Posts Tagged ‘conscience’

Waiting in line at Whole Foods checkout counter. Thoughts:

‘Shoot, I forgot the damn bags again. I have the red Trader Joe’s bag in the car. I could go get it. That probably would not be enough for all I got. Plus I am tired. Don’t feel like going back to the car. I really should. (Clerk asks me the ‘Paper or Plastic’ question). ‘Plastic. Lets try to put everything in one bag. The rest I will carry’. Not bad, at least I am limiting the damage. If I had not said anything, it would have been two extra plastic bags for each gallon of milk, and a paper bag for the soup. I give myself a B.’

This is the kind of scenario that plays in my head, over and over again. I am constantly bargaining, berating myself for not being green enough, then I try to make up, some other ways.

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Last night, I attended my first dinner with the SiliconFrench Clean Tech and Sustainability Group. Amidst our convivial exchange, someone started playing devil’s advocate and raising the question of, what if global warming was not such a bad thing after all? How about the people who will benefit from it? What is the point anyway in wanting to sustain the Earth? What are we trying to achieve? I like to keep an open mind, and always find these provocative statements very useful, as they force me to question my beliefs

The thought crossed my mind for a second, of, yes, maybe I embarked on this green journey a bit hastily. Maybe I ought to take a second look, and question my motives. Gone the guilt, the daily struggle as a green girl wannabe. I could just go back to my old habits, and live as if there was no tomorrow. My faith in pope Al got a good shake . . . While I could not gather intellectual arguments quick enough, my heart took over, and my instinct also. I could feel fear rising, the fear of no longer being able to live in harmony with the Earth. At the risk of seeming selfish, I am first concerned for myself, and the ability to continue to enjoy life as I have known it. Life free of unusual natural catastrophies, life cohabiting with birds, and trees, life with food in abundance, life with clean air, life with water galore. The good life in California

Next, my heart went out to the less fortunate than I, the majority, all the people who because of economic duress or geographic vulnerability, are especially at risk. I want to do whatever is in my power, to become a part of the solution to this impending crisis, so that their lives will not become even more hellish than they already are. Being a privileged member of Silicon Valley, with access to so many resources, economic, technological, financial, academic, and social, I cannot be a passive witness. Again, from a purely selfish standpoint, I want to be able to live with myself, and this is a way, as good as any other, to bring meaning into my life.

Last, I just would like to share the feats of a young man in Africa. His name is William Kamkwamba and he has been able to accomplish amazing feats, with very limited means, in his small Malawi village. When I read his blog, I felt ashamed.

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As a green girl committed to confessing her daily sins, I thought it would be interesting to go down the list of the seven sins, and see which ones get me in trouble the most:


#1. Lust


A few days ago, the words Make Love, not War came to me in the midst of a walk. We are at war with the Earth. When will we start making love with it? We have lost our emotional connection with the Earth. I find it again, every time I go back home to my grandparents’ farm, in the Southwest of France. There, I have this incredible need to physically connect with the earth, to touch it and hold it in my hands. I have not gone back since the beginning of my mother’s illness two years ago, and I miss it terribly. La terre.


#2. Gluttony


Taken in its expanded version, as consuming more than one needs, I am definitely guilty of that one. I could live off what I already owns for years to come. Yet the thought of no longer being able to shop at my favorite spots – think Target, Anthropologie, H&M – triggers immediate withdrawal angst.


#3. Greed


Not giving into greed is another challenge. I live in Silicon Valley, where pretty much everyone I know is a millionaire, and working hard at gathering even more millions. The New York Times had an article on that very subject a few days ago. Closely linked to greed is the need to succeed, and to build some business venture of sorts. After years in dormancy, raising my children, I got the bug again, and am working hard at joining the startup bandwagon. I just came back from a lunch gathering for E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), and it was hard not to feel the rush, from all the potential opportunities.


#4. Sloth


Guilty there too. When it comes to practicing a green lifestyle, I can be incredibly lazy. I just love convenience, and always find a million of excuses for not making the extra effort. This morning again, I made the deliberate choice to spend an extra fifteen minutes writing in my blog, and driving to a meeting only a few blocks away, rather than forsaking the blog, and walking instead. Never mind the blog is all about trying to be green.


#5. Vengeance


I know this may seem kind of sick, but that is the truth. Sometimes, when I am angry, I literally take it on the Earth, and find an almost devious pleasure in ‘trashing’ small things that I know full well should be recycled. I am talking candy wrapper, not plastic bottle . . . Often in these moments, I get in touch with an energy that is much bigger than me, not just my personal anger. And I start thinking about all the other crimes that are being committed routinely, and on a much grander scale, against the Earth, all over the world.


# 6. Envy


Nothing comes to mind, for now, except maybe my desire to succeed, and to be yet another Silicon Valley success story. I have a hard time separating envy from greed. I can also come up with a lot of excuses for why I want so badly to be a part of the Silicon Valley gold rush. For a long time, I thought I was immune to the power of money. Years as a starving artist have changed my perspective. Money is not necessarily a bad thing. My dream is to make enough money to some day fund social and green ventures. In the mean time, I need to remain aware of all the pitfalls, and to be careful to walk the green talk.


# 7. Pride


I am old enough to no longer trust my ego completely. How pure are my motivations? I have these grandiose ideas of how I will help save the Earth. Ask me to stuff envelopes for an environmental cause, or to plant trees, or to be a good green steward at home, and you will find me a lot less enthused. I am a victim of the delusion that bigger ideas are better than a collection of small personal actions.


I like lists, they force me to clean house.

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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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I am a Target addict. It only took reading one small blurb in Jane magazine, about the upcoming release of Dominique Cohen for Target jewelry collection, to send me scouring through the Target website. I could feel the rush of anticipation, and while I was at it, I did a run through of the entire site, looking for other designer items at Target prices. Handbags, shoes, clothes, other jewelry, I did not miss a thing. How ironic, after I wrote this glorious post yesterday about wanting to become a buddhist! I started feeling guilty. Quickly, my mind fabricated an elaborate rationale for why I should be so obsessed with shopping. It said, you are a woman, you have been biologically programmed to want to adorn yourself, so you can better seduce your mate.

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In the plane, on my way back from Paris, I finally got to read “Eat, Pray, Love“, the book by Elizabeth Gilbert. Charlotte was so enthused by it, that she had been wanting me to read it, for quite some time. Now, I can see why. “Eat, Pray, Love” is not only fun reading, it is also a very thought provoking book. It has made me aware of the lack of active spirituality in my life, and of the connection between the state of one’s spirit and one’s attitudes and behaviors towards the environment.


Years back, I went through a period of intense spiritual seeking, that left me wanting and disillusioned. As much as I yearned for a reconciliation with the Catholic Church of my youth, there was no way my rational mind could reconcile with the tenets of the Catholic faith. Sufism, Tibetan buddhism, and last, Vipassana meditation, held me for a while, but not long enough to convince me. In the end, I declared myself an agnostic, and learned to become suspicious of anything with a spiritual label. Science and the Jungian model of the Self became the two pillars that sustained me in times of doubt. To this day, I am still religious about recording my dreams, and I use them as the rudder for how to conduct my life. I am finding, that is not enough to still my mind, and free it from the tyranny of my negative thoughts, those recurring thoughts responsible for most of my unhappiness. I know them all too well:


I don’t have enough


I worry I could end up destitute


If I accumulate enough material things, I will be safe


I am separate from the rest of the universe


I might as well get the most I can


I love all that gives me pleasure


I hate all that takes away from my pleasure


I am terrified of death


I worry about all the things that could go wrong


I am out of love


In the end, I am most concerned with myself and my most immediate family


These are just examples of the thoughts that keep me angry, afraid, wanting, and unable to see my needs in the context of the needs of the greater whole. Thoughts like those, are the ones that make me at war with my green conscience. I am reminded of Amanda‘s comment a few weeks ago:


The fundamental solution . . . is to remove the shopping urge, the desire to have more “things”. As you’ve probably come to realize, the satisfaction brought by material things is short lived. Once you “own” the thing you’ve longed for, you enjoy it a great deal for a period of time, then its thrill fades, and then you have to go on another mission to find the next “thing” to fill that excitement hole. The vicious cycle goes on and on.


The whole society encourages this consumer pattern and we in the middle don’t feel anything wrong about this habit but blindly follow it. You, on the other hand, woke up one day and realized that this is not right but feel powerless against the trend.


Actually, I was like that before. I loved high-tech toys, expensive fashion items, and cool outdoor gears. And it was impossible to press down my shopping urge; I just gotta have them or I couldn’t go on function normally. I didn’t like my shopping habit at all, but there was so little I could do about it.


But all this changed late last year, when I started searching for the meaning of life and eventually became a Buddhist. I have no intention of persuading anyone to become a Buddhist (I found that it was very unpleasant when people pushed me to join their religions), but there is a lot of wisdom in Buddha’s teachings that everyone can benefit and apply in everyday life, including killing off this irritating shopping mania silently. It wasn’t even my plan to stop having this material desire, but somehow it’s just gone. Poof. Now I look at catalogs, window displays, or the real things on co-workers, my mind is calm and I don’t feel envy or jealous at all. I don’t have to press down the shopping urge, because there is none. It’s all very strange and hard to explain, but the end result has been marvelous. )


There is more to green than meets the eyes. In the absence of external controls such as rules, regulations, and taxes, one is left to fall back on one’s own internal controls, basically one’s ability to truly love others and the planet. Writing this blog is taking me to places I did not anticipate, such as the need to pay more attention to the life of the spirit.

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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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Alone in the house, for a change. Prad is still in Hawaii, and the children have left for the evening. I decided to indulge myself, and to heat the hot tub. The pleasure of relaxing, thoughts sliding away, after a cool dip into the pool. I deserve it. I don’t care, it just feels too good. Pleasure overrides any pang of guilt. I am too tired to think anyway.

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Last night, I attended my first gathering of the SiliconFrench CleanTech and Sustainability group. The theme was cars and alternative energies. I really got into the discussion, and left with my head buzzing with ideas, possibities for new ventures. On my way back, I had to stop for groceries at Whole Foods. That’s when the “Paper or Plastic” hit me once more, and with it the sinking feeling of my inadequacy, of the split between my intellectual declarations, and the sad reality of my actions. There are miles between understanding with one’s head, and taking steps. How do I reconcile that split within myself? In that answer, lies more than just the promise of a more whole individual person -me- , but also maybe the beginning of a global solution.

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Why bother with a green blog? My earlier enthusiasm is waning. And so is my sense of urgency for the whole green problem. Too wrapped up in my own world, I lose sight of CO2 and all those other bad gases. I find it hard to sustain my awareness for things that I cannot see or feel. Here in beautiful California, life is good and nature has not snapped back yet, except for an occasional outburst of heat in the middle of winter. I feel guilty. I imagine all the green do gooders reading this blog and pointing fingers of contempt for my lack of conscience. And yet, this is my truth, and I am convinced there is some gold in there. What if part of the answer lied in the honest acknowledgement of one’s reality. Global warming is a man made problem, said the latest report. Man made starts with the person.

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