Wednesday 5 December 2007

Wearing Our Green On Our (Second-Hand) Sleeves

The video above is timely, considering the season about to fall upon us (THUD). It was first posted on Celsias a couple of days ago, and now No Impact Man has a post on it as well. I'm posting it here because the more (even if it's just a little) the merrier! Annie Leonard is a waste activist, and the video is engaging and clear. It seems that more "ordinary people" aren't waiting for politicians to set policy and well, just getting the word out or making their own. Including this guy's video on global warming: "How It All Ends" (this is the revised one, in response to feedback from the first, more succinct version).

And then there's the Riot for Austerity. It's an invitation to, over a year, reduce your consumption by 90% and keep it there. That's right, 90%. There are pressing reasons why this figure was chosen, and I'll let the link speak for itself, but I will say that it's an inspired idea. Our household hasn't officially joined, but we're being sucked in bit by bit :-)

There are sooooo many well-spoken people discussing the statistics, the checks and balances, the politics, of global warming, the coming fresh-water shortage, peak oil, greenwashing, and etc. These are important foods for thought, mostly because all those words are (hopefully) catalysts for growth of action. But we are an average family. So here's my average family rant on going green (wait, gotta find the soapbox - oh crap, Safiya's using it as a house for the Mama toy dog....)

(Deep breath...)

I am not part of this new religion, and a religion it does seem, sometimes. I am not better than you because my honey is wildcrafted and yours comes in the plastic bear. You are not going to heaven with your recycled totebag in, er, tow...

And that's the point, isn't it? First, we are in this together. Second, we cannot buy our way out of what is coming.

I do not believe the government will fix things for us (there, I've said it, but please don't stop protesting!) There is a long list of reasons why I think this, but maybe for another post. I do believe that people are very good at getting together to help each other out in a crisis (look at the Big Summer Blackout of 200? here in Toronto - no pandemonium, just people helping each other out - it was coool! I wish we could celebrate it every year!) I don't believe technology is going to save us (we don't have the time). Also, my limited understanding and observation has lead me to the idea that it's better not to hedge my bets on everyone getting on the ACTION bandwagon anytime soon. So here's my radical statement:

I do not make "environmental" changes to stop global warming.

When I took a health psychology class, one of the studies that struck me involved health in the elderly and the idea of anticipation. As far as I recall, there were three groups (randomly assigned): elderly who were not assigned regular visits by volunteers, elderly who were assigned random visits by volunteers, and elderly who were assigned regular (same time, same day) visits by volunteers. The surprising result was that the second group did worse, health-wise than the first group (the third group did the best, obviously). It seems that it was the expectation, the looking forward to the visits, that were of more benefit than the actual visiting!

And so, I make changes in order to practise what is likely to be coming down the road soon. To take care of my family. So that the visits of beans-and-grains, of low-water-levels, of less-of-everything are familiar friends who stop by regularly, not spectres to be feared. The major ones are done: we buy second-hand, have signed up for environmentally friendly electricity, make a lot of our own stuff, are vegetarians, don't have a car, and Mr. S. bikes to work or takes transit (and we picked our house to enable this). There's much more to do, to practise (the garden this year was a bust :-), but it really is a riot!

Funnily enough, I don't even notice much of a difference (and this from a formerly decent shop-a-holic).

Once you stop buying things, you can stop reading labels and trying to weigh products according to their enviro-moral worth. Once you start eating local and in season as much as you can, you can once again stop fretting over labels. Once there's no expectation of being entertained all the time, you start to actually have fun.

And just in case you think I'm all doom-and-gloom (Hi Mom :-), here's some links about why this really works, and what fun we can look forward to:

Sharon's post on Post-Peak Hedonism.
The benefits of living this way from Colin.

And by the way, we have the plastic bear. It just gets refilled, is all.


Anonymous said...

It's always a little weird to repeat real, live conversations in this artificial, remote medium but here goes...

You and I have discussed how entertaining it is to watch people sign up for things like wardrobe refashion knowing that this is the way we already operate without a pledge or a huge commitment to change just as it is odd to watch people struggle with comparing the per basket market prices with the per kilo price at the supermarket. the reality is though even for those who like our family have not bought a new item of clothing (other than undergarments, I must clarify that point) in over four years, eat vegan, preserve the local seasonal harvest and buy our electricity from that charming little frog their is still preparation to be made.

For our family this reached a head this year with two major changes. Firstly we bought a house in the country, the literal country, near nothing, that requires our little hybrid to work a little harder than usual. Secondly we are now expecting a third little passenger which means that unless I can find a way to jam three carseats into said hybrid, we are going to need another option.

While our consumption has increased a good deal along with the new house (gas to get there and away from there and the furnace burns fuel oil) it has also given the children an opportunity to plant and tend their own gardens, to learn about which trees to cull for the stove and which to leave, the value of two days spent cutting, peeling and coring apples (a pie every weekend anyone?) and what a real ontario winter should look like.

These are things we wanted for the children not only for experience sake but also because like you we see the value of small changes that benefit our family now while setting the groundwork for an easier acceptance of things to come. How am I to know the world I'll send these kids into when they're grown? If I have given them the skills to persevere and sustain themselves, I can feel a little better about the future and the changes that threaten to come.

Jennifer said...

yes, yes, and yes! there is an internal balance, for me, in my spirit that loves knowing i am only using "just enough." and just enough keeps changing...

every year, i feel quite a bit more free. it's wonderful.