Emma Orbach

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Online Materials

Living Close To Nature In the Welsh Woods (2020):

This resource is courtesy of Living Big in a Tiny House’ © 2020 Zyia Pictures Ltd – https://www.livingbiginatinyhouse.com/

I live like a Hobbit (2012):

Living Off Grid for 20 Years – Emma Orbach (2018):

Further Reading

8 thoughts on “Emma Orbach

  1. This interview and tour of Emma’s tiny home in the Welsh Woods is both exceptionally inspiring and eye-opening, as it challenges the many ideals that we as a society have normalized.
    When asked why she decided to begin leading a life of simplicity, Emma explains that she never truly had a desire to be a “wage-slave”, essentially meaning that she wanted to live free of the worry of financial unrest and stress. This statement, though seemingly bizarre at first, reveals the sad truth that many of us in mainstream society experience. Our lives are so heavily centred around money and the idea that more of it equates to happiness, that we often lose sight of what is truly important.
    Emma’s simplistic lifestyle is truly inspiring because it offers a new perspective on what the purpose of life is. Though she is “unconnected” with society due to her lack of electrical connection, Emma is more in tune with her connection to the Earth than any other.
    Her life is centred around bettering the environment, and she has attained a sense of peace and content through this mission that many of us are completely unfamiliar with.
    I believe that Emma is a prophetic voice in this day and age because she delivers the message of re-evaluating one’s life and determining whether they are doing good for the world. With all of our technological advancements as a society, we often lose sight of God’s message to live fully and purposefully, and we become victims of routine. We as a whole have begun to dismiss the blessings of our daily lives, and for this reason, can never find true happiness.
    Through observing Emma’s life, I think we can begin to appreciate the simple things in life, and ultimately, we can become more fully intentional and purposeful in our day-to-day activities.

    1. “…we become victims of routine.” Is life merely a routine or a checklist? Certainly no, I would respond. Unfortunately, North Americans seemingly fall victims of routine – that is simply what some may call the “nature” of North American living. It is true, we live in a world where almost everyone goes to work either in office, or stores, or factories and besides those holidays, work days are those typical 9-5 schedule with two days off then back to work, on and on for a good 300+ days of the year. Perhaps it is the same for students, particularly elementary and secondary school students. I have found less of routine in University as I can be more flexible in how I schedule certain courses and tutorials. However, once University is done, it is the typical expectation of society that you go out and find work and then, you’re back to routine until retirement.

      I love travelling and taking trips here and there and a partial reason for that I that those are opportunities for me to step outside of that routine life that I am so used to and do something new. I remember being in Europe in March. It was my first time travelling with some young men from my school (so no family) and I just loved it. It was through that experience that I saw buildings, I saw history, I saw nature and those scenes that I saw, whether it be of busy Rome or quiet beaches of Capri are heart warming simply because we do not have those scenes here in Toronto. Romans and Italians who come to Toronto would probably experience the same because they too would be moving out of routine life to experience something new.

      Life does not need to be structurally routine. Everyday should be an adventure and a learning experience rather than a checklist and that includes going out and exploring nature, the gift from the Creator.

    2. Valuscha,

      Great response! I especially like how you highlighted the concepts of being a wage slave and why you personally consider Emma to be a prophetic voice. I too found Emma’s remarks about not wanting to become a wage slave to be extremely profound and it in turn sparks a train of thought for me that I can never seem to fully grasp – we work our whole life, just to work some more? Considering how ‘financial freedom’ seems to be the endgame for everyone, I find Emma’s terminology of wage slave to be increasingly appropriate in this day and age. Furthermore, I totally agree that in the fast paced and materialistic and consumerist lifestyle most of us live often divert us from enjoying the simplistic joys that God has intended for us. I believe the Biblical verse that states you cannot serve both God and money is applicable here.

  2. I remember last week with the big thunderstorm in Toronto which saw many trees and tree branches fall and flooding throughout the city, my house went without power for several hours, from about 3:30pm – 8:30pm. Most blackouts I have been in would last anywhere between 15 minutes to 60 minutes. I only remember one that occurred during the wintertime of 2014 (I think) which left my house without power for practically the whole day. However, the blackout last week really left me realizing how reliant my life was on electricity. People rely on it not only for light, for cooking but also for the fun and productive gadgets from laptops, computers, iPads, iPhones, etc.
    Watching the clip of Emma giving a tour of the place she lives was quite inspirational. Some people may think that the life without electricity is one used for the impoverished, the lowest of society. However, people like Emma are living evidence that some people prefer the simple lifestyle with no power, no electricity so to merge oneself with nature. I not only admire her simple lifestyle but really her devotion to nature which is reflected only in her lifestyle but in her little hut as well.
    Emma chose this life which may seem difficult for many, including myself, but perhaps she realized, what Pope Francis called in Section IV of Laudato Si’, “The Decline in the Quality of Human Life and the Breakdown of Society.” In that section of the encyclical, Pope Francis speaks of the many things that we are aware of but sometimes fail to take action, namely “pollution caused by toxic emissions but also as a result of urban chaos, poor transportation, and visual pollution and noise.” (44) The Holy Father goes on to say, “Many cities are huge, inefficient structures, excessively wasteful of energy and water. Neighbourhoods, even those recently built, are congested, chaotic and lacking in sufficient green space.” (44) Going on to the next paragraph, I think this is the striking part, particularly in Emma’s case that I think caused her to take action in some capacity, “Frequently, we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called “safer” areas of cities, but not in the more hidden areas where the disposable of society live.” (43)
    For Emma, she wanted a life that was simple and nature oriented. By the looks of her home, she really wanted to create authentic “green spaces” and be away from the pollution, the chaos of urban life. For her, such a lifestyle, this type of life is a “safe” and satisfying life.
    I certainly do not see myself living Emma’s lifestyle anytime soon but I do sure hope that one day, I will spend a couple days on an authentic camping trip, without technology, without power and electricity… sort of like a nature retreat so to really spend time to encounter nature and therefore, the Beauty of God’s Creation in a different way. Emma’s lifestyle may serve as an inspiration for people to live a green, oriented life and that is achievable in an urban setting to a certain extent: observing eco-friendly practices, being mindful of consumption, gardening, etc. Together, we can make this world a greener place and nature-friendlier place!

    1. Vincent, I completely agree with your views regarding Emma’s lifestyle in the Welsh woods, because I believe that you pointed out such a potent truth in the lives of those in mainstream-society. We as a whole have become so dependent on electricity, and as you stated in your response, have developed the notion that “life without electricity is one used for the impoverished, the lowest of society”. Our modern technology and increasingly sophisticated lifestyles have become the very blockade keeping us from the world, and we have become less in touch with our physical surroundings now more than ever before.
      Emma is so intentional in every decision she makes, right down to how her home will affect the environment once she no longer resides in it. This kind of gentle care and contemplation, especially in terms of her ecological footprint, is such a meaningful takeaway from the video. Emma’s lifestyle is not the easiest for many to adopt, however, she provides inspiration with how we can become more environmentally conscious in our day-to-day lives.
      In summary, Emma’s lifestyle is an imperative reminder that human beings need to learn how to slow down and simply take each day as a blessing rather than as an expectation. If we as a society accept this truth, I believe that is the only way in which we can hope to learn from our mistakes and begin to live more meaningfully and intentionally.

  3. Emma’s story is one that inevitably forces oneself to self-evaluate their current lifestyle and compare one’s own ecological footprint to Emma’s. Speaking for myself, it’s safe to say that Emma’s ecological philosophies and ways of living put my ‘wasteful’ and mass consuming lifestyle to shame. But I think that is the point of these kinds of pieces – to make us reflect and compare and see what we could possibly be doing better. Even if Emma’s way of living may be too “radical” (and I use this term loosely and reject its connotations of Emma’s way of life to be ‘crazy’) it forces us to think of how we can implement more sustainable ways of living for ourselves. I believe given our current climate situation it is becoming increasingly more important each and every day that we protect our environment and Mother Nature and begin to nurture such an inherent respect for it to mirror the kind that Emma shows for the Earth. What I found most interesting about this piece was that Emma’s house is almost completely bio-degradable, what she took from the Earth will go back to regenerate the Earth when she is no longer living there. It is this notion of environmental consciousness that I believe we all need to strive to implement in our lives if we ever want to effectively decrease the disastrous environmental effects that are reaping havoc today.

  4. I think Emma’s lifestyle highlights how perspective varies person to person. For most of us living in developed countries, this lifestyle can look like a nightmare. However, this is the ideal lifestyle for Emma. While we may think Emma is living in poverty, this is luxury to her, and what we consider luxury is likely not so for Emma.
    This video also shows how we can find happiness when we listen to ourselves, put in the work and be patient. The lifestyle Emma wants is the complete opposite to what people living in the society she is part of typically wants and she put in the work to bring it to life. The amount of patience she must also possess – I don’t know if I could wait eight years just to get permission to start building my home. She also mentions a trial and error process of having built failed huts before arriving at her current home.
    It fascinates me how the choices Emma made for her home are often both functional and symbolic. All the details from the construction of the roof, the location of the windows and fire, the lack of curtains, etc. all are so deliberate and serve as symbols of Emma’s values, e.g. the branches forming the roof are placed so that each branch shares an equal load of the weight, the choice not to use curtains allows her to further connect with the natural sources of light around her.
    Emma’s lifestyle and values are such a departure from the fast pace, money seeking modern society I am familiar with. It gives me hope for a future wherein society can be more in tune with nature and enjoy the beauty of it instead of feeling like we must give it up to get ahead in life.

  5. We live in a world that revolves around our phones and electricity. This interview conducted by Bryce Langston shows the living conditions of Emma who has lived here for 20 years and does not have electricity, running water, the internet, and even a telephone. By just looking at her hut for a few seconds, I noticed that it was very small. Many trees are surrounding, and growing on top of her hut, and she has hung many buckets around her hut. It looks like something out of a movie, almost like a “fairy-land” as Bryce said.

    When asked how she came to be here on the land she mentions how she wants a deeper connection with the earth which is the main reason why she does not have electricity. I like how she wants to have a deeper connection with the earth and nature because I think it helps you live a healthier and smarter life. Having a connection with the earth creates a very positive effect on our body and brain and can improve our well-being immensely.

    Her very simplistic and ideal lifestyle has shown me a different perspective on the world in the sense that having all the money, or the most expensive things is all vanity. She said that she does not want to get “hooked into being a wage-slave” which is described as someone who is always dependent on wages and salary. I like her word choice because there are so many people that let the money they earn decide the person they are, which can make us go money crazy. The life she is living is sort of refreshing to watch because she lives so different from the way I live and I find that very amusing.

    Through watching Emma and the way she lives I have concluded that we all need to enjoy all the little things in life and be grateful for what we have.

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