Friday, November 18, 2022

Environmental Book Club

I've been interested in minimalism for a number of years now. My understanding of minimalism is that, as Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus say at the The Minimalists , it "is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom."  I would say freedom to do things, because it is a tool that helps me to find time. Time that I'm not spending taking care of things, looking for things, shopping for things.

So you can see why I had a reason to snatch up Living Simply: A Teen Guide to Minimalism by Sally McGraw when I saw it on display at my favorite library. However, it seems to have little to do with the minimalism I've studied. It's much more about leading an environmentally sensitive lifestyle, which is certainly a worthy and legitimate subject. But I think that referring to this as minimalism is confusing.

In its advertising copy for the book, the publisher says, "Twenty-first-century minimalism is an increasingly mainstream response to global environmental crises such as climate change, the garbage glut, fast fashion, and other manifestations of the harmful impact of consumerism." I just don't know that that's the case. Minimalism is about individuals finding ways to do what they value with their lives. Consuming fewer things should, indeed, be a more environmentally sustainable way of life. But it's a side effect of minimalism. It's not the point.

Living Simply includes what might be described as sidebar types of material that includes suggestions for how to do specific environmentally sensitive activities such as shopping for secondhand clothes or interviews. Early in the book a fourteen-year-old minimalist is interviewed. He has very little to say about the environment. What he does say, though, is "It's really rewarding to just not have a lot of stuff. When you've got a whole bunch of useless stuff that you don't ever use, and it occupies the same space as you do, you almost feel like a prisoner." He's only been a practicing minimalist for a year, but he seems to have a good grasp of what it is and what it is doing for him.

While this book has a lot to say about how to live sustainably, I don't think it has a lot to say about minimalism. Losing the minimalism hook altogether and making this a teen guide to sustainable living would have been much clearer about the good things Living Simply has to offer.

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