by Davie Philip.
Web 2.0 is the term that has come to signify the new upgraded internet, which is community based, interactive and user-driven. What I want to explore in this article is a ‘Good Life 2.0’ – an upgrade for the 21st century of the ideas of the 1970’s self-sufficiency movement.
Do you remember The Good Life, the TV show that ran from 1975 to 78? It was one of Britain’s favourite sit-coms, which popularised the notion of getting out of the rat race and being self-sufficient. In some ways, it probably did more to put people off even trying. Tom and Barbara, Richard Briers’ and Felicity Kendal’s characters converted their suburban garden into a farm, kept pigs and chickens, and grew their own food. On one memorable occasion they even converted their car to run on methane, which kept on breaking down. In a light-hearted way, they showed how hard it was, and is, to be different to those around you, and the kind of courage it takes to be so.
The first series was launched just after the first oil shock and amid one of the UK’s worst economic downturns. It was based on the writings of John Seymour, the father of self-sufficiency. His books give a comprehensive introduction to the ‘Good Life’, covering everything from growing your own crops, animal husbandry, wine making, bee keeping, building, renewable energy, and much more. Seymour gained considerable experience living a self-sufficient life, first in Suffolk, then Pembrokeshire, and then in Ireland, where he established the School of Self-Sufficiency in Co. Wexford. He also travelled around the world and wrote and made films exposing the unsustainability of the global industrial food system. Sadly, on the 14th of September 2004, John Seymour passed away at the ripe old age of 90.
Over the last five years of his life, I had an opportunity to spend time with John. We campaigned together to stop the planting of genetically engineered sugar beet, which culminated with seven of us in a New Ross court-house. But that’s another story.
Surprisingly, John once told me that he actually was wrong about self-sufficiency. He explained that it is too hard for one family to try to provide everything for themselves. Co-sufficiency, or community-sufficiency, is what he said we needed. Seymour predicted that we would need self-reliant, local communities, that can share the work and provide the social relationships essential for facing an uncertain future.
If Tom and Margo of The Good Life were striving to be self-sufficient in these times, they would probably join their local Transition Town group and build food and energy resilience with their neighbours. They might, if they were more ambitious, move to an Eco-Village. That’s ‘The Good Life 2.0’, and that’s what I plan to do.
This year, I am moving to ‘The Village’, the sustainable community extending the town of Cloughjordan in North Tipperary. The 132 houses will be ecologically built with community facilities set amid an edible landscape in which we will soon be harvesting fruit, nuts, berries, herbs and vegetables.
The village will provide an unprecedented focal point for ecological and sustainable education both nationally and internationally. As a living community it will use renewable energy, increase local food production and provide local jobs. Recently, we started Ireland’s first community-owned farm and received funding for a green-enterprise centre.
The Village will be a vital resource for those seeking to build sustainable communities and make the transition to local resilience. The Good Life 2.0.
The Village www.thevillage.ie
Davie Philip is the Education Manager at the Cultivate Centre for sustainable living and learning in Dublin. He was a founding member of Sustainable Projects Ireland LTD, the company behind the sustainable community project in Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary. He coordinates the Transition Town Network in Ireland and has just completed ten short TV shows on the importance of community. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org