What is normal? What is the right measure of a good human life? What does the one footprint you are 'allowed' to have really mean and what does your life look like? A musing...
After a long period of drought, we finally have some kind of rain here in southern Spain. It's not putting a dent in the rain yet, but everything is fresh green again and the animals are alive and well. Listening to the enthusiastic serenades in our cherry trees, I realise as a Dutch woman how nice that rain can be.
So nice that instead of having a friend drop me off in the village, I ride my bike through the drops from his house up the mountain. "Let me get wet," I think, as my skin eagerly slurps up every drop that falls on it.
I enjoy the ride, the overcast sky, the fresh wind and the smell of freshly fallen rain. No matter how hard we try, we cannot always influence the weather. And that fell foul last year.
To have it all
Lately, I have been constantly confronted with the question of whether being able to have everything you want is actually ‘normal’.
A few weeks ago concerned residents of this small village met in the park. Supporters and opponents of the expansion of the ski resort here in the Sierra Nevada discussed the results of studies and the reason for such a radical action.
Precisely during a very dry year, after years of minimal snowfall, the company running the station wants to expand the ski range. More ski lifts, more snow cannons, more parking spaces, more hotels. In a place where many water sources already have dried up for years.
After an emotional speech by a ski instructor, who is so keen to make more than twenty runs a day possible for all the children in the village instead of eight, because skiing is just so much fun, one of my friends asks the man, "How far can your passion go?"
Because the consequences of the extension are not small. More than twice as much water consumption, trees, plants and rare flowers have to go, animals are "evicted" and that in an already very fragile area.
For us here in the valley, the prospect of several days without sun has a downside: within a few days we will have no electricity. All the cortijos here are not connected to the 'normal' energy grid and each have their own solar panel installation.
And so when the sun doesn't come out, we turn the fridge off, we charge our mobile phones only during the day and we eat by candlelight.
Cooking aside a candle, I think to myself, what is actually normal? Is it normal that we always have access to everything? Tomatoes in winter, strawberries at Christmas, a new car every five years, always electricity, snow during droughts?
By Dutch standards, I live very frugally.
For two years we lived in a caravan and then with our own hands built a tiny home from straw and clay. Now our little house is full of second-hand furniture, the kitchen, living room and bedroom are one space and we have maintenance on the outer walls every year.
Our car is twenty-six years old and when something breaks we fix it. First ourselves, if that fails, we go to a mechanic.
There are those who look at my way of life and think, "That's not normal either.”
And sometimes it does seem that way when the batteries are flat after days of rain, and sometimes it feels that way when I put my feet back in my boots to walk all the way to the outside toilet.
But maybe this is the normal way of life for a human being.
Maybe this is the right measure of a human life.
Maybe this is what that one footprint looks like.
Out of curiosity, I like to know how I 'stand' myself. And so I do the footprint test on the WWF website. Me, who lives in a little house made of straw and clay, with an area of 30 m², in the middle of a piece of land full of wild nature. Me, who now and then uses the car only to pick up locally grown vegetables in the village. Me, who grabs her e-bike to get to the bus stop and charges her refurbished mobile phone with solar panels. That me still ends up with a footprint and a half!
So what is normal, what does it take to have just one footprint? What does even I have to let go for it?
Musing on what is the real, normal way of life of a human being, I come to the question of what I really need to live well. And that touches on a deep-seated feeling we humans have.
I recently read an advertisement: "Everyone on earth has the right to an internet connection."
Being entitled to everything you want is, in my view, is a good sales trick, capitalising on the feeling of scarcity we all have deep down inside. We want to be entitled to everything because it makes us feel seen and safe. Our sense of scarcity is appeased.
But is that a tenable attitude?
Everyone should be entitled to a skiing holiday, even in the hot south of Spain. But what if the river runs out of water? What matters then?
I don’t say we need to go back to living in a cave, although there are quite nice ones here. Nor living in a straw hut, modern natural ways of building are better than that. And also not in a little house of only 12 m² where you have to live with three generations.
What I do is wonder: do I really need a 50 m² living room? Can the kids also share a room together? Should my car be traded in at the first expencive service?
For me, the answer is clear. I even wrote an article about my 'new normal', because in all simplicity, I have it just right here. But I understand it may be a very different answer for others.
So, tell me, what is normal for you and what do you think you really need for a good human life?
From my heart to yours,
By the way, if you want to help us stop the ski resort expansion, an online petition can be found here. Thanks in advance!
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