting it | Mark Boyle | Opinion | The Guardian

And here's a piece from 2010:

How to build sustainable homes without spending a penny

From Earthships to underground houses, The Moneyless Man says building low-impact housing for free is theoretically possible

Sustainable and stylish: Moneyless Man says it's possible to build for free. Photograph: Simon Dale/Lammas

Access to land is one of the key obstacles in our path towards true sustainability, and without a radical shift in land policies, a moneyless society will remain what it is today – a philosophical one.
But if you do want to become communally-sufficient and moneyless, you'll first need access to a piece of land. While this is not a problem in the Hammersmith of William Morris's News from Nowhere or Thomas More's Utopia, within today's society it usually means the land needs to be bought, even if just as a one-off payment to free a piece of enslaved land from the wage economy. But there are exceptions.
In the 1950s, Vinoba Bhave set up a huge movement called Bhoodan (meaning land-gift) in India, to which ordinary landowners donated 5m acres – an area the size of Wales – to be put back into common ownership so that peasants could live and farm on it. While western culture makes such a movement unlikely, it's never impossible. For example, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Landshare projectmatches those who have land but need help with it with those who can help but have no access to land. And it's growing rapidly.
So it is obviously difficult, if not impossible, to currently talk about building a home for free. There are huge issues concerning planning permission and council tax. For planning, campaigner Simon Fairlie's Chapter 7 has tons of great free advice, and eco building organisations such as Lammas are a huge source of inspiration. For council tax, work activists such as John Harris and Lawful Rebellion provide a fascinating resource to draw on. Council tax is effectively a tax on being alive – many countries, such as Ireland, use other more equitable systems.
Next, you can then think about building your own low-impact dwelling. Theoretically, this can be done for free using human labour and local materials – like the old thatch, stone and wood cottages of pre-industrialised times – or by utilising the masses of stuff we've already produced. Here is a short selection of the many options open to you, some of which can be built without costing any money:
Earthships: The brainchild of Michael Reynolds, these are a type of passive solar home, made from recycled and natural local materials. Earthships can be self-sufficient in food, water and energy. They incorporate fantastic design – glass bottles are even used to create stunning lighting effects – making them visually beautiful to boot.
Underground houses: Subterranean homes maximise space in small areas, the excavated materials can be used in the building and they are wind-, fire- and earthquake-resistant. One of the greatest benefits of underground homes is their energy efficiency, as the mass of soil or rock (the geothermal mass) surrounding the house stores heat and insulates the house, keeping it warm in winter and cool in the summer.
Roundhouses: Circular houses, with a frame of wooden posts covered by wattle-and-daub or cordwood panels finished with cob. Their conical roofs are usually either thatched or have a reciprocal frame green roof.
Straw bale homes: Houses built using straw bales to form the walls of the building. In the UK, the bales can be made of wheat, rye or oat straw. They are also naturally well insulated.
Of course, doing all this completely for free is fairly unrealistic today. But even if you choose the relatively upmarket Earthship on a few acres, it at least means you will only have to spend a fraction of your time in the money economy paying the bank back money.
Ultimately, I believe it is a fundamental human right for every person to have the opportunity to live without money if that is their belief, as stated under Article 9: Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion of The European Convention on Human Rights. That's why I will soon be campaigning with the Freeconomy Community for the right to live moneyless, allowing people to choose to pay their taxes and National insurance contributions from tithes and labour, or whatever alternative legal tender the government decides to offer. Watch this space.
 Mark Boyle is the founder of the Freeconomy Community and has lived moneyless for the last 19 months. His book, The Moneyless Man, is out now, published by Oneworld – sales from the book will go to a charitable trust for the Freeconomy Community. This is the last in the Guardian's Moneyless Man series

How to build sustainable homes without spending a penny | Environment | The Guardian

See also:
Futures Forum: On the Transition: "Future Primitive"
Futures Forum: Shed of the Year: The Allotment Roof Shed
Futures Forum: Going off-grid

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