I am the first to admit that it all seems so hard and impractical. We have been spoiled by decades of convenience, and I’m afraid there is no painless way to retrain ourselves. But there are lots of thoughtful options to consider.
Many people have become more thoughtful by ‘fasting’ from consumption, people who’ve made the Buy Nothing pledge. I haven’t taken the Buy Nothing pledge, but I’ve certainly read the books – does that count? – and yes, in perfect irony, I bought those books before I read them. In this modified economic fast, people are urged to buy only the things they really need – food and heat and transportation – and nothing else, no extra clothing, no extra toys, no extra extra anything. I’m not old enough to have lived during the depression, when people were forced to make careful choices, but there are good reasons to take the Buy Nothing pledge in addition to the environmental reasons. I’ve seen reports that the cost of manufactured goods are expected to triple in the next year, and I’m not sure that anything I buy is worth three times what I’m paying for it now. Perhaps I would squander fewer personal and environment resources if I could consistently remember why I’m trying to conserve them -- really, did I need the snack crackers and individual grapefruit cups from Costco, or could I, for the sake of my grandchildren and yours, have done without them?
Other people (other books) have created the ‘eat local’ challenge. In my case, since we have local cows and sugar beets, I guess I could have all the ice cream I need, but it would be nearly impossible to find a quick lunch and would cut way back on my fruit and vegetable consumption for the next several months. Maybe this summer I will finally preserve and freeze local produce so that I will have it to rely on next winter. (I’ve already checked the internet for local farmers’ markets )
If that is too daunting, Crunchy Chicken suggests experimenting with small categories of sacrifice . (Now that woman is fearless - she has even done the cloth wipe challenge. Although I am not quite ready for that, I have to admit that it would change my consumption habits if I had to face myself from . . . er . . . both ends.) If you dare, you can sign up for one of her challenges today, giving up, for example, paper or plastic products. Can we even imagine a world without plastic anymore? It is everywhere, from the deepest parts of the ocean to the closet in my home. I remember how surprised I was to learn, at a crime lab demonstration about fiber evidence, that several of my winter blazers are made out of plastic fibers, spun soda pop bottles. And, as they do every Earth Day, several cities are organizing a no transportation day. For me that would mean biking or walking to work along a busy interstate freeway, or through difficult neighborhoods, neither of which sounds like a good idea.
So each of us has a week to decide. Small sacrifices make a difference, and as a bonus, our commitment will send a mandate to our lawmakers. How will they dare vote for the environment, at the expense of industry and profit, if they don’t have our support? How can they believe they have our support in changing the world if we aren’t willing to give up anything? But - no pressure here - we should all decide to do something, because if we aren’t willing to sacrifice something for a single day, we might be forced to sacrifice a lot more, and sooner than we think.