Sunday, 12 June 2016

Learning from the past, not living there

This week I I stumbled upon season 1 of Home Fires. Of course, I caught onto it just as season 2 is finished and ITV have announced that they will not be commissioning a further series.

Home Fires is axed after two series and a massive cliffhanger

Set at the advent of WW2, the story revolves around the lives of members of a rural Women's Institute branch. It's beautifully cosy to watch - whilst not romanticising the war or the social realities of that era. There's death, classism, violence, misogyny and white collar crime - just like the good old days, just like now.

I have little time for period dramas that revolve around aristocrats and their antics (though they provide a cautionary tale for the rest of us should we feel like conceding the democratic concessions that we have). Instead I find stories and documentaries that focus on the social history of the common people particularly interesting, because often they show how people made happy lives with far fewer inputs of energy, material goods and entertainment options than we have today. There is plenty to be learned about living lower impact, thriftier and more sustainable lives by looking at how ordinary people got along in the past.

We face many challenges going forward - economic instability, climate change and resource depletion; and if some experts are to be believed, total environmental collapse - which is as frightening a prospect as world war on your doorstep. One of the lessons of history is that it isn't in fact a linear march of relentless progress and growth. I suspect that we need that vintage know-how more than ever, cautionary tales and all. 

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