Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The times they are a'changing, and maybe it's time for me

As my childhood church would have said, I was “convicted” the other day when I heard No Impact Man, Colin Beavan, on NPR’s Talk of the Nation. No Impact Man has gotten a lot of press lately, and reportedly even a book and movie deal, by creating a year-long project where he and his family hope to make changes that will result in their zero net negative impact on the environment. Although I was not sure that his changes would be the right ones for me, I guess I finally got it that one person can do more than sit and despair. Hopefully by now we’ve all seen An Inconvenient Truth. So we all know, on some level, that we need to make changes.

I have a good life, but I’ve always tried not to take too much advantage of the universe I live in. I don’t think I’m a bad person, or as enviro-greedy or insensitive as I could be. Hey, I listen to NPR. I drive a 1997 Toyota Corolla that has somewhere around 200,000 miles on it (the odometer is broken), and still gets better gas mileage than many new vehicles. I keep my car well tuned (I love my car) and I check the tire pressure about every six weeks. I don’t litter. I don’t travel as much as I want to (doesn’t that count for something?!) I try not to waste food. I dial my heat down and keep my air conditioning at (I think) a minimum; I use a programmable thermostat. I turn off, unplug, and am careful about the use of my electrical appliances. I’ve added insulation to my home, I recycle, within the limits of my city services. I eat many (or at least some) fresh and organic foods. I occasionally donate to green organizations (if there is money left after I buy useless things for my grandchildren). I don’t use pesticides or fertilizers on my lawn (to the embarrassment of my neighbors). And I try not to buy everything I want, even for my grandkids.

But once my grandchildren were born, I became increasingly aware that I am not doing enough. The way things look now, my grandchildren – and yours – will need to make serious sacrifices just to survive. The environment always mattered to me, but it matters to me more now that my grandchildren are living, breathing realities, so they are going to be my incentive for this project. I realize that we – that I, at least - can no longer put things off. Things are deteriorating much too quickly. According to, more than a million species could be extinct, and the Arctic Ocean could be ice free in summer by 2050. My grandchildren were born in 2004 and 2006. Do the math.

Unlike No Impact Man, I don’t live in a place like Manhattan where I can walk everywhere, or even where there is mass transit. And frankly, I think it is unlikely that I will compost my own poop, or that I would do it even if I were a vegetarian, which I am not, although I am concerned about the meat and poultry industries. But I am going to see what I can do to alter my own lifestyle in ways that will make a difference, hopefully so that the sacrifices that my grandchildren will later have to make won’t be as severe as it looks like will be necessary at this point.

I have no idea what difference I can make, but I have to believe that one person can make some difference. I also have no idea how to blog my ideas effectively (or, as yet, how to insert a photo or a link!) This is all a new adventure for me. I am hoping that doing it "publicly" will help keep me accountable and help me make the tough choices when I don’t want to. I will experiment with a new goal every so often, hopefully each week, and will incorporate as many as I can into my life.

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