Saturday, 15 November 2008

Cut and run

If you think you're doing your bit to fight global warming, hang your head in shame at the thought of 67 year old Joan Pick, who is so abstemious her carbon footprint must be virtually zero.

She never heats her flat, she eats all her food raw, she never uses cars or buses, she doesn't have a TV, she uses no gas and minimal electricity, and she makes many of her clothes.

In 1972 she decided mass consumption was a mistake and began cutting back. She's been increasingly frugal ever since, aiming to use the fewest possible resources at her home in Croydon, London.

She lives on nuts, fruit and vegetables, she jogs twelve miles a day, and her car has been sitting in the garage unused for 36 years.

She also gave up on men, realising early on that no man would be prepared to share her spartan, luxury-free existence. "You can't have someone else to contradict you" she says.

All I can say is that I'm astounded at her ability to do without all those things the rest of us regard as essential to a normal lifestyle. There's no way I could give up all those domestic props that make my life more comfortable and convenient. I'm not ready to be a hermit in a mountain cave just yet.

I wonder if from time to time she hankers after a forbidden treat, imagining herself tucking into an M&S ready meal as she watches Coronation Street. No of course not, I'm sure she's overcome those wicked cravings many years ago. She's probably reached the point where she's as incapable of backsliding as a drunkard on a desert island.

But she's certainly a splendid example of how much we could do to stop squandering the earth's resources, if we were just willing to take a deep breath and stop pampering ourselves quite so freely.

PS: I've found two more articles (here and here) on this remarkable woman.

25 comments:

Caro said...

She'll probably live to be 140.

I couldn't live without the internet, which sadly is not solar powered.

Nick said...

Caro - True, she'll probably live to a very ripe old age. I suppose like my mum she's spent most of her life without the net and doesn't see the need for it.

Quickroute said...

no heating in a London damp winter -brrrr! - She puts us all to shame. I reckon she'll crack any day now

Grannymar said...

I thought I was bad with my 'don't haves', but this lady sure puts me to shame!

I only hope she is not sitting on money for another generation to squander!

Thriftcriminal said...

respect!

Nick said...

Quicky - Yes, maybe she'll suddenly flip and decide what she really wants is untramelled luxury! And then she'll be off on a round-the-world cruise.

Grannymar - Good point. With all that unrelenting austerity, surely she must have a sizeable balance in the bank?

Thrifty - Oh come on, you and I couldn't live like that for 36 hours, let alone 36 years! She's unbelievable!

The Dotterel said...

With you, Nick, on the 'hermit in a mountain cave' thing, but a hermit in the metropolis. How much harder must that be? On the other hand, having so many free open spaces, galleries, museums and so on might actually make it easier. Great story!
The Dotterel @ http://bringingupcharlie.blogspot.com/

Nick said...

Dotterel - Yes, pretty hard to be a hermit in the metropolis, with so many temptations all round you. Her single-mindedness is remarkable. I don't know if she goes to galleries or museums, in fact I'm not sure what on earth she does do apart from jogging, eating and making clothes.

Suburbia said...

She must bath in cold water too I guess? Or shower, as bathing uses too much water. Oooh I'm shuddering just to think of it!

Nick said...

Suburbia - I've just been reading some more about her. Apparently she does have a kettle, to boil water for washing herself, washing clothes and making tea.

Nick said...

Dotterel - I've discovered she spends her time listening to the radio, hula-hooping, reading papers at the library and writing letters to public figures. And of course jogging.

gaudiumdegaea said...

She is enlightened is what it is.
A modern day monkette.
I just couldn't do it. I can do without TV, easy.
Internet, is another story.
Also men. I couldn't do without men. I love them too much to go without.
I don't think she would be regretting anything, if she did she wouldn't continue doing it.
Would love to know the turning point, the moment when she made that decision.

Nick said...

GayƩ - She was a scientist and writer with a particular interest in energy consumption. She realised that given the limited reserves of fossil fuels we were all consuming far too much energy, and we all had a personal responsibility to use less.

John Self said...

With the clear understanding that I think what she's doing is great, allow me to add a couple of insincerely cynical comments:

Shame on Joan for not using a wind-up radio instead of a mains-powered one!

And: She may not live to a ripe old age, but it'll certainly seem that way.

Boom boom.

Nick said...

John - A mains-powered radio? What a scandal! What was she thinking? A tenner says she'll live to a ripe old age. Though by that time, I'll probably be six feet under myself so a safe bet methinks....

Baino said...

Wow that's a bit over the top Spartan for me. Not sure how giving up men might help her carbon footprint but could provide some warmth!

Nick said...

Baino - Too spartan for me too, by a long way. Even though Jenny says I'm pretty abstemious at times. True, a bloke would warm her up a bit but where would she find one with the same unwavering principles?

Wisewebwoman said...

Thanks for this post, Nick and my introduction to Joan Pick. I am absolutely gobsmacked at her dedication, a brilliant, brilliant woman who really really sees how dire a path we're on and is just concentrating on cleaning up her own backyard so to speak. We have so much to learn from this treasure of a woman.
I feel like such a sloth in spite of the little changes I've made.
XO
WWW

Nick said...

www - I know, she's formidable, isn't she? Such complete courage of her convictions, whereas the rest of us backslide all the time. Perhaps as a scientist she's more aware than most of the huge problems in store if we don't mend our ways.

Fate's Granddaughter said...

It is difficult to have many other feelings than shame at reading about this woman. Oh what a wasteful soul I am. And oh how terrible that her sacrifices will probably do little to change that fact.

Nick said...

FG - Most of us are extremely wasteful but we're so used to a certain lifestyle it's very hard to make more than minor changes. No, her efforts won't achieve much in global terms but maybe she's set the ball rolling?

Fate's Granddaughter said...

Absolutely! Even if every other person who read about her did the slightest little bit to change (ie: switching to energy saving light bulbs) then her story will have made a real impact. I was simply pointing out my own personal failings!

Nick said...

Personal failings duly noted! Not as many as mine I'm sure.

Jenny Muir said...

I think she's mad. How much pleasure she must be missing out on.

Nick said...

Jenny - I think from her own viewpoint she has plenty of pleasure, it's just not our sort of pleasure. I can't imagine giving up all my favourite pursuits, however energy-intensive.