My advice after a year without tech: rewild yourself | Mark Boyle

We cant all go and live in the timbers, of course. But if we resist debt, resist gadgets, and reconnect with nature, the world might just change, writes Mark Boyle

Having once been an early adopter of tech, I was an unlikely early rejector. But it has now been over a year since I have phoned my family or friends, logged on to antisocial media, sent a text message, checked email, browsed online, took a photograph or listened to electronic music. Living and working on a smallholding without electricity, fossil fuels or operating water, the last year has taught me much about the natural world, society, the nation of our shared culture, and what it means to be human in a hour when the boundaries between man and machine are blurring.

My reasons for unplugging, during that time, haven’t so much changed as shifted in importance. My primary motives were- and still are- ecological. The logic was simple enough. Even if use minimally, a single smartphone( or toaster, internet server, solar panel, sexuality robot) relies on the entire industrial megamachine for its production, marketing and consumption.

The consequences of this ever-intensifying industrialism are clear: widespread surveillance in our pockets; the standardisation of everything; the colonisation of wilderness, indigenous lands and our mindscape; cultural imperialism; the mass extinction of species; the fracturing of community; mass urbanisation; the toxification of everything necessary for a healthy life; resource wars and land grabs; 200 million climate refugees by 2050; the automation of millions of jobs, and the inevitable inequality, unemployment and purposelessness that will follow and offer fertile ground for demagogues to take control. I could go on, but you’ve heard it all before.

While this matters no less to me now, one person living without technology in the middle of somewhere unimportant doesn’t matter a damn to the machine economy. There are now 7.7 bn active phone connections on Earth- that’s more telephones than people- so one fewer scarcely makes a difference on its own.

I’m now more interested in keeping the best of the old ways alive, preserving a connection from our ancient past- and its crafts, perspectives, narratives- into our future, so that when the industrial apparatus collapses under the weight of its own junk, these long-serving styles can point us towards the back roads home. For, as personal computers” quit screen” message once said, everything not saved will be lost. We would do well to heed it, lest we lose ourselves.

This way of life is often described as” the simple life “. Looking at it head-on, it’s far from simple. This life is actually quite complex, made up of hundreds of thousands of small, simple things. By comparison, my old urban life was quite simple, made up of a thousand small, complex things. I found industrial life too simple, and thus repetitive and boring. With all of its apps, switchings, electronic amusement, power tools, websites, devices, consolations and conveniences, there was almost nothing left for me to do for myself, except that one thing that earned me the money to buy my other needs and wants. So as Kirkpatrick Sale once wrote in Human Scale, my wish became” to complexify , not simplify “.

‘ When you’re connected to wifi you’re unplugged from life .’ Photograph: Rex/ Shutterstock

Yet there remains a timeless simplicity about this way of life. I’ve found that when you peel off the plastic that industrial society vacuum-packs around you, what is left has not been possible to be simpler. There’s no extravagance , no clutter , no unnecessary complications. Nothing to buy , nothing to be. No frills , no bills. Merely the raw ingredients of life, to be dealt with immediately and immediately, with no middlemen to complicate and confuse the matter. Simple. But complex.

In the bloody, mucky, sweaty reality of living in direct relationship with a specific place, I’ve learned that while death is an essential and beautiful one of the purposes of life, industrial-scale brutality isn’t; and that while veganism is an urban myth- industrial food and goods are wiping out life en masse, regardless of whether they contain animal products- the protection of the natural world and its breathtaking animals is more important than ever.

Though” living without technology” voices sacrificial and austere, I’ve found the gains outweigh the initial losses. When you’re connected to wifi you’re disconnected from life. It’s a choice between the machine world and the living, breathing world, and I feel physically and mentally healthier for choosing the latter.

People regularly tell me that 7.3 billion humans can’t live as I do. On this I agree. But 7.3 billion humans can’t continue living as the mass of people do now, either. I don’t claim that this way of life is a solution for all the world’s people, for the simple reason that I don’t think there is some magical panacea to the convergence of crises our culture is bringing on itself. People won’t voluntarily are going to the wilder times or cottage economies, yet “progressing” forwards probably entails techno-dystopia followed by ecological meltdown.

While I don’t believe in one-size-fits-all solutions, there are important things that most of us can do. In my last volume, Drinking Molotov Cocktails With Gandhi, I argue that the three r’s of the climate-catastrophe generation- reduce, reuse, recycle- require a serious upgrade. In their place I propose resist, revolt, rewild.

Resist debt. Resist careers. Resist chasing the dollar. Resist being sold that mass-produced gadget that will distract you from life and the people you’ll wish you spent more hour with when you’re on your deathbed.

Revolt. If you don’t like the geo-social-eco-political consequences of fossil fuel, fracking, mining, quarrying, bottom-trawling, deforesting and general skullduggery, then stand up to the industrial system that demands them.

Rewild. Start playing a part in rewilding our landscapes. Support groundbreaking projects, such as the Cambrian Wildwood and Rewilding Britain, which are doing some of the most important run of our time. If “youve had” land- a small garden, a farm, an estate- let as much of it as you can go wild and attract birds, insects, bees and other wildlife. Stop manicuring. Stop controlling. Stop spraying insecticide. Simply stop doing. As you stop these, start the long, fascinating road to rewilding yourself. As the wheel of life relentlessly spins full circle, the skills of the past will become the skills of the future.

Life is an unceasing trade-off between convenience and feeling fully alive. My experiences have taught me that perhaps the law of diminishing returns might apply to convenience- and the technologies that promise it- too.

I love the simple, complex life. While it is not a realistic answer for the mass of people now, unless we curb our addictions to more stuff, more growth, more dehumanising, distracting technologies- and more of the same- it may well be a solution for those who live through whatever comes next.

* This article was written by hand and posted to an editor at the Guardian, who transcribed it to go online. Get in touch with Mark Boyle here or in the comments below, a selection of which is likely to be posted to him

* Mark Boyle has lived without technology since December 2016. He is the author of volumes including The Moneyless Man and Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi

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