Friday, November 5, 2010

Breaking points

During a discussion with Graham Fellows during one of our last roundtables, I mentioned the necessity to live up to the standards we preach for our communities. Living within means and constraints – personal, financial, social and environmental – is something I value; I believe this is the responsible way to live. My first laptop from 2003 is still the same one I use today; it gets the job done. The clothes I wear, as old as they may be, keep me covered, warm and comfortable. 

Environmentalists have long been accused as hypocrites - many continue to want the comforts associated with modern life, and therefore indirectly condone the actions taking place to provide those efforts. For example, Al Gore and Bill McKibben have been constantly accused of doing tremendous harm to the environment while they jet all over the world trying to convince people and communities of imminent environmental disaster. Yes, the amount of carbon dioxide and other pollutants "they" "release" because of their flying could probably account for the impacts of entire villages in India. At the same time, they do spread important messages, and we would hope that the "negative" impacts of their efforts are offset multi-fold by the change in consciousness of those who listen to them. It would be close to impossible for them to have the impact they do if they lived in South Carolina or Vermont, at home, trying to spread their word by print or internet. At the same time, I am sure they long for being places other than where they live. I grew up in India. And although India has changed drastically since I left, I consider myself Indian; I consider India home. Therefore, even though I live in Ann Arbor, I am compelled to go home. But I realised the other day that the impacts of my trip home this summer were terribly significant - the flights and the nasty packaged food on the plane probably negated all of the efforts I have put in so far to live "trash-free." Yet it seems like any time you try to have a conversation with someone who truly doesn't value the environment, they point the finger at you saying, "Well, you still choose to live in Ann Arbor, on the grid. You flew home to India this year!" etc. etc. etc.

The issue is, there is a breaking point to the efforts many environmentalists put in. Many people who I know that claim to be environmentalists said that they couldn't live the way I do. Each one defines their breaking point differently. How can we collectively create a movement if we break?

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