Thursday, June 26, 2008

Getting to Sustainability:
What Have You Done Today ?

--Feature: "Sustainable Soul w/Rebecca Hecking"--

It’s easy to write about eco-utopia. Visions for what the earth could/should be are the stuff of storybook fantasies (not to mention science fiction!). Let’s see….super-efficient cars, non-polluting airplanes, heaps of locally grown, affordable organic food for all, waste-free cities, amazing new electronic gadgetry for our amusement and we all live happily ever after. The end. Sleep well, little Johnny. Everything will be fine in the morning. The techno-geeks will invent the perfect clean energy source and save us all. Sweet dreams.

All sarcasm aside, I think that deep down, we all harbor some elements of this fantasy lurking in the recesses of our minds. We want life to continue pretty much as-is, only greener. We still want to jet off to our overseas vacation spots, and watch our big-screen TVs in our comfortably air-conditioned spacious homes. The shadow side of ecotopian fantasies fills the minds of the eco-primitivists, who fall into the “civilization is hopeless, let’s live in a cave” camp. Their appeal is understandably limited, and their ideas tend to be easily romanticized. Personally, I like hot showers and flush toilets way too much to ever cross over into their ranks.

I consider myself to be an eco-realist, and fall into neither the techno-dreamer nor cave-dweller groups. I can envision a positive earth-friendly future that uses technology selectively, but where lifestyles in the industrialized West (and especially North America) are considerably scaled back. I see less travel, less wasteful consumption, better food, and more community. I get glimpses of this future in alternative media, such as the Lohasian. What I don’t see is an easy way to get from here to there. The devil is in the details.

One obstacle standing between “here” and “there” is the fact that in many ways we are trapped. We are stuck within systems from which it is difficult and expensive to extract ourselves. Everything from the electric power grid to the location of our homes to our present jobs… all of it conspires to keep us stuck in the business-as-usual way of doing things. We are busy with day-to-day living. “Re-inventing society” just doesn’t fit easily between taking the kids to the dentist and calling our accountant. We are cogs in the machine that is contemporary culture. Anybody have a monkey wrench handy?

On a deeper level, the level of the heart and spirit, are we also “trapped” ? I think to varying degrees we are. The default state of our mindset tends toward denial and distraction, a condition which meshes nicely with the minutiae of our daily lives. Moving us out of this default state requires a soul-deep shift in our priorities. Somehow, we do need to add “create sustainable societies” to our daily to-do lists.

A while ago I wrote out the words, “What have you done today?” on a slip of paper, and put it on a shelf in my workspace. What have I done today to help create a sustainable culture? Every day, I try to have some sort of positive answer to this question although the answers vary considerably in impact. What have I done today? I wrote this column. I hung a load of laundry in the sun to dry. My dinner was low on the food chain, and I was thankful for it in a conscious way. I did not watch “reality” TV. Small things, yes. But asking the question daily has shifted something within me. The earth is on my mental radar screen now. I think differently. I behave differently.

If enough of us experience a heart/spirit shift, I believe we will reach a tipping point where systems will also shift, and we will be well on the road to an earth-friendly, sustainable future. So… what have you done today?

Rebecca Hecking is a contributing columnist for the Lohasian, and holds an MA in cultural and equity studies. Today, she plans to work in her organic vegetable garden. The tomato plants are doing exceptionally well this year.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I agree living a completely green life is not quite possible today. I recently read about something called obsessive compulsive environmentalism which I think refers to the “civilization is hopeless, let’s live in a cave” camp that you mentioned.