People, Poverty, Power

Catrina Davies and gorse

Cornwall-based author Catrina Davies offers some tips for leading a better life on this beautiful planet – and for changing the broken system that is driving poverty and environmental destruction.

Last Saturday I was on the BBC, talking to Simon Reeve about Cornwall and housing. Many of you have written to me about it, via email and social media, and you’ve got me thinking.

First, thank you. Thank you for bothering to get in touch. Thank you for caring. Thank you for reading my book(s). Thank you for burnishing my faith in human nature. Apart from one or two offers of sex, these were messages of solidarity and encouragement. You wrote from places as far-flung as Brazil and as close-to-home as Newquay, offering money, fridges, ideas, information and accommodation. You offered to pray for me. You want to know what you can do to help.

On the BBC, I explained that when we talk about a housing crisis, we’re actually talking about an affordability crisis. There are plenty of empty houses, it’s just that nobody can afford to live in them. Wasting more natural resources on building more unaffordable houses is likely to make the problem worse. Similarly, when we talk about wealth in terms of economic growth and GDP, we’re actually talking about debt. We’re talking about stealing time from future generations, so that their lives will be even more unaffordable than ours.

In the past, people with no money had to work themselves to death just to put food on the table. Now, we have to work ourselves to death just to put a roof over our heads. This is deliberate. Those with power maintain control by withholding what others need for their basic survival. I consider myself extremely lucky to have found a way to escape this system of oppression.

It’s true that for the past ten years I have lived in an uninsulated tin shed on a crossroads near Land’s End, although I’m currently staying in a different shed, in Portugal. It’s also true that I ended up in the shed because I couldn’t see a way of living in a normal house without giving up everything that made life worth living.

Now, though, I have time, autonomy, access to the natural world and the freedom to try to make a living as a writer. If you measure wealth in terms of the things money can’t buy, I’m rich.

Others are far less lucky.

If you want to help me, then please buy my books, preferably from your local independent bookshop or You can also download my songs. If you have already bought my books, consider buying them again, as presents, leaving a review on Amazon (you don’t need to buy the book on Amazon to leave a review there), or simply talking them up, loudly, to everyone you meet.

If, like me, you want to change our broken system, so that we all have the opportunity to enjoy our brief time on this beautiful planet, then here are some suggestions.

  • Turn off the internet, listen to music, read a book, go for a walk.
  • Donate to your local foodbank, and lobby your MP to make foodbanks redundant.
  • Explain to people who don’t understand that the way to solve homelessness is to give homeless people homes, instead of giving developers money.
  • Explain to people who don’t understand, that the way to solve poverty is to give poor people money, instead of giving rich people money and hoping it somehow trickles down.
  • Refuse to take part in manufactured culture wars; it’s all of us versus the 1%.
  • Refuse to accept that raging economic inequality is inevitable.
  • Refuse to engage in the mad scramble for stuff.
  • If you have a second home, sell it. Better still, give it away.
  • Ignore newspapers owned by billionaires that spread disinformation, promote division, peddle dissatisfaction and deny climate change. The biggest owner of UK press is Rupert Murdoch’s News UK, which owns The Sun, Sun on Sunday, The Times and the Sunday Times. The second biggest owner of UK newspapers, with a portfolio including the Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, and Metro, is the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT), chaired and controlled by Jonathan Harmsworth (Lord Rothermere). DMGT recently bought the i newspaper for £49.6 million from JPI Media.
  • Take out a subscription to the Byline Times.
  • If you have a vote, use it.
  • If you have a car, try not to use it.
  • If you have a God, pray for capitalism to be overthrown by non-violent means, leading to an era of peace, gardening, and the equitable distribution of resources.