A Direct Response to Another Comment

October 13, 2007

Once again, my commentator has left me a response that has made me think. (See his comment on my entry, Perspective.) He and I don’t seem to agree on much, but I will say this: he clearly thinks about the world, just as I hope it is clear that I think about the world. Even if our conclusions are different, I find much to admire in other people who understand that this life and this planet deserve a mindful, thoughtful approach, and that a life lived mindlessly is a life wasted.

I think Brutus has read me way wrong in one way, I think — I have nothing against prosperity and in fact am pretty prosperous. My point is also not strictly about environmentalism although specific posts may be, and it may be skewed in that direction at the moment because that’s where my head is. (Now, next month when I write the article the DBNJ commissioned from me about decluttering your life, you may see a shift!)

Two things: one, I don’t think what big business tells us we should equate with prosperity is making very many of us happy. It doesn’t work — at least, not for anything except the corporations’ bottom lines. Part of the reason I started this blog is because of how many people I saw around me who seemed to be in the same boat I’m in — overwhelmed by stuff and meaningless commitments, tired of being told to ignore the little voice inside that says “buying that will not make you happy,” and disgusted at the recklessness of our lifestyles with regard to the wellbeing of other human beings — as well as, admittedly, to other species and the world as a whole.

But that’s only part of it. Another point (not the only other point, but another point) is this: if you listen to the world’s oil experts (the scientists, not the paid mouthpieces), you’ll hear some disturbing truths about the difference between what actually exists and what OPEC says exists. Some of my “slowing down the rampant consumerism” rant and “making changes now” rant have very much to do with how little prepared we are for an economy or a lifestyle post-peak-oil, and how very much I don’t want to have to walk nine miles to work every day or have filling my gas tank cost the equivalent of pimping out my ride.  So yes, I think the time is now to give up the SUVs, not just because of global warming but because they get crappy gas mileage. And yes, I think the time is now to reexamine how much we really NEED a new cellphone every six months, because the oil that makes the plastic (not to mention the 6000x its weight in oil/gas every computer chip uses up just to get itself made) is non-renewable and we’re going through it like that doesn’t matter.

Nowhere have I said that our entire lifestyle should be turned upside down. Do I believe that until we get past some of our challenges, everyone is going to have to change some habits? Yes. Do I believe it would be easier and less painful ultimately to do so in small ways now, rather than getting slapped hard later? Yes.

Look at Atlanta. Did you see the news last week (and for the last several months) about its water shortage, now deemed so severe that one of its main sources may be dry by next year? They’re looking at regulating laundry, dishwashing & showers for literally almost half the state, as well as forbidding ALL outdoor water use. Bye bye garden, bye bye yard, bye bye swimming pool. Ok, I could live with that — but bye bye doing my laundry when I want?

What haunts me is not that I might have to make difficult changes at some point in my life. It’s that I could have made a bigger difference sooner by doing something smaller, earlier. And its hugely this: I’d rather make easy changes voluntarily than have the hard ones visited on me by circumstance and authority.

It’s also this — a reordering of priorities. If you ask me which is more important to me, having a teakwood desk or having a world where scarlet macaws still exist, the macaws are going to win every time. Now, that’s my choice, my priority, and I’ll live by it — but someone else may choose differently.

Brutus, my boy, I think in the end that the primary difference between us is where we believe circumstance will lead us. I’d love it if you were right and we COULD maintain the status quo, and that even if we chose to make improvements here and there, they would be done from choice and not necessity. I’d love it — but I’m not betting the farm on it. And either way, I’ll probably choose to live more simply and more thoughtfully because it feels better, for me, to do so. (PS — the last sentence in no way implies that you don’t live thoughtfully. I think if you see paragraph one, you’ll realize I have formed quite a different opinion of you.)

To my other readers — sorry it’s been so long, I’m working on novel number two, and I’ve written 42,000 words in the last two months — just not many of them HERE. I’ll try to do better.

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One Response to “A Direct Response to Another Comment”

  1. Brutus Says:

    Very nice. It is hard for me to properly convey, even on a good day, the content of my thoughts accurately. I find that if I do not cut myself short on words, my ramblings wil lead to a power shortage by themselves.

    We do disagree about a lot. However, though our world views are different I see a lot of value in YOUR message. The criticism is not for you trying to make changes you value but in the movement whose spokespeople are such poor examples of the message they throw around. And in your thinking that you aren’t doing enough. Ithink simplifying your life is not only noble but more importantly beneficial to you. Sharing your first hand experiences and ideas does quite a lot also.

    Life is not static. We are dynamic beings. In the Christian world, it is said that if your faith is not growing, then it is shrinking. Likewise, in our approach to the world around us we are either improving it or we are diminishing it. It is for this reason that I appreciate your message.

    I think that there are a lot of ways to make those improvements. Some environmental, others societal.

    I do not believe in the status quo. I do think people can live without lavish luxuries. The changes being forced on our society are not all about that. We have overcome many great challenges through advancement and technology. I believe in the ability of our society to do that. Unfortunately the changes that are a foot in regulation and taxation are going to have a dampening effect on innovation. Perhaps even more than on consumption. That is scary to me.

    I happen to agree with your view about commercialism and your concern about things like water supplies in rapidly growing urban areas. I drive regularly through Las Vegas. It is growing like a weed. You want to talk about a not to distant water shortage. They compete directly eith Los Angeles for water and LA is already having shortages. In both of these areas we can see a couple of important things. Corporations are really only about making money and that government does not do a very good job of avoiding or solving problems.

    I am not for one instant suggesting that your message of getting people to think about cutting waste from their lives and lifestyles is a bad or useless one. I just think we can do it without changes in our society that will limit freedom more than they will help the Planet. (these are changes proposed by the environmental movement not on your site by the way)

    According to my core beliefs a simple, effecient lifestyle is both prescribed for me and beneficial to me. My dreams are no different than anyone else, however. I would like lots of toys and luxury in my life. I would hope that I would refrain from excess, however. For those facing that choice, your message is most beneficial. I believe people will be happier if they chose the simpler path.

    I guess I could have saved all that electronic paper and said we agree on more than you may think. My point for commenting on your posts, and I think you already get this, is that I disagree with some of the motivation, not the whole message. It is a flaw of mine that I like good debate and sometimes I dig too deep in the minutia to find a distinction.

    The world is a better place for the message you deliver it. If I can give any food for thought, it would be in the areas of freedom and not allowing government to use issues like this to take it from us.

    Thanks and have a great day.

    Brutus

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