CHAPTER 13-1/2. OUT-TAKES (BONUS CHAPTER)
This chapter is definitely from the “Having my cake and eating it too” department. Originally, I had this material in the main body of the book, in a chapter titled “Tidbits” that immediately followed the Riot chapters. But I decided that some folks might feel overwhelmed with the extra content-dump.
I also thought some folks might enjoy this extra stuff. So I got the bright idea of making an out-take chapter. If you feel like you’re done reading, then that’s okay; skip this chapter or save it for another time. If you feel like nibbling on some mini-rants, little insights, and other tidbits, read on!
Some of my footprint reduction is a byproduct of another goal. For example, I wanted to reduce my mindless internet usage, so I started doing “modified Internet intake.” This meant having internet only at work. When I want to do things online I arrive early at the shop where I work part-time and use the internet there. By not sitting on the internet for hours, I reduce my electricity consumption, but more importantly, I improve the efficiency of the time I do spend on the internet.
Lately, I’ve been taking aim at my “free wifi habit” by refraining from accessing wifi at free hotspots “just because I can”; by doing this I’m more present with the people in front of me or the task at hand.
Reduction Is More than the Sum of Its Parts
I doubt that the electricity reduction from my “self-imposed internet reduction diet” is very substantial. The greater benefit comes from my being “unhooked” for several hours a day, mainly in the evening. This turns the evening into unbroken time for walks, writing, introspection, reading paper books (or ebooks already stored on my device), sitting with my cat, and connecting face-to-face with my neighbors.
Regarding connection vs. connectivity, here’s one of my new favorite quotes; it’s from my friend Paul Furlong’s book, Paul Furlong’s Bohemian Road Trip: “I swear, the more I accept the miracle of universal consciousness, the more I see electronic connectivity as a kind of booby prize.”
Another reason why reductions are more than just the sum of their numbers is that we’re not just reducing; we’re helping to NORMALIZE a gentler and saner way of doing things. What are you normalizing with your choices today? There’s a lot of power in asking yourself that question.
The Cost of Comfort
Did you ever wonder what the addiction to constant comfort is costing you besides just money (and the time it takes to work to make that money)? What about your peace of mind; your sense of self-reliance and independence? What about the time you can never get back? How comfortable is our state of American comfort, really?
Greenness transcends all political and class boundaries. Someone who is following a low-footprint path might actually be a card-carrying member of the Green Party, but he or she could just as easily be a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Communist, anarchist, independent, or apolitical. I’ve met deep-green people of all political stripes. Yes, ALL. No one party or affiliation has a monopoly on green-ness (sorry to break the news to you, Democrats and Greens!).
Overtaken By Events, in a Good Way
Many environmentally minded people (including myself at times) have been angry, frustrated, and hopeless for so long that our vision has become obscured. In many cases, our negative outlooks are literally being overtaken by positive developments that are happening all around us.
All across the USA, mayors and cities are making their own climate-change policies, overriding the lack of conscience or political will at the national-government level. Convenience stores are setting up quite gorgeous recycling stations on their premises (Thanks, Wawa!). A tiny West Texas town, Spur, is billing itself as “the first tiny-house-friendly town in the USA” and proactively recruiting the kind of residents who will make a truly livable community.
Food-gardening and raising chickens are wildly popular in some places, to the point of almost being mainstream. This is something I’ve really noticed just in the last 10 years. The State of California is basically doing its own thing, with environmental regulations far more rigorous than anywhere else in the country. Contrary to the predictions of naysayers, the state is watching its economy boom as a result. Like battle-hardened soldiers peering up from the trenches and seeing that the worst of the war is over, we environmentalists can take comfort in the fact that our sad Lone Ranger or “Chicken Little” attitude is obsolete in many ways, and we can abandon our lonely outposts and join the current.
Helpful Daily Habits
The following are some little daily habits and attitudes I’ve found helpful; adapt this to your needs.
• I try not to watch or listen to too much news. Not having a TV helps a lot. I control my news intake by reading selectively. And although I did not consciously set out to do so, I realized that nowadays I am more creating the news than consuming the news. By this I mean being out there engaged in civic activities, such as: City Commission meetings, neighborhood planning meetings, design charrettes; reaching out to potential allies, and teaming up with neighbors to form a steady presence in our neighborhood park and discourage drug dealers and prostitutes from roosting there. (Aside: Just because I don’t have a TV doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy watching TV on occasion. I got to see the 2016 Summer Olympics on wide-screen TV at my favorite beachside pub, Jimmy Hart’s Hall of Fame at the Mayan Inn in Daytona Beach.)
• I don’t focus too much on the threat of environmental disaster. I give myself a “booster shot” of a reminder maybe every month or two; that’s all I need to keep my edge.
• I strive to minimize my footprint but I don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. When a friend took me out to dinner many times over the course of a few weeks, and I wound up with styrofoam carry-out boxes for the leftover food, I didn’t beat myself up. I did notice that styrofoam is getting a lot thinner and lighter these days!
• I try to put as much energy into cultivating compassion and kindness as I do to minimizing my eco footprint. One of my ongoing struggles is to keep myself from flipping the bird at drivers who abuse me for being on a bicycle. I try to see their viewpoint (they have trouble passing in a narrow lane; they’re from the suburbs and they’ve never been around people who cycle for transportation and they expect a cyclist to ride on the sidewalk). I usually end up feeling at least somewhat more peaceful and understanding. An unkind word or a rude gesture ripples out into the world; it’s a form of pollution.
• I strive to maximize my HANDPRINT by putting myself out there in the world and using my talents to create useful things for people. I go to City Commission meetings. I make art. I have a Little Free Library in my front yard next to the sidewalk that gets a lot of foot traffic. I teach neighbors how to collect rainwater. I give demos of my solar oven and share sun-cooked food.
Attention Management Is Key
The real name of the game is managing our attention. Attention management is what will determine our success or failure. While acknowledging the reality of the obstacles, we need to keep most of our attention on the desired outcome.
Oversteering and Horizons
When my father was teaching me to drive, he told me to direct my gaze some distance out in front of me rather than what was immediately in front of me. To keep my eyes on the road where I wanted to go, not keep my eyes on traffic cones, the side of the road and so on. By keeping our eyes on where we want to go, we avoid being panicked and swayed by every little news item that hits our inboxes.
Conversely, sometimes we panic over something that’s too far away to worry about. Some of my fellow permaculturists (and I share this tendency with them) have been known to worry every time we put a jar into the recycling bin. I couldn’t make a new mason jar if I needed one! This mentality results in a lot of cluttered cabinets and dusty garages. We don’t have to know how to make a mason jar at the household level. We can trust that the glass-vessel-making industry will retool as appropriate and adapt to keep up with the prevailing energy mix. I don’t have to worry about not being able to weave clothing. Truthfully, there is enough overstock to keep us all well-clothed well into the next century.
All of that said, learning how to weave or blow glass could be an enjoyable and useful way for you to entertain yourself, educate yourself about history and energy, and connect with likeminded people. And it could give you a skill to teach, thus providing you with a “right livelihood” and a way to increase your handprint.
Along those same lines, why not be the first glassblowing artisan who becomes known for being powered by renewable energy? In fact, I imagine that artisan already exists, but you could become the first in your local area.
Ditto for a bakery, a handmade-clothing boutique, or a leather-goods repair shop. Become known as the green, low-footprint one!
Things Are Not Always What They Seem
Recently as I was sitting down to write, the peaceful early-evening air was shattered by the ear-splitting snarl of a weed-whacker. As the sound went on and on, I found myself working up quite a lather. “When will people get it?? Those things ought to be outlawed!! Who’s doing that???”
I got up to look, and saw that it was my neighbor catty-corner across the street. A guy who hardly ever buys food from a supermarket because he catches in the river or grows in his yard most of what he eats. A guy who gets around by bicycle and hardly ever burns gasoline, except occasionally when he rides in the car with his father to help out with the family business, a commute of about five miles.
As long as buying my food is an option for me, I may never be as green as that neighbor. I took a deep breath and relaxed about the weed-whacker.
Lately I’ve been having more and more moments like this, and as you become more centered in your own pursuit of your version of a deep-green life, I bet you will be having more of them too.
Your Mission, Should You Choose To Accept It
Consider yourself mobilized! With the Riot for Austerity, there’s no government mandate making you do it. You determine your role and how far you want to go. It’s the People’s Green Mobilization! We could call it Green Mob or XLF Lifestyle Tribe for short. Plug into what you care about most, find your people, and go to town!
You know the saying “If you can’t beat them, join them?” We complain at how much power and influence the corporations and advertisers have. Well, what if we use some of their methods to promote our positive activities. Who wants to help me make some World War II-style green mobilization posters?
Perception Is Everything
How we think of things (“credit-card debt” vs. “business investment debt”; “doing without air conditioning” vs. “preferring an open-air environment”) not only makes a difference in our own ability to “walk our talk”, to translate our convictions into our daily personal practices. How we refer to things in our own minds also makes an enormous difference in how we talk about them to other people. This has an impact on how persuasive and attractive our lifestyle is. People adopt what’s attractive and useful. Human beings are “Monkey see, monkey do.” If you’re doing something that’s working, and you recognize that fact and radiate it to the world in your attitude, people will sense it and copy it.
When you choose to define something as “retro” rather than shabby and old-fashioned, it becomes cool. The little white folding step-ladder in my kitchen, which even a tall person like me needs in order to reach the high kitchen shelves (vertical space being an essential in the modest-sized kitchens of yore), might look shabby to some. But to me it evokes nostalgia for the World War II–era look of my grandmothers’ kitchens. In fact, the four-plex house in which I occupy one rental unit was built in the 1920s. What are some examples from your own life? Can your “cramped” apartment actually be “minimalist urban chic”?
Getting Real Freedom
I recently witnessed a little boy crying in a car. The Dad, exasperated, outside trying to get the little boy to come out of the car. “Honey, I’m sorry but when we went to the park there were no parking spaces and no one was leaving so that’s why we had to come home instead of going to the park!”
In a Riot world this would not happen. Dads and kids would walk or cycle to the park. Or if there were no park close by, they’d make the whole neighborhood their park. The much-touted “freedom” of the car so often turns out to be the opposite.
The Power of Purpose
A recent issue of TIME magazine reported on a study that found that people with a sense of purpose literally sleep better at night. Those who reported having a strong sense of purpose were 63% less likely to suffer from sleep apnea and 52% less likely to suffer from restless leg syndrome than those whose “purpose scale” score was lower.
A Minimalist Clutterbug
I get a lot of credit for being minimalist and having a small footprint; however, as much as I hate clutter, I am still a clutterbug in certain ways. My clutter takes the form of small bits of jewelry, art supplies, paper scraps “too good to throw away”.
I consider this pattern a direct physical manifestation of my old pattern of hanging back and withholding effort. Recently I read a book called Die Empty by Todd Henry. It’s about putting out to the world all you’ve got every day, so you don’t die with a single thing undone, a single bit of energy or talent unspent. I have several pads of unused fine paper for artwork. I have a set of paints. I have a set of colored inks – I did use them a lot a few years back when a lot of my livelihood was focused on visual art, so I do consider the inks to have paid for themselves, not only monetarily but also energetically. So even if I were to get rid of them now, I could do so without regrets. I don’t feel like I’m done with art yet though.
This is not to make a point that you shouldn’t ever keep anything around, rather that you should be ever-mindful of your own “happy medium” zone that lies between having too much stuff moldering away unused and having nothing to work with. I do enjoy going into my supplies shelf and finding something I had forgotten about!
How To Achieve a Zero Footprint
If you want to achieve a zero footprint and save the world, here’s the 100% effective, surefire way: Don’t move, don’t breathe, don’t consume anything, and don’t ever do anything. This includes having kids. Don’t do that!
You may laugh, at least I HOPE you’re laughing, as opposed to, say, slowly nodding your head in a dawning glimmer of agreement, or jumping up out of your chair and shouting, “EUREKA, that’s IT, the secret of a sustainable civilization is to … kill off all the people!” But laugh though we may, some people actually feel that the human race is so fundamentally flawed, and/or has taken such a wrong turn, that our species is not worth saving, and the best thing we humans can do for the planet is to die out.
Does that make sense to you? Do you believe that the best we humans can possibly hope to do is hunker down and sit still and try not to breathe, so we can be “less bad” for the environment? It doesn’t make sense to me. What a cop-out! Fortunately it’s not the case. At least I don’t believe it is.
What I believe is that it’s possible to restore ecological balance to the planet without sacrificing our own basic human needs. You can be deep-green and still live a full life! In fact, it will be a much fuller life because you’ll be cutting out waste, busywork, and conflict. Then you can use your freed-up time and energy to focus on the stuff that really makes your soul sing.
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