While groaning over yet another Things You Can Do To Save The Earth list that included biofuels, compact fluorescents, and recycling (with scant information about living habitats), we decided to start a list of what we think are practical things that really actually do make a difference. It's not about buying the correct greenwashed eco-sealed very expensive products and services, at least not for us. Here tis.
1. Plant trees, or allow them to grow. We've had deforestation for 10,000 years--imagine a planet of forest to suck up the co2 of the future. Plant food, fuel, and fiber (or allow them to grow). Especially plant up (pimp out!) concrete or its bio-alternative, the lawn. Take only for your need and allow the rest to return to whence it came.
2. Don't give anyone a reason to manufacture anything (including food).
3. Restore topsoil by composting everything you can, including paper and cardboard (topsoil tops oil!).
4. Travel under your own power (or that of your draft animals).
5. Share, help people who need it, and appreciate what you have and are given.
6. Inhabit your place attentively.
7. Spend time, not money.
This is by no means a complete list, and we'd appreciate it if any of y'all would like to add to it. I think one of the most important things is to think in terms of systems. How do your actions fit into the big picture? If you buy a lot of useless and cheap plastic crap from China, you are feeding into this system of slavery and ecological destruction. This is a very real ramification of your actions. If you are into spending money instead of time, same thing.
We are, unfortunately, born into this system that doesn't work very well, at least for humanity (Leviathan, as it has been called, seems to work well for...machines & the very rich maybe). It is hard to think of different ways to be and live that make any sense at all (and often these things are not legal, like gray water or backyard chickens, for instance). If it makes you feel better, call it a paradigm shift. We're entering new territory here, which can be frightening, but I also find exhilarating. I can imagine a new way of life that does not reinforce the work-consume-die way of life on a daily basis with each commute and latte. And I'm interested in pursuing it.
And back to systems thinking... This is also the basis for permaculture, the design of sustainable (more than a buzzword!) human habitats. In accountancy terms, we can address our externalities--where they come from & where they are going. This can really open our eyes to the complicity we have in ruining our habitat and our humanity. Also our eyes can open up to closing the open loops of materials input and materials output, putting the freedom and responsibility back into our own hands. What a concept! A return to the local, the small.
I'm not too worried about the earth. It seems that although we are trashing the place, in a few million years this planet can undo our concrete havoc. But humanity, that is a different thing altogether. If we are going to save humanity, it will happen when we save ourselves, when we make up our minds to not live in this dysfunctional culture any longer, and strike out on a new path of our own making. Freedom and responsibility, common sense, community.
I mean, what are the important things in life? It's not our job titles, not our cars, our vacations and ivy league schools, not our fuckin' khakis as Tyler Durden would remind us. It's the human relationships we have, the community binds that enliven us, that are what is important. To me, that is what being human means. To care deeply, about place and people, to carry forth this tradition in the minds and deeds of our children and grandchildren, to inhabit every day and feel the beauty of it.
Honestly, I feel kind of fucked being born into this screwed up world, as much as I did being born in to a dysfunctional family. It's hard getting out of that, adjusting your vision so that you can see what no one talks about. But I DO NOT want to pass this bullshit on to my kid, neither the dysfunctional family life, nor a dysfunctional humanity and ecosystem. I know I can't fix it all. But I have freed my soul, liberated myself, found something else to do that matters. This is a place and a community worth caring about, and I feel blessed. I feel blessed, and I am thankful.