Friday, November 28, 2008

It's not too late

Dave Pollard writes a thoughtful blog. One of his most recent entries was rightly criticizing the government about it's inaction around climate change. And there is much to be critical of, including Obama's most recent speech on the topic, which is way too little given what the official science is telling us these days.

But this leads Dave to toy with the potentially self crippling conclusion, that we are "too late" and the game is over. Below is an extended version of the comment i wrote on his blog.

It is not too late. We are just too lazy.

I live in an eco-village in the US. We consumes 30% of the gasoline, per person of our mainstream counterparts. We use 10% of the home heating fuel and cooking gas and produces 10% of the trash of average US americans. And the lifestyle is in most ways indistinguishable from the American middle class, in terms of access to resources. And the really funny/tragic thing, is we are not even trying at it very hard. We dont prioritize sustainability over everything in our budgeting process, we often take cheap fixes instead of green ones.

What we do do well is sharing. We share 17 cars for 100 people, something virtually unheard of in the US, centralized shopping is a service which only the very rich have available to them and i enjoy everyday when i am at home. Growing most of our own food takes about 3% of our total labor (a bit higher than the national average) but most folx in the mainstream wont spend that amount of time on it.

Certainly Bush, Clinton and Gore can take heat for not doing anything at a national level to solve the climate crisis. But Twin Oaks came into being without government assistance and there is nothing which stops the model from replicating itself all over the country (there are about 8 communities in this model now, since our founding over 40 years ago).

Nothing except that old critique from kindergarten "Does not play well with others". The reason we cant share is that we cant talk to our neighbors. The reason we cant share is that we actually believe we need for all our stuff to sit idle almost all the time, because we have a tremendous fear that if we were to lend it out, even to close friends it might get broken or lost. We have (indirectly granted) decided that it is more important for our stuff not to be disturbed than for our planet to be habitable for our kids.

Almost everyday for the last week most of my food has been coming from the dumpsters at the market near Casa Robino. We go and rescue stuff and increasingly talk with vendors who give us the stuff they cant sell before it goes in the trash. We are building relationships and saving that energy (in the form of food). And part of what is surprising to me, is that there is no one else doing this. No poor people, no environmentalists, no life style anarchists.

It is not that there are no solutions our there, we are just pretending that the government is where they will all come from, so we dont have to organize them ourselves.


Unknown said...

Just a note to clarify that lots of people are already dumpster-diving in many places in the U.S. and presumably around the world (although i don't know about the latter from personal experience). Which i know you know, but which your post kinda made it sound like you didn't. And yes, lots more of this reclamation could and should be happening.

I agree with the main thrust of what you've written here, of course. Which is that fatalism is not at all helpful under these circumstances. We need to all step up, as you did in the protest referred to in your Nov. 27 post. Btw, the Wash Post link seems to be broken.

PJ said...

I read Obama's speech on climate change from the link in your post. While I'm glad he talked about investing in alternative energies and starting a federal cap and trade system (and yes I am hopeful such a system can work) I found it disheartening that he didn't talk about what the average jody and joe citizen can do.

So I'm glad you talked about your experiences dumpster diving as well as how very environmental Twin Oaks is, even though the tone comes off as a little pessimistic.

I don't think we are too late, nor are people too lazy. I think perhaps some people are in the dark about what fun it can be to dumpster dive, start neighborhood car shares, and more. I think leading by example is key, so long as you enable other people to believe they too can contribute.