My co-workers think I’m nuts. That’s nothing new; I’ve always worked blue collar jobs with rural type folks. Salt of the Earth kind of people, some would say. I’ve never fit in. My opinions on politics, human rights, environmental concerns, dietary choices make many uncomfortable. My distaste of television and proclivity towards reading books has made me the misfit in whatever industry I worked at the time.
Rarely do I get the opportunity to make my case in the face of so much opposition; everyone is against me, the story usually goes. This isn’t about my criticisms of capitalism; there are many to be sure. This is about the living a moral, decent life; being able to sleep at night because I feel that I’m making positive choice in my day to day lifestyle. The products I purchase, the packaging I avoid, the dietary choices I make, avoiding driving when possible, conserving water, and generally living small is important to me.
You could call this environmentalism, being “green”, or whatever label is convenient. I don’t generally like labels, but when someone calls me a “tree hugger”, I own it. I don’t have the foggiest idea how anyone can use “tree hugger” as a derogatory term. Lately, I tell them I’m a “Tree hugging, dirt worshipping, eco-communist”. That usually shuts them up.
“Liberal Greenies” or whatever, get the reputation of trying to save the world without the humility to accept the absurdity of their own half-hearted efforts based on whatever “green technology” is trending at the time. This has been termed “conspicuous conservation” by some; such as advertising the fact they switched over to all compact fluorescents in their home, but never bother to switch them off. Regardless of the intention, any effort to be more “green” can be perceived by some as simply smug.
True, there are those who are quite humble about the small steps they are taking to change their lifestyle towards something resembling sustainable; I like to think I’m one of those folks. I do these things, not for pats on the back or the admiration of others, but because I honestly think it is right. Beyond what I believe is the moral way to live, there is a very practical reason to conserve: the party is almost over.
If I’m alive in fifty years, the world will be a very different place with possibly several billion more human inhabitants living on a planet with an unstable climate. I hope, and “hope” is the only word I can say for it, that a worldwide change in consciousness reins in a massive paradigm shift in the way we integrate our civilization into the metabolism of the planet without a series of cataclysmic disasters to shake us from our fossil fuel induced stupor. Frankly, I’m not holding my breath; it’s likely to be a shit storm. But, I’m not waiting around, only to find my pants down when the economy finally collapse, the electric grid down, water mains dry, and the grocery store shelves empty. What good is a 401k plan when the money is worthless?
No, I’m making conscious choices to develop a more sustainable lifestyle as a retirement plan; I’m trying to survive and flourish. The collapse isn’t going to happen, it has already begun. Before I was even born, the wheels were set in motion. I won’t be barricaded in a bunker with food and ammunition. If things elevate to that level, I don’t think survival is worth fighting for. I will make every effort live how humans will live in a post-growth society, even in the face of ridicule.
Whenever a change takes place, which happens all the time, there are always the same groups of people; the ahead of their time visionaries who see the change before anyone else and are considered eccentric at best, the early adopters who like you understand that the change is truly coming and participate in that change because they know its right, the fashionable who only participate in the change because they think its the hip thing to do. There are the do-not-care people and then there are the deniers and hardcore haters. Every group I think is important. Even the haters. Pirsig talks about this in Zen and Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If there is no resistance to change, the society will change too quickly and become fickle and disintegrate.
As a different point I’m saddened by the dooms day preppers who think that preparation means stocking on supplies and ammunition. It’s sad because they feel that once society disintegrates everyone will return to the jungle law of might is right. They might be right but it’s just sad either way. Is there no hope for a peaceful human community on earth ever? If in the post-growth society we simply rebuild on the same principles of hate and mistrust then what’s even the point. Is spiritual evolution, to quote joni mitchell, just a dream some of us had?