All this sustainability stuff is deadly serious, but can we take a minute now and then to laugh at ourselves about it?
That’s just what the British comedy series, The Good Life, did. In 39 episodes, starting on April 4, 1975, and running through 1978, the television show spoofed the desire to become self-sufficient and get back to nature. The show is considered among the best British comedies of all time, ranking near Fawlty Towers (but no show will ever match that one).
The show depicts the struggles of Tom and Barbara Good (played by now famous actors Richard Briers and Felicity Kendal) to divorce themselves from the modern rat-race and become “eco-warriers,” living off the land. Unfortunately, their land is a small plot in the suburbs (the village is named, appropriately, Surbiton). And what follows is a hilarious look at the perils of growing your own food, from plants to animals, dealing with waste, keeping warm and satisfying innumerable other needs more easily served from the supermarket and dry-goods store.
The Good’s new lifestyle is the bane of their neighbors, the Leadbetters. Particularly affected is Mrs. Margo Leadbetter, played by the inimitable Penelope Keith. Hopelessly middle-class and trying to go higher, she rebels at the mess, sounds, smells and general chaos of her neighbors.
And so they do battle—sustainability versus consumerism. The Leadbetters put up a windbreak on their fence, the Goods complain that it will shade their fruit trees. The Good’s try to improve their vegetable yields by talking to their plants, disturbing their neighbors with all the chit-chat. When the Good’s buy two pigs, Pinky and Perky, they inevitably escape to terrorize the Leadbetter’s yard.
But, along the way in each show and along the series as a whole, the neighbors grow together, managing to stay friends despite their differences. In fact, the release of the show in the U.S. was re-titled “Good Neighbors.”
As funny as the shows were, they also highlight the real dilemma of trying to incorporate environmental sustainability into our everyday lives. Sure, we recycle and take reusable bags to the grocery store. But we drive to the grocery store and we recycle way too much excess packaging and other one-use materials. The more serious our attempts get, the more difficult they become—and the more at odds with the rest of society.
But I think the real lesson, of both the television show and a proper outlook on modern living, is that it is okay to be less than perfect. Better be, because none of us is perfect, and so making friends of those who are a bit more or a bit less sustainable is the best strategy. The bottom line is that improving is what matters—reducing our impacts a bit at a time when we can, and keeping society’s eyes on the prize of a more sustainable world, both locally and globally. Remember, sustainability is a journey, not a destination. And it’s good to laugh along the way!
IMDB.com. Good Neighbors. Available at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075511/. Accessed April 3, 2018.