Nomadism: The Contemporary Guide for Sustainability

As we look toward the future, our sight must be trained firmly on sustainability. As a society, we are almost entirely reliant on finite resources which are depleting at an unmanageable rate. To prevent their extinction, we must focus on the development of renewable and sustainable resources, technologies, and holistic lifestyles. With analysis of past measures, as well as future oriented design innovation, this prospect – and necessity – is possible.

One lifestyle which successfully conserves the environment, substantiated by tens of thousands of years of realisation, is that of Nomadism. The culture of Nomadism is one of utmost preservation while still drawing from the environment for sustenance. It is a lifestyle that contemporary societies should look toward for inspiration, implementing the most successful elements from this historical regime within the current epoch. The answer is not to simply amalgamate the current destructive lifestyle of consumption in the West with perpetual relocation. Were we to do so, we would simply spread out our destruction of the environment. Instead, nomadism must be combined with an utmost environmental conscience in order to maintain the biological balance as best we can.

As a developed society (in the Western World) it is unrealistic that we could suddenly change our behaviour and society as a whole and become a nomadic, rudimentary civilisation. However an advantageous approach would take on the ideology of existing nomadic societies such as Mongolia where there has been a resurgence of nomadic practices; ‘the core idea of nomadic culture is centred on an awe of life, respect to nature and harmonious co-existence of humans with nature” (Zhang, M., Borjigin, E., Zhang, H. 2007).

We should place focus on accommodating population growth and expansion by drawing on the past means of nomadic living, appropriated for a contemporary society. One approach to developing a sustainable lifestyle comes from the Fashion Designer, Lucy Orta. Orta’s work DWELLING X MAQUETTE looks at mobility of dwellings. The structure created was only a mock up of a potential technology, however it illustrates the potential embodiment the form may take. It also opens a dialogue for the real world application of this design and how successful it could be in the Western World, or alternatively in areas of homelessness, poverty, disaster relief and other more immediate areas. Such a concept, and the nomadic lifestyle on the whole, is plagued with issues such as mobility, sustainability, economical and environmental implications, as well as the modern concept of a dwelling versus a home.



However it is a necessary discussion. Such a concept has significant implications for the inevitable geographical and numerical expansion of the population. In a domestic sense, the prospect of population growth in Australia will have great implications regarding population distribution requiring us to reconsider our current tendency to occupy the coast. As such we must consider, not the naïve idea that we could become nomads, but the adoption of the most practical elements and ideology of Nomadism, and of “reciprocal, respectful relations with nature” (Upton, C. 2010). If we pillage the environment we occupy, it will eventually become uninhabitable. We must unreservedly seek to increase the longevity of our environment and our planet as a whole.


Gaffney, O. 2013, ‘A nomad in a city of nomads’, The Anthropocene Journal, viewed 15 September 2014, <;

Orta, L. 2004, ‘Dwelling X Maquette’, ORTA, viewed 15 September 2014, <;

Travis, A. S. 2011, Planning for Tourism, Leisure and Sustainability: International Case Studies, Illustrated Edition, CABI

Upton, C. 2010. ‘Nomadism, identity and the politics of conservation’, Central Asian Survey, vol. 29. no. 3, pp 308-309

Zhang, M., Borjigin, E., Zhang, H. 2007, ‘Mongolian nomadic culture and ecological culture: On the ecological reconstruction in the agro-pastoral mosaic zone in Northern China’, Ecological Economic, vol. 62. no. 1, pp 19-26

  1. flawra said:

    A very interesting blog! Raises some good points to consider about how living spaces and lifestyle choices have a large impact on the environment, and opens up avenues for further discussion.


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