Tuesday, May 31, 2011

$2/day - Further thoughts on appreciation

Event though I have been trying to limit my environmental impacts by living trash-free, I never felt a...shortage, for lack of a better word...of anything. That is probably because living trash-free didn't really involve me purging much out of my life - I was close to trash-free from the outset of this journey. The things that I did thought were important to me - good food and good music as two prime examples - I have continued to surround myself in. I have never had a lack of money for these things, so much so that I haven't really cared about money whatsoever. In fact, I have a lot of money especially, even as a graduate student, because I haven't had the need to buy new things, like new electronics, at all. And while only a part of this trash-free-ness has been about showing people that it is possible, in retrospect, maybe trash-free living wasn't a big enough challenge for me. That's okay, though, because this has still been a tremendous learning experience, and it is easy to add onto this experience with other experiences, like living on two dollars a day (or thereabout).

It hasn't even been three days yet living on two dollars a day, though, and I can feel a change in thoughts in my mind. While I have always tried to appreciate everything I have been granted - by my family, friends and mentors, these past three days have made me appreciate even more the luxury I live in - being able to drink tea whenever I want to, being able to meet a friend for a cup of coffee, or going out for pizza in the middle of the night with Amit. I continue to recognise day after day that I am fortunate for being born where and when I was.

I think a lack of appreciation is one of the fundamental drivers of our behaviour in the industrialised world. We are made to feel wholly inadequate about almost everything - women aren't "beautiful" enough, our smiles aren't "perfect" enough, our shoes and bicycling parts aren't the "latest." Very little of what we have already is appreciated. That makes us look to the next. In satisfying the wants driven by this lack of appreciation, we have created economies that support themselves on the backs of people least powerful to defend themselves. This cycle perpetuates itself, and has gone on so long now that we've lost sight of what the actual problems actually are. We now think that charity will help the poor out of their plight, or that a continuation of the current economies will trickle down and magically raise everyone from their poverty. However, it is fair to say that the lifestyles of people in the industrialised world have led to poverty both here, like in inner cities, as well as elsewhere, in places like Africa and Asia. What do these lifestyles entail? They entail high amounts of products, of services, of new things. No "value" is brought into the world without new things, and the process of bringing this "value" into the world is highly extractive and highly violent, towards both nature and the poor. Poor people have to deal with bridges cited in their neighbourhoods, landfills in their backyards, and petrochemical wastes in their cities.

So if there is only one thing that each one of us can do to combat issues of environmental injustice and poverty, it would be to more fully appreciate and be thankful for what we have, and lessen our wants for things that other people tell us we need.

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