Why am I a minimalist?

I am a former materials scientist. The first question I always get asked is: “what is that?”.

Materials science is the study of mostly synthetic materials such as metals, polymers, ceramic and composites. We study their physical & chemical properties and how they are extracted from the Earth.

I am telling you this because I think that people need to start listening to scientists. More people need to listen to more scientists.

That’s a two way thing. I think that more scientists should start their own blogs (and other mediums communication like that).

Right. So I am a former materials scientist. And do you know what I now think about materials? What I now know?

I think that everything that you buy kills some part of the world somewhere else. The metals in the electronics that you are buying come from mines and natural spaces have to be destroyed to get them. I think we have to realise that and remember it every time we go to buy something. We need to think about that whenever Apple tries to sell us some new product. Do we really need it? What is the environmental cost?

My view now is that the things that we buy have to come from somewhere. Ask yourselves where. Most plastics [polymers] in use today come directly from oil. Uh oh.

All metals that aren’t being recycled are mined. Mines are always built in the natural environment (just look what happens when they are not –like with coal seam gas– people complain their heads off and usually get their own way).

But the problem isn’t just big banks and mining companies. Because I think 99% of adults have simply forgotten where they get their stuff from.

Or else they have conveniently forgotten the effects… I think this is what “the moneyless manifesto” is saying… that money separates the effects of the consumer and the consumed (I agree).

Every time you buy a computer an electronic device, you’re killing some part of the natural world, somewhere else. People should remember that at the time of purchase, not just at the time of disposal.

So you say your Apple computer “can be recycled”. But is has it already been recycled? And what is it recycled into? Did the outer aluminium case come from a recycling centre? Or was that extracted from bauxite? What other elements were added at the time of alloying? Were they recycled? If not, where did they come from? Where are they going?

People never stop to think about this much (especially in a hardware or department store). That’s why I’m now a minimalist. I just don’t buy stuff that I don’t need. Don’t get me wrong — I love materials. It’s just that more than ever before I question the impact that I am having elsewhere on this planet whenever I purchase any materials (natural or synthetic).

I think the trouble with society today is that we are expecting the younger generation to somehow lead us out of the mess we are leaving for them. Like after we are gone it will be “their problem”. But it doesn’t work that way.

While I’m sure young people can provide creative input, they should mainly be looking to the older, wiser people for wisdom.

And it doesn’t help when they get out into the real world and the aim is to “sell more stuff”.

I think the only way it’s going to work is if people all start to become minimalists and with the money they save from buying stuff, to start giving back to forests.

I believe that forest should be left to regenerate all around the world… for at least the next few centuries.

I think that when people spend more on the enviornment than what they do on petrol and other physical goods, then there won’t even be an environmental problem.

Having said that, I think the good news is that it’s great to see there are already young people focused on things like the “post growth institute”.