In a nutshell, the degradation of our planetary home is caused by overconsumption of resources. We in the developed world consume so many resources--we feel we need so much stuff--in part because we are alienated from each other and need consolation prizes. If we build proper communities, not only will we help the planet by sharing resources and therefore using less, but we will be happier, because we will have each other, and we won't need to console ourselves with stuff.
This is one of my central theses.
Yesterday, though, when I wrote about this, I was surprised to find that, not only did some people question the idea that spending more time together makes people happier, but that some readers were outright angered by the idea. Joan left behind this comment: "When I read the blanket statement that "what makes people happier is spending more time together," I became skeptical of the whole essay, even though I agree with most of it."
So, what I wanted to do today is mention a few non-subjective supporting facts to support my thesis from Robert Putnam's seminal work Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community:
- "Dozens of painstaking studies...have established beyond reasonable doubt that social connectedness is one of the most powerful determinants of well being."
- "The more integrated we are with our community, the less likely we are to experience colds, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, depression and premature death of all sorts."
- We have family dinners 43% less often, have friends over 35% less often and attend club meetings 58% than we did 25 years ago.
Factors contributing to our isolation include the facts that:
- Every ten minutes of commuting reduces all forms of social capital by 10%.
- Watching commercial entertainment TV is the only leisure activity where doing more of it is associated with lower social capital.
PS If you live in New York, you may be interested to know that Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus will be speaking at 6PM at the Eisner and Lubin Auditorium, 4th Floor of NYU's Kimmel Center (60 Washington Square South). I am a member of panel of speakers who will be responding to their talk.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.