Let’s stop equating conservation with deprivation

My experiences living in Tokyo / traveling around Japan in the 1990s, traveling around the UK in the 1980s and a bit of continental Europe, were incredibly mind-expanding and life-changing to me.

I admire how so many of the people I met in other countries are so mindful in their use of resources. And live joyfully and luxuriously with so much less.

People raising whole families in apartments that are probably smaller than one of our cavernous, spooky-white USA kitchens. And they do it in style!

And how beautiful the cities and towns and villages are. The streetscapes.

This might sound like deprivation in relation to the typical big, shiny, everything-pressure-washed USA lifestyle, but in fact I found it elegant, warm, and beautiful.

That’s something that often gets missed by our convenience-centered, USA culture. The sheer beauty and warmth and JOY. I would never trade that for a driveway that’s wide enough to turn a giant tanklike SUV around, or a garage that can accommodate an entire fleet of vehicles. Or free parking, parking, everywhere, at the expense of community and beautiful shaded streets.

People sometimes call people who think like me communist or elitist because we care about the environment, and think certain ways from Europe or Japan or other places are better.

But actually I think it’s the opposite — I think a lot of our USA luxury lifestyle is incredibly wasteful and privileged and elitist.

Also, it can be a lot harder to create close, stable community in the USA than it is in places where people naturally live in closer quarters and have to share resources. It seems like the way we have set up our built environment is not only not conducive to closeness and community and joy, but can be downright erosive of those things.

In my everyday life I do my best to re-create all of the compact elegant beauty I loved so much in Japan and other places I have had the privilege to be able to spend time.

No, I don’t plan to leave the USA. But I do know that things can be a lot better and kinder and more joyous here, and I’m a big fan of taking a page from other countries’ books. And I will never stop trying to help create, everywhere, designs and spaces that are beautiful, warm, and conducive to sharing and connection and joy.