Mr Soylent illustrates my point

I blogged a while back about competitive minimalists and the privilege behind the concept of “living light”. My point was that to live with few possessions you need to engage with and benefit from existing systems, and the competitive minimalists who boast about living light don’t always seem to fully understand that.

Less than a month after I published my post came an example so perfect I initially thought it was a parody. The software engineer Rob Rhinehart, best-known for peddling the meal replacement product Soylent, wrote about how he’s given up electricity. (Spoiler: he has not in fact given up electricity.)

In the storm of internet mockery that followed, someone unearthed an old blog post in which he explains how he described undergoing a challenge to reduce his water consumption. (Top tip: when your clothes get dirty, give them away instead of washing them! Then get new clothes shipped to you from China. This saves both electricity and water!)

It’s tempting to dissect both posts line by line explaining why he’s wrong about nearly everything. But others have already done that. I just wanted to share the links, because this person’s thinking is the perfect example of how you can think you’re “living light” and maybe see yourself as some kind of lean frontiersy hero while in fact you’re:

  • dependent on many things that weren’t invented 100 years ago;
  • dependent on things that most of the world’s population does not have access to;
  • dependent on things that won’t exist or won’t work in the future if everybody carries on like you;
  • generating a carbon footprint the size of a small country;
  • generating a huge amount of non-recyclable and/or harmful waste;
  • consuming a wildly disproportionate share of the earth’s resources.
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