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Friendships make life better

Friendships make life better

Recently I’ve been thinking about what a low-carbon life might look like. We would drive and fly less and mostly cycle, walk and ride transit. We’d eat less meat and more plant-based foods. We’d heat our energy-efficient homes with electricity or geothermal and get power from the wind and sun.
It might also be a life that puts greater emphasis on friendship.
In the report, “Zeroing in on Emissions,” David Suzuki Foundation policy analyst Tom Green writes, “many of the things that support well-being, such as time with friends and family … do not require much by way of material and energy use.” We can have fun playing ball hockey, hiking or enjoying music with others.
If we spent more time building relationships, we would also enrich our inner lives, reducing the consumption that drives carbon output and pollution. We might feel less need for things like overseas holidays, big cars, the latest devices and more clothing than we actually wear. Why? Because the satisfaction offered by friendship is deeper than that offered by stuff.
Philosophers, like Aristotle, knew that friendship is a major contributor to happiness. Friendship, said the great thinker, is “most indispensable for life. No one would choose to live without friends, even if he had all other goods.” Aristotle didn’t view humans as consumers and believed acquiring possessions is not the core of our being. Rather, he emphasized developing virtues like courage and wisdom in concert with beloved comrades. “No one would choose to have all good things all by himself, for man is a social and political being and his natural condition is to live with others,” he explains in his book on ethics.
But if a life revolving around friends is more rewarding than one devoted to material acquisition, how can we cultivate it? We could create “friendship sabbaticals.” This would require employers and schools to give us a few days each year for friendship development, creating new ones or rebuilding those we’ve let slide.
In school, I was taught how to calculate the area of a circle but never given a course in making a circle of friends. Teachers assumed we’d learn this on our own. But not everyone did. Surely if we need to understand circles, we need to understand and learn how to foster some of the most gratifying relationships in our lives.
Years ago, I saw a subway ad showing a father with his children and the caption, “Play with them now.” It suggested men should make more effort to connect with their kids. I’d argue something similar for all adults. We need ads showing a group of pals, with the caption, “Friendship: make time for it now.” David Suzuki

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