Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] NMOC: Sustainable Living

Kate Parker Adams kate@dnki.net
Sat, 28 Jun 2003 17:22:05 -0400

At 11:27 AM 6/28/03 -0700, James Warren wrote:
>Just bring the discussion down to the more earthy level:  how do I as an 
>environmentalist feel about  the contradictions inherent in working in a 
>world whose institutions demand that I "consume, embellish, discard, and 

I think you have to start with the old "things I can't change, things I can 
change, wisdom to understand the difference" saw.  If you realize that you 
are not any more at fault for the state of the world than the next person 
(provided the "next person" isn't Dick Cheney ...), then the either 
paralyzing or sanctimonious notions of eco-perfection drop by the wayside.

Once you let yourself off the hook on a personal level, then some real work 
can get done.  While you can't change what you inherited, you can change 
where you go from there.  Individuals didn't screw up the planet, societies 
have and that is the level at which you must think in order to improve 
sustainable practices. I used to have discussions with my radical niece 
about how you might ultimately save a lot more animals and damage much less 
of the environment by convincing a lot of mainstream folks to eat less meat 
than you will in creating a handful of strict vegans.

On the individual level, continuous improvement is a much more appropriate 
goal than purity.  Organizing or participating in local initiatives spreads 
the concepts you play with.  You can walk or bike the kids to school, but 
it is much better for the community to work to make it easier for all kids 
to get to school without cars being involved - and raise awareness of the 
problems that car drop-offs cause (bad school air quality, congestion, 
accidents, etc.).  You can tear up a dying, chemical and water dependent 
lawn and put in a garden matched to your climate.  Appalled neighbors will 
make the paradigm shift and start asking about the flowers when water bans 
and droughts kill their monoscapes or they have to mow on a hot day and you 
are sipping lemonade in an untended garden run riot.  Make it clear that it 
is possible to have the things you value, but it is not necessary to do 
them in thoughless or conventional ways that cause a great deal of damage 
to the air and earth and water that sustain us.  Demonstrate and experiment 
on your own turf, hold fast when the Joneses think you are nuts, and then 
share the word - and the bounty.

I'm sure there are many other ways to make peace with yourself and the 
planet within the web of an instant-gratification and personal-control 
society.  Trying to take control and insisting on instant gratification is 
not one of them.  Forgiving yourself for not running or controlling the 
world, understanding that you really can't anyway, and then getting on with 
what you can do to push the workings of this chaos in positive directions 
is an important first step.

Back to harvest some peapods from that organic garden ... and share them 
with the neighbors,