I was watching one of those home design shows on TV recently when I found myself faced with that question: what if it all ends and we're forced to depend on our own resources? Will we be able to survive?
The show followed the progress of a U.K. homeowner as he worked for well over a year building a sustainable house flanked by farm soil, with the goal of growing his own crops and minimizing his family's use of materials and energy. He chose to do so not only because of his belief that homes today should be constructed on environmentally-conscious designs, he also wanted to ensure his kids would be able to survive when the world's resources run out.
It got me wondering if I could survive a world drained of energy, and hence, of all the technology and high-tech gadgetry that run on power. Honestly, I don't think I could.
I can't grow my own crops--do bean sprouts still grow on damp cotton wool? So, without energy to power my refrigerator, mobile phone to call for pizza and the Internet to blog for help, I wouldn't know how to keep my physical body ticking after even the fats run out. And the thought of desperately eyeing my dog as a potential food source is depressing...I'd rather be struck by a self-powered flying asteroid.
It dawned on me then how much I've come to depend on energy because it powers all of the technology I use today just to get by.
In his blog Zen Habits, Leo Babauta talks about the need to walk when we can rather than drive, visit the stores rather than order online, and call on people--at their homes--rather than on the cell phone or Facebook. Describing the life his grandparents lived, Babauta said: "In fact, during their Great Depression childhood, they bought very little and used very, very little technology....have we given up too much of our lives that used to exist offline and outdoors?"
He espouses "a life of less" and one that's more sustainable.
But do our lives today allow for it? A survey released this week pointed to Singaporeans as workaholics, where 69 percent of respondents said they kept in touch with work while on holiday or out of the office, compared to the regional average of 66 percent.
Some 66 percent said they felt inclined to do so in case of a work emergency, while 60 percent said they noted the need to go through their work e-mail so their inbox will be less overwhelming when they return to the office.
More telling, 59 percent pointed to technological advancements that allow access to work information as the key reason they stay in touch with the office while away.
It's perhaps why a separate survey, coincidentally also released this week, found Singapore employees to be some of the world's unhappiest, where only 19 percent of workers here looked forward to their work each day, compared to the global average of 30 percent. It also ranked the lowest, among the 14 countries polled, in terms of employer loyalty.
So, if we're such unhappy workaholics, then why are we still workaholics?
Maybe Babauta is right, that a life of less is the way to move forward. If we bought less stuff, we could live in smaller houses which would need less cooling, less land and less maintenance. And if we stopped our addiction to mobile devices and the need to stay connected all the time, we could enjoy each other's company without interruptions and rely less on high-tech gadgetry to keep us entertained.
And in this life of less, we might even have fewer regrets on our deathbeds.