Friday Ephemera

An Example to Us All

Yes, I know. You want another of those Classic Sentences from the Guardian. Oh, look. Two stuck together:

Paul McCartney once said: “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarians.” Well, if people could see the state of war-torn Iraq, we’d all be cyclists.

That’s one of the profound ruminations of Mr Mark Boyle (pictured below), a “social homeopath,” “pro-activist” and advocate of moneyless living.


Those unfamiliar with Mr Boyle and his intensely radical brain can savour not one but two Guardian profiles, in which we follow our hero’s philosophy and everyday travails: 

To be the change I wanted to see in the world, it unfortunately meant I was going to have to give up cash, which I initially decided to do for a year. I got myself a caravan, parked it up on an organic farm where I was volunteering and kitted it out to be off-grid. Cooking would now be outside – rain or shine – on a rocket stove; mobile and laptop would be run off solar; I’d use wood I either coppiced or scavenged to heat my humble abode, and a compost loo for humanure.

If the term “humanure” is new to some readers, the fascinating details of hands-on sewerless composting toilets can be found here. It’s a world of romantic pre-industrial charm.

Living without money is, Mr Boyle maintains

The single most important act I can do right now.

Because a year spent living in a caravan and producing humanure will,

Limit my impact on the climate, halt the depletion of the world’s resources [and] stop the destruction of the planet.

Why, he’s practically Flash Gordon.

Mr Boyle avoids starvation by means of foraging, bartering and Freeganism, perhaps better known as the raiding of other people’s waste bins. Readers may recall the Freegan manifesto and its celebration of “voluntary joblessness,” ostensibly on grounds that, “as workers, we are cogs in a machine of violence, death, exploitation and destruction.” The official Freeganism website positively glows with moral superiority: “Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation and sharing - in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity and greed.” Methods of Freegan self-betterment include “Earth liberation” and “street theatre.”  

Mr Boyle’s own ecological theatre inevitably entails the sacrifice of some bourgeois comforts:

For toothpaste I used washed-up cuttlefish bone with wild fennel seeds, an oddity for a vegan.


For loo roll I’d relieve the local newsagents of its papers (I once wiped my arse with a story about myself). It’s not double-quilted, but I quickly got used to it.

Mr Boyle’s book, The Moneyless Man, will be published in 2010.