Saturday, May 8, 2010

No Impact

This weeks read was No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and our Way of Life in the Process, by Colin Beaven.
So what's a nice conservative girl like me doing reading a book by a self proclaimed guilty liberal? Well, I'm all about having a small environmental foot-print. I spent the month I turned 18 in the High Unitas Wilderness (think Utah wilderness, mountain peaks, blizzards in August,etc) with 30 other back-packing fools hiking, climbing, rappelling, tarping, cooking our own food, enjoying the bald eagles and the huge peaks, snow and mountain springs and being diligent about leaving a very small footprint as we went, packing out trash, keeping to the trails, etc. The reading list for the program including Carsen's Silent Spring and other ec0doom tomes, which, like a good bibliophile, I completed prior to the trip. Anyway, all of that to say, Mr No Impact intrigued me.
Frankly, I found his eco-babble fairly irritating and feel he called it right when he deems himself a "guilty liberal." Guilt about thisthatandtheotherthing oozes from his pen, as he finally stops and looks at his consumer oriented trash producing ways. Given that scientists have renounced the global warming thang, (http://senseofevents.blogspot.com/2007/12/ipcc-scientists-denounce-global-warming.html)his, making Gore's Peace Prize win over Irena Sendler even more offensive, the quoted stats are suspect.
All of that being said, I like the book. I like Beavan. I like that he did this project, though "the year in a life" thing is getting a bit overdone and the one I really want to read (Living a Year of Kiddish) isn't even at the library. The real story in this book, imho, is about intentional living. Thinking before doing. Creating instead of consuming. For all of his liberalism, guilt and quasi-religion, Beavens is a kindred spirit in that regard. I especially like what he wrote about rhythms, and though he limits them to NYC, I think that what he writes about plays out all over the place,
"There are 2 rhythms playing out here in NYC. On the one hand, there is the
fast street-level rhythm of elevators and subways and taxis and delivery boys
and have a slice of pizza the moment you want it. Saturday breakfast with one
group of friends, lunch with another, dinner and a movie with a third. Same on
Sunday. By the time you're back at work on Monday, you're exhausted. That's the
techno music beat.
Then there's the classical beat. The one where you get wet when it rains,
or you stay in. The one where getting places takes a long time because you walk.
The one that is linked to the natural movement of life, where you actually know
in your body what season it is, even in the middle of Manhattan."

I like that differentiation between the techno-beat and the classical. I think it sums up much of how our family has tried to live. Taking a minute to pause and consider what we are doing and why. Focusing on relationships rather than things, faith rather than religion, process rather than outcome.
Went to a Family Policy Council dinner this week-end and the guest speaker was talking about how liberals raise their kids to be poets and musicians and film makers, while conservatives raise their kids to be doctors or lawyers. Very outcome focused. And as a result, conservatives have this paucity of influence in the world, because we are focused on outcomes rather than teaching our kids to create and narrate. Which gets back to the article I linked yesterday, so if you haven't read it yet, please do.
Beavens talks about the flak he took doing this project, that people accused him of being against progress. He responds,
"But keeping things the way they are is not progress. More of the same isn't
progress. Progress is about looking at where we are and striving to get
someplace better. I don't want less progress. I want more progress, real
progress."

That speaks to me on a profound level. I hear so much in conservative and homeshcooling circles that we just need to "get back to the good old days." Really? When we they? My grandma would tell stories of working on the farm, and we've lived on an acreage long enough to know that the good old days were not as ideal as the idealists would have us believe. I want real progress. Not just more of the same, or more of what we have. A vision big enough to address some of the real issues, the real problems and struggles, the real clash of world views that is here and bound to be even more of a divisive factor soon enough.
This book is about intentionality. Looking at what we've been given and making choices. Pausing long enough to consider that there are choices to be made. Again Beavens writes,

"What if you don't live like everyone else? What if you try different
things? What if you get off this people-mover of a culture and try a different
direction? What if you unplug? Why do we need what everyone else needs? Why
can't we go to sleep when it's dark? Why don't we question?
For most of my years I've just lived my little old life the way the people
around me wrote it, but now I'm definitely turning a lot of it upside down. I'm
defining my life for myself. And you know what? It's kind of a blast.
I like that. The past several months I've questioned an awful lot of our choices, decisions, outcomes. I've been having a crisis, not necessarily of faith, but certainly of purpose. Doing the odd-thing is a lonely path but it too can become just following the crowd rather than following God's plan for your life. I see a lot of folks living radically but it's because they are regurgitating what the other radicals around them are spewing rather then living with a vision for who they are and what they've been called to be and do."


Beavens is a thoughtful writer with an interesting project. And I agree with him on all of the major points about living in a environmentally responsible way. Heck, I bet our family of 6/7 produces less trash than his family of 3 does even yet. And I commend him on his concern for the world, though I think his solution is mis-placed. And I love how he portrays his relationship with his wife and daughter- real. Real people that he cares about, struggles with, adores. Love that. And his conclusion, which is profound:
"At what age did I start to thing that where I was going was more important that
where I already was? When was it that I began to believe that the most important
things about what I was doing was getting it over with? Knowing how to live is
not something we have to teach children. Knowing how to live is something we
have to be careful not to take away from them." And finally, "We need to
pick up a new model of engaged citizenship and realize that the way we live
affects everyone around us. We need to develop new ways to take up and assert
our responsibility. We need to take "participatory democracy" to a new level,
where we don't just vote for the leaders who will bring us the culture we want,
but where we take repsonsibility for making the culture ourselves."

Preach it, brother.

1 comment:

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