Perspective

September 23, 2007

I talk a lot with my friends and acquaintances about all the issues covered here. Something that repeatedly comes up is how overwhelming it all is, and how impossible to stay informed and keep up with all the fronts where we’re in trouble, as a society, as a planet and in our personal lives. I absolutely see that. It is overwhelming to think about global warming, dependence on foreign oil, erosion of our civil rights, incursion of marketing and consumerism into our minds, health challenges, our lack of time & the enormous number of demands on it, the horrible environmental and humanitarian crises worldwide, pollution, wastefulness and you name it.

It’s tempting to be immobilized by it.

But I see two things.

One, on how very, very many fronts we’ve taken a wrong path. Indeed, it’s hard to find an area of life where we couldn’t stand to find a less selfish way of doing things and where we don’t need to take a good look at the long view and the bigger picture and adjust our behavior accordingly.

But two — the fact that we are so overwhelmingly screwed up is very freeing. It means that we have a huge range of possible improvements to make, an enormous number of possibilities for changing things in a way that works for us. Thousands of places where our money, time, effort, and voices can make a difference. Not all starting places are easy for all of us. But each of us has some starting places that are simple, virtually painless, and worth doing.

One of my friends still shops at Wal-Mart (no matter how many nasty and uncalled-for cracks I make about it to her face, and I’m hoping to reform her yet) but she also knits squares that make charity afghans for disadvantaged people and baby hats for a local neo-natal intensive care unit.

My parents both drive small SUVs — they don’t want to, but they can’t get into and out of low-to-the-ground cars anymore. Yet they recycle.

Another friend built a house 30 or so miles (maybe more!) from where she works. But she bought a Prius.

As for me, well, I’m documenting our good changes. But we have weaknesses — I still eat meat (although I object to it philosophically and it’s an enormously wasteful source of fuel for humans because of the amount of food that has to be grown to raise a single beef cow, pig, or chicken). I gave up walking to the grocery store this summer (temporarily) because of a bad case of plantar fasciitis. And I can think of a host of other ways in which I’m wasteful or environmentally or humanitarianly (I’m sure that’s not a word but you know what I mean) inconsiderate, wasteful or prone to perpetuating the problem.

But I, like many other people I know, have at last made a start. Let’s keep going.

Fluidity

June 24, 2007

Two items crossed my desk this week. One was a survey about a new water product that allegedly isn’t as heavy as tea but has the “health benefits” of tea built into it. (Read: yet another flavored fortified water.) The other was a news story on CNN about an order given by the mayor of San Francisco banning the city government from buying bottled water, even for water coolers. (HOORAY for them!)

Now, I buy bottled water once in a while, but it’s for two reasons. One, I have a supply in stock for hurricane preparedness (I live in Florida) which will sit there indefinitely until we need it. Two, I buy a large bottle and then reuse it over and over again (for taking water with me to the gym) until the bottle begins to fail structurally or develops other problems, at which time I replace it and recycle the old. I suspect the water companies figured this habit out, though, because Evian bottles fail rapidly, and so do those from my local store brand. At the moment I’m using a Fiji bottle, and it’s holding up well. But I’m thinking I’m not going to do that anymore — I’ll just buy a durable plastic bottle from Rubbermaid or someone similar, and use it permanently.

One thing this habit of drinking the bottled water and then refilling with tap has taught me is that my tap water tastes better than some bottled water. For example, by comparison with my tap water, Evian tastes positively chemical to me. I’d heard about the studies comparing the quality of bottled water vs. tap but this morning I actually went out and read up on it (allaboutwater.org and the NRDC’s study of bottled water) and was stunned to see that not only is bottled water less well regulated (FDA regulations for bottled water are less stringent than EPA regulations for tap), it failed the microbe-content test in nearly 20 percent of samples studied!

Yikes!

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