Brainiacs, I’m laid low by a head cold and my own real post will be a little delayed. But meanwhile, here are two thoughtful posts on a couple of related subjects. The first, by Rana of Frogs and Ravens, is about the challenges of individual versus collective action, with regard to living an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
I couldn’t find a bit to excerpt that captures the point adequately, but what I took away from it is that yes, we are caught up in a huge machine that is rapidly consuming the world’s resources, and yes, we are part of the problem–but the fact of the matter is, it takes a great deal of effort to buck that flow, and we must be gentle with ourselves and each other for all those things we do not or cannot do.
As individuals, we can only do so much to reduce consumption of non-renewables and eliminate our carbon emissions, and so on. The fact is, our entire world economy is set up to consume vast quantities of resources. Our actions as individuals are important, as Rana says, but without change at the governmental and corporate level, they are largely only symbolic, and I agree with her that it’s a bad idea to beat up on each other for only being willing to do so much. Bucking the flow takes a tremendous amount of energy, as Rana says, and it’s not as easy for some of us as for others. My own personal philosophy is to see it as a lifelong journey, and add a little bit of eco-friendliness into my lifestyle at a time. What I feel I can handle. If I can’t handle it, I don’t do it, and I don’t feel guilty about it.
I honor my colleagues who manage to do more, as I recognize that they have invested a great deal of effort to effect change in their lives. However, I also honor my colleagues who can’t. None of us can know what challenges others face in their personal lives.
The environmental crisis won’t be solved without a huge, tectonic shift in the way human society operates, and that will have to be rung in by our political, business, and religious leaders. The best way we can be effective, in my view, is to keep up the pressure on them.
Anyway, read the whole thing. It’s quite thought-provoking and important.
The second post is related. I came across Rana’s post via Chris Clarke of Creek Running North, a blogger who writes beautifully about a variety of issues, primarily but not solely environmental. His piece is about the undeclared price paid—and who pays it—for “dying well” (i.e., home-based care for the elderly) and for eco-friendly living. I.e., women are often the ones who end up shouldering much of the burden of change in the environmental and quality of life movements. There’s so much good here that again, it’s hard to excerpt, but here’s a chunk:
In a paper published a couple weeks ago, Dr. Sherilyn McGregor of Keele University in Staffordshire points out that when environmentally sound living requres [sic] extra work, that work is usually “women’s work.” Her paper is a useful and readable summation, and if it weren’t encrypted read-only I’d paste some of it here. Still, this is not news to environmentalist women. What decisions are environmentalist citizens asked to make? Choosing the green laundry detergent and toilet paper and buying organic groceries. Carrying cloth bags to the supermarket. Using non-toxic cleansers. Adding corporate citizenship to one’s list of brand loyalty factors and schlepping the Seafood Buying Guide around. Sorting trash into the proper containers for recyclables, compost, and landfilling. …
The fact is that for all the ills the increasing corporatization of society has brought us, it has assigned value to certain forms of labor that were once devalued. It certainly hasn’t always assigned enough monetary value to those tasks, but even a paltry amount is more than nothing at all. Opposing that corporatization doesn’t have to include rolling back that valuation, trying to build an Illichian paradise where people quietly fulfill their forced gender role differences.
I’m a huge supporter of the various movements for restoring the quality of our lives, but until they rid themselves of this blind spot they will go nowhere worth going. Sadly, that patriarchal romanticism is seductive. Look at this Wikipedia description of the “Slow” movement’s goals:
Even in the recent past in the West it was standard to have a day of relaxation because all shops were closed on Sundays. However, the current tendency in many parts of the world to operate at 24 hours a day has disrupted this tradition. Now, because people can do everything all the time, some feel they have to do things all the time. The Slow movement counteracts this by extolling the virtues of the enjoyment and savouring of living.
I don’t know what it was like for your family, but I seem to recall my grandmothers working just as hard on Sundays as they did on Mondays. Though maybe they were just enjoying the process of vacuuming before people came over to relax and savouring the sinks full of dishes the relaxing generated. Ah, the good old days.