Monday, August 30, 2010
Following the directions of a friend – "turn right after the General Store, then turn down a narrow road that looks like a driveway and park at the edge of a path that leads through a patch of brambles" – we came to the most lovely hidden stream with deep pools, gigantic boulders, and slippery water slides that the girls were soon shooting down like little otters.
We had a picnic, laid on the rocks until we got too hot, then plunged into the water until we got too cold. There was a rope to swing on, cliffs to climb, and rocks to leap between.
I, without doubt the most sedentary of our little group, tended to favor sitting in the shade with my feet dangling in the water and, as I did, a phrase I read in a computer modeling paper earlier in the day came to life in my mind: 'time affluence'.
The paper, from the Tellus Institute, was about the dynamics of the transition to a sustainable world, which the paper argues will require a values shift on at least three dimensions: human solidarity, ecological resilience, and quality of life. And quality of life, the authors argued, is deeply tied to time affluence, to the amount of time one has to spend in leisure, with family, or in community. Policies that improve our affluence with regard to time tend to make us happier and healthier, while reducing consumption and pressure on the Earth's systems. Like organic farming that builds the soil and feeds people or renewable energy that improves air quality and provides good jobs, time affluence is at once a solution to the sustainability crisis and its own reward.
I can't think of a better example of affluence than spending the last hot afternoon of school vacation in cool water, not far from home, surrounded by laughter and splashes and fun. Real affluence lives not far out of our reach, so much of the time.