Posts Tagged ‘action’

I am behind in my New York Times reading. I just got to the editorial piece in last Monday’s edition. Verlyn Klinkenborg writes about The 17 Percent Problem and the Perils of Domestication. She quotes a recent Science Magazine article, noting that by 1995, ‘only 17% of the world’s land area had escaped direct influence by humans.’ Her point is that we, all humans are taking the wrong approach. We are trying to domesticate nature, not adjust to it. Our egos have led us to believe that we can run the show, that we are superior to nature, when in fact it is not so. And we are starting to pay the price.

What does that mean on a personal level? How do I contribute to this domestication of nature? I cannot think of anything I am doing that is directly contributing. Rather, it is my lack of awareness, and political action, that make me a part of the problem. Also, by subscribing to a modern lifestyle of convenience and consumerism, I feed indirectly all the industrial processes that destroy nature. Only 17% left of nature to give us precious feedback. Like Verlyn Klinkenborg, I am appalled by the amount of destruction, the damage we have done as humans.

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Comment I made on David Sirota’s post today in the Huffington Post, on What Is Hypocrisy & What Kind of “Hypocrisy” Should We Worry About?

‘I have two things to say about hypocrisy and people in the public light:

1) From a purely practical standpoint, isn’t the net impact of the person the most important factor ? Going back to the Al Gore example, the amount of collective good generated by Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth campaign is so tremendous, that even if the inconsistencies in his personal life were true, it would not really matter in the big picture.

2) From a morality and ethical standpoint, one could argue the importance of walking the talk, as it makes the talk even stronger. That is true. It also does not take into account the complexity of human nature. This is one of the reason I started my blog. To explore the inconsistencies and hypocrisies in my life as a Green Girl Wannabe. These do not make me a bad person. They only highlight my imperfection as a human being, and the difficulties of translating thoughts into personal action.’

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The new Converse ad reads

Conscience Requi(red)
Do not wait for other people
to change the world
The time is now. Do something

Although meant as a campaign to help Aids in Africa, it could also be taken as a call to save the Earth. What am I doing right now, to help? How much of my time, am I actually devoting to the environmental cause? How much of my time, am I spending in activities that make matters worse? How much of me is waiting for others to solve the problem? How loud is my green conscience? These are all questions, worthy of being answered. Illusion, laziness, and complacency tend to make me lose sight of the bigger picture, in my day to day life

On the plus side, this blog has been a great tool, to make me more conscious, or at least more honest. Rather than resting on my seemingly green laurels, I have had to look at all the inconsistencies and hypocrisies that permeate my life as a green girl wannabe. If one believe that consciousness is the prelude to action, that is probably a good start. I find making personal changes to be the most difficult. Working on ways to make a difference on a business level is a lot easier, as it does not involve direct personal sacrifices

On the question of how loud is my green conscience, the answer is simple. Not as loud as a Target press release. My obsession with the upcoming Dominique Cohen for Target jewelry line, continues. August 19th is when the much anticipated line will come out in all Target stores. I made sure to write down the date in my day book. Last night, I searched for more images, and was disappointed to not find any yet. I looked at the pricey baubles sold by same designer at Neiman Marcus, and imagined Target would treat us to some similar designs, only in cheaper materials. I remembered my days as a jewelry artist, and started to fancy myself as a guest designer for Target. I quickly abandoned the thought. To paraphrase Jung, I am a modern girl in search of meaning, and jewelry is not where it’s at.

It may be that I need to be more realistic in my expectations. I am a green girl wannabe, who is also frivolous. How do I mediate that reality right now? Can one buy carbon offsets for Target jewelry? How does one measure the effect of cheap jewelry on the environment?

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It would be nice if I could place my individual actions within the larger context of climate change. How much do they each contribute, percentage wise, to greenhouse gas emissions? Activities such as: using the dryer, driving my car, eating meat, taking showers, flushing the toilet, using disposable plastic bags for groceries. I tried googling all the combinations I could think of, without much results. I found information on personal and family carbon footprint calculators, lists of recommended actions, general articles, but not the kind of meaningful data I was looking for. After several hours, I gave up.

It is true that I could adhere blindly to the list of recommended actions. I could just become a poster green girl, if I set my mind to it. I could, but I am not there yet. For each change in my behavior, each effort I will put in, I need to understand the net impact. Going back to the dryer example, what is the percentage of greenhouse gases generated as a result of dryer use in the US, and conversely what would be saved if we all went back to the old clothesline of my grandmother? I want to research this some more.

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Last night, Prad suggested we carpool to do our errands. He would drop me off at Whole Foods while he went to pick up the Chinese carryout across town. I could not refuse to participate in such a good deed. Everything went according to plan, almost. As I was about to enter the store, I heard Prad, my green conscience, calling and gesturing for me to come back. I had forgotten the green bags once more. The green bags were at my feet in front of the passenger seat. What will it take for me to remember? Earlier the same day, I even clipped an article in the New York Times, on that very topic. “Just the Thing to Carry Your Conscience In: Canvas“. Anya Hindmarch, the London designer of super pricey designer bags, had just released a limited edition of 20,000, $15 cotton bags in fifteen Whole Foods stores in New York. The bags, which read “I’ m not a plastic bag“, created a frenzy of shoppers, all eager to capture this latest fashion statement . I have been toying around with similar business ideas. It is easy to think in abstract, and a lot harder to do my personal share. “The problem is not plastic bags. The problem is behavioral – the human propensity to litter. The solution is for all of us to change behavior and learn to reduce, reuse, recycle and properly dispose of plastic bags.” (quote from Society of The Plastics Industry)

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Why do I not really care? I wanted to get down to the bottom of my heart, reach into the recesses of my brain, for answers. Become zen for a moment. I resisted at first, found a thousand excuses for not listening. I had picked the wrong time, the wrong place. Saturday morning, breakfast in the kitchen. The distraction of Prad and Alex joking around kept pulling me away. I sent them out for a walk with the dog. Finally, I was alone, and in the stillness, I found a few treasures.


“Paper or plastic”. What will it take for me to remember the green bags? Even when they are in the trunk of my car, and I forget to take them with me to the store, there is that split second moment at the counter, when I need to decide: to go back to the car and get the bag, or to just go along with the clerk’s request. What happens when I choose the lazy way? What makes me go for “Plastic please”? My first thought is, why bother, such a small thing, it will not make a difference. The global warming problem is so huge. One little extra plastic bag, I can get away with it. Leave it up to the powers in charge, the heads of States, the big businesses, to come up with the big solutions. I do not intimately believe in the power of my individual actions. There is also the issue of, even if I do my share, what difference will it make, if others don’t join? Also, I am secretly hoping, that others will take care of the problem, so I do not have to give up even just a little bit of my personal comfort. Can I cheat, can I have my cake and eat it too? I am very attached to my life as I have known it in America. Things I do not really want to give up: long hot showers, letting water running while I work at the kitchen sink, using the dryer to dry our clothes, the convenience of plastic bags, shopping for clothes whenever I feel like it, plane travel, printing indiscriminately on one side of the paper, our two daily papers, not having to unplug and restart my computer each time, paying my bills using snail mail, living in my big house, being a dilettante recycler.


It all boils down to a short term personal balance sheet. What am I willing to give up in terms of personal comfort, in return for a relatively minuscule, and mostly unacknowledged, contribution to the larger pie?

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