I bought organic bananas recently at Trader Joe’s and at New Seasons. The ones from Trader Joe’s are from Mexico; the ones from New Seasons came from Ecuador.
The sandwich bread I eat each day was baked in California. (I live in Oregon.) The vegan cheese I like to put on my sandwiches is a product of Canada.
The jeans I wore today were made in Bangladesh; the shirt I wore was made in India.
I really enjoy late nights lately. After I’m done with my work for the day/night (I work from home, on my computer), I enjoy weed and hape. Hape is a sacred tobacco product that pleasantly and subtly alters my consciousness. It’s produced, I believe, in Peru – anyway, somewhere in South America, in an indigenous village. Given how profoundly it affects me, maybe I should know more specifically where it’s from, but I don’t.
I also like to make myself a mocha flavored vegan milkshake (or two) every night with soy milk (manufactured in New York), hemp milk (manufactured, I think, in Tualatin, OR), a non-caffeinated coffee-flavored powder called Cafix (product of Poland), a second non-caffeinated coffee-flavored powder called Pero (product of Portugal), organic unsweetened cocoa (shipped from California; sourced from god knows where), and maple syrup (don’t know from where).
I’m a few chapters into a delightful novel that was written by a woman in Australia.
I pay my local electric company whatever the extra few dollars are each month to generate all my electricity from renewable sources, but who knows really? I heat my house and my shower water with natural gas which I assume has been fracked. Do they get natural gas any other way?
I am clearly a creature of modern industrial civilization, which my reading and my intuition tells me is definitely not sustainable and is the primary cause of the sixth mass extinction we are currently living through, as well as climate change. The biodiversity of the planet, as well the entire ecosystem that enables human existence, is being sacrificed on the altar of comfort and convenience and pleasure for folks like me. You too, maybe?
Who You Gonna Blame?
Forget the “millionaires and billionaires” and the “fossil fuel industry” and the “big banks” for just a second here. Forget the “one percent.”
Yeah, yeah, I know they’re evil. But what about the rest of us?
We can’t go on living like this indefinitely. I wish we could, but we really can’t. Even if we got rid of all the bad guys.
The Human Team
Some friends have voiced the sentiment that they don’t mind the thought of humans dying out because, as a species, we’ve done so much harm to our planet and to countless other species. One or two of my dear friends have even called humans “a cancer” on the planet.
That’s not how I see it. I think we’re more innocent than that. We have much less control over our own impulses than we think, for one thing. If we’ve screwed things up, let’s start by blaming Mother Nature rather than ourselves. Seriously.
When I was a boy, I passionately identified with sports teams, particularly the New York Mets. (I grew up in New Jersey.) It really mattered to me if the Mets won or lost. I identified with those blue and orange uniforms. I used to pace with tension in front of the TV when games were close, throwing all my psychic energy at the set to help the Mets win.
Now I’m older and far more mature, and I identify in that same way – only more so – with the human team. After all, I was born wearing their uniform! I am completely identified with this team and in fact I am a player on this team.
Maybe, from the inconceivable vantage point of infinite time and space, it is Okay if we all go down in flames. (Whatever “okay” means.)
But we’re not done yet. Our game isn’t over. And like Yogi Berra – who, as it happens, once coached the New York Mets – famously said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Unlike major league baseball, the struggle for human survival – may I say human evolution? – is not a spectator sport. If you think you’re merely watching from the stands, you’re kidding yourself. You’re on the field. All of us are.
I’m just stating what I know. It doesn’t mean I know what to do. Do I have to know what to do?
The movie PLANET OF THE HUMANS has come in for a lot of scathing criticism, much of which is apparently deserved. The film makers probably owe a big heartfelt apology to Bill McKibben, for one thing, and they should admit that a lot of their data was outdated or completely bogus. I still maintain they are right though, overall. Renewable energy is not going to save human civilization. We have to somehow address our consumption of resources, and that will not be easy. A massive scale-back of consumption could be the most complex and ambitious project humankind has ever attempted, ironically enough.
In fact, one of the stupidest criticisms I keep seeing of PLANET OF THE HUMANS is that the film makers failed to provide any answers to our existential dilemma. Why should they have been required to provide answers? What if they don’t have the answers? Should they have not made the film if they had no answers? That’s ridiculous.
Michael Moore said something about the need for a “new environmental movement” in a post-film interview, and he seems in earnest about that. He’s now shining a spotlight on visionary young leaders, like Clare Farrell of Extinction Rebellion. I found his recent conversation with her fascinating.
Last week I mused that perhaps the new environmental movement needs to be sourced in all of us.
So I’ll start it.
The New Environmental Movement
On the simplest, most obvious level, all our choices matter. (I did not make that up.) Conservation is an ethic to live by. Sacrifice even. I like those two words: conservation and sacrifice. Every time I use resources in any way, I must at least notice that I’m doing so, and question whether it’s necessary.
Drive less often. Write (or print) on both sides of a piece of paper and don’t use a larger piece of paper than you need for whatever your purpose is. Like, for pete’s sake, don’t rip out an entire notebook page just to jot down an address or a phone number or an email address. (Do people still do that?) Don’t use artificial light when natural light is available. Etc.
Then there is my internal environment. I am working hard to clean that up. As above, so below, they say. As within, so without? Maybe.
At the very very least, be humble and grateful. My lifestyle is so riddled with contradictions and compromises, and dependent on so many benign forces that are completely out of my control, when I think about it, it bends my knees. I should never NEVER feel puffed up about anything.
A commitment to kindness. Remember to be as kind as possible in every moment, because it’s the least I can do in return for all these gifts I enjoy, which don’t seem sustainable. And that includes being kind to myself, in my head. Maybe it even starts with that. If I don’t blame the human race for the sixth great extinction, why blame myself for littler stuff?
Other principles of this new environmental movement I’m starting include an orientation of absolute respect for all other sentient beings. That doesn’t mean I don’t kill mosquitos, but I can still respect them. No joke.
Tolerance. Tolerance for uncomfortable moments and thoughts, and other people’s stupid opinions.
Keeping in mind my own infinitely small significance in proportion to the scale of all things. (Still though, I am a citizen of the universe. See: “Desiderata.”)
Thus begins the new environmental movement! I don’t have many answers yet, only questions. Asking lots of questions is going to be very important.
What are the questions again?
That’s my first question.
What does the new environmental movement aspire to accomplish? And why?
I’m going to write a question a day for the new environmental movement. Help is most welcome, .
[…] I’ve been asking myself other questions lately too. (As promised, per the last newsletter.) […]