Samuel Alexander: Reimagining The Good Life

Combining concepts from ecological, economic, political, and social literature, Samuel Alexander’s books provide insightful commentary on the challenge of living within our limits – during a time of ever-increasing overconsumption.

“Mainstream environmentalism calls on us to take shorter showers, recycle, buy green products, and turn the lights off – but these measures are inadequate,” said Alexander, an academic from Melbourne University and co-director of the Simplicity Institute. “We need more fundamental change.”

Through his collections of essays, Alexander takes readers on deep explorations into many of the ideals that are central to the philosophy of permaculture – almost required reading for anyone embarking on a journey into permaculture design. They’re also relevant for permaculture practitioners who have plenty of knowledge of their own, adding clarity and awareness to a variety of issues and topics.

Many of Alexander’s ideas are shared in other formats, as well. Currently, Alexander lectures at Melbourne University’s Office for Environmental Programs, teaches a course called Consumerism and the Growth Economy, and has founded a website and social network called Simplicity Collective.

He’s even created a demonstration project called Wurruk’an – a community founded in Gippsland in 2014 that showcases a unique alternative to today’s consumerist economy. With permaculture, organic food, renewable energies, mud-building, and compositing toilets developed on a donated section of land, Wurruk’an aims to “contribute to positive transformation.”

The philosophies that inspired Wurruk’an were explored in Alexander’s ficitional novel, which imagines the emergence of a viable future after the decline of our current civilization. Entropia: Life Beyond Industrial Civilization examines the efforts of an isolated community to live a simpler way of life – transcending the “materialistic values” of the “Old World” to develop their own self-sufficient path to peace, freedom, and sustainable prosperity.

It’s a unique look at what our lives could look like, if society could move beyond our current dependence on fossil fuels.

“We need to reimagine the good life beyond consumer culture and begin building a world that supports a simpler way of life,” he said. “We need to focus on what is sufficient to live well. A simple life can be a good life.”

Still, Alexander’s work isn’t about attempting to persuade society as a whole to abandon consumerism and embrace the philosophy of permaculture and sustainable living. Instead, he aims to inspire individuals and communities, with the hope of educating them about the current environmental, economic, and cultural crises threatening humanity.

“I don’t have much hope if we’re waiting for government action, but I see hope, passion, and desire for change at the community level. That requires a level of emotional resilience. You have to have faith our efforts are useful, even though it’s a drop in the ocean and the problems are massive,” Alexander said. “Ultimately, we don’t have a right to ask whether we’ll succeed or not. We just have to do the right thing. It’s just something we ought to do.”

Alexander’s five eBooks can be purchased, via pri, in our store here.

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