How much can I consume while still being socially and ecologically responsible?
How little can I consume and maintain a high quality of life?
In many ways Dancing Rabbit is an experiment built around these questions. So far I believe we have made significant headway.
In the chart below you can find numbers comparing consumption for the average Rabbit to the average American and the results are interesting. We have managed to find a way to reduce our total footprint by 85% compared to the US average while retaining many comforts of modern life. For instance, I am writing this article in my 200 sq. ft. strawbale cabin, powered by a small solar panel system. I have a 200+ acre backyard I share with my friends and it’s a five minute walk to a luxuriously large natural swimming pool, our pond.
Dancing Rabbit has taken important steps towards demonstrating that a high quality of life is possible at much lower levels of consumption than are commonly seen in the Global Northwest. I like to think about this as an example of what economists call Pareto Optimality (or, for the statistically-minded, a power law distribution). This principle holds that 80% of your benefits come from the first 20% of your efforts. The Italian economist Pareto noticed this pattern in many areas of his life: 20% of his work would get 80% of his attention, 20% of his fellow Italians had 80% of the wealth, and 20% of his pea plants produced 80% of his peas.
In our case, I would argue that we get 80% of the fun and 80% of the utility out of modern life with about 15% of the consumption. This also leaves us room for other fine things in life that our more-consumptive counterparts might miss, like watching fireflies, going for a quick swim before dinner, or taking long walks with friends.
Thoughts and reflections on the data:
- Much of our low electricity use comes from a day-to-day lived experience of finite production. If it is cloudy for two days I am likely to read a book instead of watching a movie, and if it is cloudy for four days I might enjoy a candlelight evening with my sweetheart instead of using electric lighting. It is a very visceral and informative experience to live within limits, with real hour-to-hour feedback. I look forward to smart metering options providing the wider public with information like this in the near future.
- Flying is a huge cost, and while many Rabbits avoid flying (some entirely), airplane usage still looms large in our estimated total village footprint.
- We Rabbits still use more than our global share of the earth’s ecosystem, so, in my view, discussions of consumption targets should be paired with discussions of socially conscious ways to hit population targets.
- As our internal village economy matures, we will publish a followup article on production. This will be a step towards judging our progress in attaining production levels that can support our lower levels of consumption in a sustainable way.
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sources, leave a comment below!