Monday, November 26, 2007

It's about being disconnected

"It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. We are made to live together because of the interrelated structure of reality." - Martin Luther King Jr.

I've been pondering starting a blog for quite some time, but I couldn't figure out what to say in my first post. It always seemed like that was the tough one, and that the rest would just sort of follow finding their own voice and way. It seems that I've put it off long enough, so here goes.

I think a lot about sustainability.

Perhaps too much sometimes.

Remember that scene in the Matrix where Neo finally sees all the code and "gets it"? Well, that's sort of the way I am with things except I "see" energy and waste. When I look at a cup, I don't just see the cup, I see (well guess anyway) the energy and resources that went into making it, the energy and resources that went into getting it to me, the energy and resources that will go into ferrying it off to some dump or recycling center, and the energy and resources that will eventually go into it's destruction/recycling. And then I realize that I'm not even using it, and that my wife is wondering why I'm not listening to her. It can be quite frustrating at times and I honestly wish I could turn it off, but unfortunately some things are just like that.

As I think about this stuff, I've come to the realization that one of the biggest hurdles we have in front of us is our general disconnectedness. Thousands of years ago, people had no choice but to be connected to their world. People lived much simpler lives than we do and knew how things became and where they went. If you needed food, you grew/hunted for it, or bartered for it from someone who grew/hunted it. If you had refuse, you burned it, buried it, or disposed of it outside yourself. People were connected to their lives and therefore, whether cognizant of it or not, had an understanding of their impact.

We are different. Look at the clothes you are wearing right now. Can you honestly say that you have any idea the amount of energy, materials, time, or money that actually went into any item of clothing that you are wearing? I know I can't. When you throw your trash out tomorrow morning, where does it go? I have a general idea, but I honestly can't tell you. When you turn the water in your tap on (a miracle when you really think of it) do you know where it came from, how it got to you, or where it goes? I can't.

As a society we are living unsustainable lives. Americans in particular use far more than our share, and it is my opinion, perhaps a naive one, that the first step to changing this behavior is to connect the dots. We turn on lights, use water, throw things "away", drive our cars, and rampantly purchase and discard without a care because it is easy not to care.

We are disconnected from everything.

But let me ask you this. What if you realized that those miners that died in Utah last summer were mining cheap coal that was specifically being used to power your house? What if every time you left your faucet running you could see the water table drop? What would happen if you had to take your garbage to the dump yourself? How would you feel if the pollution from your car stayed right over your house and built up until you couldn't breathe? What if you had to buy your purchases from the people who actually made them, the ones who work 16 hours a day 6 days a week and live in tin huts? I'm not trying to bum you out, but I think you'd think differently about your actions. You'd realize that simply because we don't think of the consequences to our actions all of the time, it doesn't mean that they don't exist. And before you know it, you'd be staring at that coffee cup, recognizing the consequences of its existence, and wondering why your wife is looking at you like that.

So what am I getting at? Mainly that we've got a long way to go and the first step in all of this is learning to think differently. Hopefully, with your help, we can all work together to make the difference.

Who's in?

Live Sustainably



Doug said...

Glad to see the blog up and running! I hope you cross-post from your site/e-mails...

Anonymous said...

I love that quote. I look forward to your posts.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for starting so honestly on a topic that is so important. It really is all about getting connected, and it's no small task.

Cynthia & Dan said...

Welcome aboard! I laughed at the part where you talk about how people lived a hundred or so years ago. Dan & I get asked frequently here in Northern Peru how often we see donkey driven carts in the US. After giggling a little we begin to ponder this question and its consequences. Far as I can tell, the last time animals were used to pull plows in California it was 1885!!

Dave said...

Ahhh, that's awesome. For those of you who don't know, Cynthia and Dan are peace corps volunteers in Peru. Very cool stuff. I guess they are probably living closer to sustainable lives than we are up here huh?

Jackson said...

One of the most powerful things I've read. Never thought of it that way, and thank you for making me realize it.

P.s. You sounded like Neo in that post.

Dave said...

Wow, I'm humbled. Thanks. I'll take a Neo movie (although they lost me with the last two).