25 Apr

Earth Day (a few days late)

I have been visiting the No Impact Man blog recently. I was following a link, late at night, of course. At first, I thought the guy was over-the-top. I mean, “Wow, the ends to which people will go to promote themselves.” Then I moved on to “That’s easy for him to say, what with a kid young enough not to protest each and every life change, and someone else to rinse the poopy cloth diapers.” I’m a convert now though. The man serves up some excellent food for thought, and he’s got conviction. I can respect just about anything if it’s backed with conviction.

I’d love to save the planet myself, but I just don’t have the conviction. I fight with conflicting desires every day. I recently bought a second drying rack for my balcony so I have enough space to dry an entire load of laundry, but I use a non-organic/full of chemicals detergent. I walk all over my village, but drive a car when I want to go any farther. I buy organic food when I think it’s something the family would eat, but also serve my kids Nutella on weekends.
I hope it’s about finding some sort of a balance between convenience and sustainability. I could go to the health food store and buy more eco-friendly products, but it’s in another town and I’d have to drive or spend a half an hour each way on the streetcar to get there. Or I could walk two blocks to my local grocery store. I could go vegetarian because I know that it is lower on the food chain, but I also know that I have molars AND incisors for a reason — we humans are omnivores and our bodies need a variety of foods. I feel a bit guilty about our two cars and annual flights to the US or vacation destinations, and even brought up the subject of “buying” carbon offsets. Of course the buzz words make it sound like you are actually removing carbon pollution, but really, it’s just donating money to research or fund alternative energy in a direct relation to the carbon energy you use. Not a bad thing, but my in-house Devil’s Advocate says that it appears the money is not going to the research or funding, but just to those who say it will go to research and funding. I also treasure the experiences we’ve had in the myriad places we’ve visited. What we have learned about other histories and cultures may contribute more towards global understanding and a healthier world view than the carbon we use to get to have those experiences. Of course, as the developed countries are attempting to embrace sustainability, the much more populous developing countries are trying their hardest to get to the place we are now eschewing. Although it’s not about environmentalism, the book “The Eagle’s Shadow” by Mark Hertsgaard has made me think long and hard about the example we westerners make. We can each do the best we can do, but ultimately, the earth is a huge place with a lot of people who’s ultimate goals are not necessarily the same — or even mutually compatible. (Somewhat off-topic, another book I recommend is “Occidentalism” by Buruma and Margalit. It serves to remind us that America is not the center of the universe and there are other world views which are not the same as western ones.) Back to my little contribution (or lack thereof) — what and were to buy? If I buy locally, then I’m supporting the local economy and possibly the small farmer or entrepreneur. If I buy something grown or manufactured somewhere else then I’m supporting that economy. If I want to feed the world’s hungry, then supporting the entities which employ them and thus provide the means with which to buy food or seeds then that’s good too, right? I know it’s not that simple, but that’s the problem too: it’s NEVER simple. (In the end, I settle for quality over quantity and let teh rest sort itself out.) I am fine with a zero population sum; two parents, two kids to carry on the genes. But there are many more (in both developing AND developed countries) who don’t subscribe to that view — for economic or religious reasons just for starters. So, the world population will rise and so will the accompanying environmental issues.
I believe that the earth is in constant change. Some changes will happen regardless of the actions of the earth’s inhabitants, some changes we CAN affect. I believe the earth will eventually become uninhabitable for humans and that we’re probably speeding up that process. Does the earth care? No. It is very self-centered of us to think that the only state of the earth is a state in which humans can inhabit it. Earth will exist long after we’re gone, although it may look very different. (Fantasy end of the human race book recommendation: “Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood. Next on my reading list: “Collapse” by Jared Diamond, author of the very informative and readable “Guns, Germs and Steel.”) So where does that leave a pessimist with no convictions like me? I’ll do what I can to be mindful of the choices I make for myself and my family. I’ll try my best to strike a balance between modernity (love my computer!!) and environmentalism. But I’m afraid I’m ultimately contributing to the end of the world as we know it because I lack the conviction to change the entire way I live.

By the way, the views expressed in this post are my opinion alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the others living in my household.

OK, I’m off to clean bathrooms with my favorite eco-friendly vinegar cleaner and my (probably nuclear) energy sucking vacuum cleaner. The opposing forces are inevitable and inescapable. Uplifting craft content to come later.

3 thoughts on “Earth Day (a few days late)

  1. Kristin, I love reading your blog! You’re the thinking Everywoman. Yes, the truth about humanity’s situation on this planet is pretty depressing. Most people choose to avoid even thinking about it. So you’re way ahead already. Not only that, but you’re doing a lot more of the “right” things than most others. Personally, I look at living sustainably much the way I look at diets. Crash diets never work. Incremental and livable changes do work. I try to sensibly incorporate what I can, as I can, without obsessing over the impossibility of doing enough. At least I’m going in the right direction.

  2. I don’t think you are a pessimist, you are a realist. Environmental “solutions”, like economic solutions, are not simple – they are complex and every option has a good and a bad side. Is it better to sell your perfectly good gas guzzler that’s paid for to buy a new hybrid? Under one theory, we keep what works good and avoid creating more trash or do we buy the newer gentler product? It’s refreshing to read a reasonable point of view!

  3. I have to say I’m right with you on this one. Ask me to give up my disposable diapers — really, try it. But, I am TRYING to make other choices that are healthier for the world and for the my family. Like you, I lack the total conviction to make some of the drastic changes, but I can make small ones and make them more often, and eventually, those changes add up. Thanks for the post — and for expressing opinions I’ve been wrestling with myself.

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