“The Good Life” Begins Airing (1975)

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!

References:

IMDB.com.  Good Neighbors.  Available at http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075511/.  Accessed April 3, 2018.

This Month in Conservation

October 1
Yosemite National Park Created (1890)
October 2
San Diego Zoo Founded (1916)
October 3
James Herriot, English Veterinarian, Born (1916)
October 4
Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, Patron Saint of Ecology
October 5
Catherine Cooper Hopley, British Herpetologist, Born (1817)
October 6
Mad Hatter’s Day
October 7
Henry A. Wallace, Secretary of Agriculture, Born (1888)
October 8
World Octopus Day
October 9
Vajont Dam Disaster (1963)
October 10
Dnieper Dam Began Operation (1932)
October 11
Big Cypress and Big Thicket National Preserves Created (1974)
October 12
William Laurance, Tropical Conservationist, Born (1957)
October 13
International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction
October 14
Timpanogos Cave National Monument Created (1922)
October 15
Isabella Bird, Pioneering Eco-traveler, Born (1831)
October 16
World Food Day
October 17
Oliver Rackham born (1939)
October 18
Clean Water Act established (1972)
October 19
Research Vessel Albatross Launched (1882)
October 20
OPEC Oil Embargo (1973)
October 21
“Ding” Darling born (1876)
October 22
Wombat Day
October 23
Cumberland Island National Seashore established (1972)
October 24
Antoni von Leeuwenhoek born (1632)
October 25
Secretary of the Interior Convicted in Teapot Dome Scandal (1929)
October 26
Erie Canal Opens (1825)
October 27
Golden Gate and Gateway National Recreation Areas Created (1972)
October 28
Henry Mosby, Wild Turkey Biologist, Born (1913)
October 28
First Ticker-tape Parade Held (1886)
October 29
Stanley Park, Vancouver, Dedicated (1889)
October 30
UNESCO Designates 9 Natural World Heritage Sites (1981)
October 31
Lincoln Highway Dedicated (1913)
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