Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ready, set . . .

Earth day is just around the corner, one week from today. This week I have heard news reports about the projected world food shortages as a result of the surge in first generation bio-fuels (from foodstuff), about china’s intention to build more coal fired industrial plants, and about Michigan’s consideration of the same, whether to build new coal plants in Bay City and Midland. It is incredible to me that anyone still thinks that new coal plants are an option. The ice caps seem to be melting more quickly every day, and I have heard projections for the state of the earth in as little as ten years that make my blood run cold. So this Earth Day really is a good time to consider what we are willing to give up for our own survival.

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.


Shama-Lama Mama said...

I assume you have already seen An Inconvenient Truth by now? I just saw it the other day and it scared the bejeezuz out of me.

Its astounding to see that it's not just possible but very likely that in my own lifetime and certainly in my children's lifetime, there could be a complete shift in the quality of life of every living person on this planet. How these climate changes will economically effect every thing we hold dear is frightening.

And the masses will never do anything to change until their own way of life begins the great slide downhill.

gpc said...

Yes, Shama Mama, I saw "Inconvenient Truth" as soon as it was out on video and it scared the stuffing out of me, too. Worse, I believe every word of it. Every time I am on Sanibel - where the grouper are disappearing, the shells are already smaller and less frequent than when I first went there, and the algae is deeper - I wonder if my grandchildren will ever see the ocean, or shells . . . or Sanibel. I have fantasies about buying land, sinking a well, buying some edible critters and putting up a windmill, my own little family conclave.

But I also remind myself that we have been near (ok, maybe not this near) the brink of disaster before, and so far we have always eventually pulled it together. I am hoping we can do it this time, too.

But I am pretty sure that it isn't going to happen as long as most of us aren't even willing to give up plastic bags or switch to low energy lightbulbs. And until we can learn some common sense. Do I REALLY need nabisco to give me little bags of snacks when I have no intention of eating just one anyway? We need to think critically about packaging, chemicals, carbon emissions, and the concept of "need." What we NEED is clean air, clean water, healthy food. We would do well to go back to the wisdom of the depression - use it up, repair it, do without. I don't know what it will take to really, really get people's attention. Maybe it's time for us all to pull out our "the end is near" signs and go sit by the freeway. As you can see, at least I will have a soapbox to sit on!