Thursday, April 21, 2011

I am not extreme

(I want to apologise for some heat of the moment typing in yesterday's post.)

I have had several people say that what I am doing is "extreme." Many think that what I am doing is "impractical" for them to do, that it isn't having much of an impact, that I should spend more effort in trying to get systems to change. (With that last point, I agree, and I'm trying.) I can see how how this last year is different than what people are used to seeing and being told, but I believe that that is the extent to which adjectives can be used. I am not extreme. I am trying to be normal.

As any linguist will tell you, words shape and define our experiences and what we make of them. They also shape and limit and expand our imagination. Much of this blog has been devoted to language - the language of defining the problems that face us, and the language that can help us move away from ways of thinking that have caused those problems. I believe that we need to be using new words, or different words, to describe the actions that need to be taken, individually and collectively, to move us to an ecologically sustainable world. I think we can all agree that the world we live in, influenced by society, is not that world. There would be no oil spills or hydrofracking in an ecologically sustainable world. There would be no rape of animals and land and mountains in an ecologically sustainable world. The ecologically sustainable world in which we want to live in is in fact radically and extremely different than the world we currently live in. In an ecologically sustainable world, trash wouldn't exist, and behaviours that would lead to trash would be unacceptable. This project, in an ecologically sustainable world, would not be "extreme," it would be the normal.

What I am trying to say is that for us to live in an ecologically sustainable world, we must act in the ways that would be normal in that world. My actions now are moving me closer to those less devastating behaviours.

It is interesting how the perceptions of our actions depend on who or what those actions affect. I am going to use a stark example here, because it is in fact what we're doing. If I was a serial criminal, say a rapist, I would be an "extreme" of sorts. For me to be "normal" and not be a rapist, I would have to make an extreme change. In our ideal world, there would be no rapists. There would be no war. There would be no violent acts. Well, we are raping we are violent, and we are warring...right now...we're doing that to the Earth. (It's just that maybe using the example of raping people is something we can relate to more than raping the Earth.)

We live in a world where other people - advertisers, marketers, corporations - tell us what is good for us. Those who stand to fill their pockets are the ones defining the current "normal." Yet, given all that we know about the state of the natural world, we know that our current behaviour cannot be the normal. And so what I am doing is not extreme. I won't accept that adjective to describe me, and I won't let it deter me, and you shouldn't let such adjectives deter yourself from making bold choices, either.


  1. "Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed that easily." - Dorothy Day

  2. It saddens me to think that the concept of human rape is easier to grasp than that of the irreversible damage we are doing to the Earth. That alone is sufficient call for a collective paradigm shift.