Living small isn't what it's cracked up to be

Living small isn't what it's cracked up to be

Take it from me, eco-density is not all it's cracked up to be. After years of single-family

ownership in North Vancouver, my wife and I downsized last year and moved into a nearby condo.

Though much less spacious than the Coal Harbour condo that's just sold for a cool $25 million, our one-bedroom-and-a-den is in a well-run complex with beautiful views and generally friendly inhabitants.

It's far cheaper to maintain than any detached house I've lived in, except possibly the Alaska Highway cabin I once called home.

But there's a downside: a distinct lack of elbow room. I can't help feeling, well, a bit like a battery hen.

Not that I have anything against being frugal and making do with less. Folks have had to do that for ages. The big difference now, though, is we've allowed ourselves to be brainwashed into thinking it's the righteous thing to do.

Living small has replaced living large as the bicycle path to salvation. And it doesn't seem to matter what kind of shoebox you live in, as long as it's "eco-friendly."

Those hitting the headlines are people like Mathew Arthur who, according to The Canadian Press, has been making a home in the back of a 1987 Dodge Ram for up to a year to "simply his life and test the limits of small-scale living."

Or they're like 25-year-old Shawn Groff who, writes senior Province staffer Paul Luke, "awakes each morning to find his body stuffed into a room the size of an overgrown hat box. And he blesses it for being so spacious."

Groff rents a 260-square-foot apartment in Gastown. It's a third of the size of our North Van condo. But he tells Luke it's ample space for him to grow into the person he wants to be: "I'm living here because I believe in having a small environmental footprint."

Indeed, the obvious ease with which Groff uses his limited space reminds me of the three Japanese visitors squeezed into a New York apartment chest of drawers by Cosmo Kramer of Seinfeld fame.

But if micro-living is so good for us, why is it that environmental crusaders like Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, David Suzuki and Al Gore, who deliver stern lectures to people about the need to reduce their carbon footprints, all own large detached homes?

Why aren't they shoehorning themselves into tight, little eco-friendly boxes? Could it be that they know something about humans - especially those with children - functioning best when they have ample space?

No wonder veteran city-hall watchers like Vancouver lawyer Jonathan Baker have become so skeptical about the whole notion of eco-density.

Baker, who recently joined the revived TEAM civic party, told me he believes the ruling Vision Vancouver council is misusing its green ideology to ram through projects that are both environmentally doubtful and neighbourhood unfriendly.

No, whether you live in a small or large home, the best way to live is one that's true to yourself - not the way others want you to, especially those who don't practise what they preach.

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