If I could pick a detestable day of the year, this would be it. More than April 15, more than the most darkest day of winter. It's is making me think more about the very positive experience of doing less with less, and our own glass house.
My friend Laureen recently reviewed the book A Nation of Farmers by Sharon Astyk. I hadn't heard of Sharon but the book sounded interesting, so I went poking around her blog. The first post I read covered a World Bank paper that made simple math of the meaningful impact of individual behavior on overall 'greenhouse gas' emissions- and questioned why people don't make changes even when they are faced with the obvious. Her prior post ruminated on her own family's choices to try and live sustainably. I'm hooked already:
".the most important (and least photogenic) thing that we do to fulfill our goal of using vastly less energy than most Americans is to choose not to do things that most people do. It isn't sexy. It doesn't look good in pictures. But it is a tool available to all of us, and it is often overlooked in our race for substitutions and replacements."
It's nice to feel good about where we are now, how our consumption has changed and our footprint has shrunk. How smug we could be, satisfying our power needs directly from the sun and wind, living simply, orienting our daily priorities around family togetherness, and fundamental needs a la Maslow instead of pop culture driven, artificial wants.
Great. Good for us. How very nice and neo-hippy. But could we have made the tough choices to meaningfully affect our consumption if we hadn't literally sailed away? Could we have avoided the popular pressure to fall in line and do what we're "supposed" to do- burning fuel to cart the kids to soccer practices and swimming lessons, buying wardrobes to meet unspoken work standards, expending power to run all the machines that make life "easier" and allow us to cram in more things that we don't need?
I wonder. I really don't know, but I'm not optimistic. It's a whole lot easier to do the things that seem sustainable on the surface, but actually involve more consumption and more stuff. One-upsmanship, even, just Boho style. Like Sharon points out, sustainability often doesn't look good in pictures, and our culture swings hard in support of the photogenic.
Sharon's thoughts are probably sticking with me because we're thinking lately about what happens in another 18-24 months, when our cruising kitty gets lean and we have to make some tough choices about what's next in our lives. Where to live, how we'll support ourselves, how to find a path that feels right. A perfect U-turn to walk in our old footsteps doesn't seem possible.
I look at the things our children are learning, the priorities being set now that I hope form a lifetime groove, and can't imagine doing anything differently. Contemplating change is hard, but finding a voice like Sharon's at least helps it feel possible somehow. And meanwhile, it just makes me which I could click my heels together three times and make the crush of people racing for a bigger, cheaper, flat screen TV today stop in their tracks, and contemplate what hole they are trying to fill.