The TBL Lifestyle

I have to believe that somewhere between living off-the-grid in a cabin in Vermont a la Henry David and hopping in a private jet between palaces in Manhattan and Monaco is something approaching a middle, sustainable ground for the American lifestyle. As a culture, we seem to suffer at times from what I would call a kind of Consumption Bi-Polar Disorder. We either want next to nothing or everything all the time.
The Voluntary Simplicity movement is a case of the former.
Today’s Wall Street the latter.
But neither, I would argue, is an exemplary path. Three hundred million people can’t live like Thoreau; that’s why we created cities and suburbs, to say nothing of electric grids – efficiency has its virtues. Likewise, the billionaires of the Blackstone Group and capitalist icons like Donald Trump are not the kind of role models that lend themselves to scaling. Imagine tens of millions of Mar-a-Lago’s spread across the landscape. Doesn’t work.
If nothing else, the TBL credo is about balance, about finding the sweet spot between too much and too little. Something like the ideal of The American Middle Class. But as we’ve seen in recent decades, it’s getting harder to maintain the middle; the pull of the poles, the Haves and Have-Nots, seems to be getting stronger.
But it shouldn’t be rocket science, achieving the balance. Livable wages, affordable health care and housing, quality public education, clean air and water. Pretty basic stuff. TBL stuff. You shouldn’t have to live in a tent or the Taj Mahal to feel like you’ve got it.
A pioneer in social entrepreneurship and sustainability, William Shutkin is the inaugural Chair in Sustainable Development at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado Boulder. He also serves as the Interim Executive Director of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, a Partner of the Innovation Network for Communities and a Research Affiliate at MIT. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his wife and two kids tele-skiing, flyfishing and gazing at trees.

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