Well, Black Friday has come and gone. Buy Nothing Day seems to take on more of an urgency for me this year. Oh it's not that I didn't feel the crush of impending doom last year, I did. This year we have seemed to turn a corner of sorts in regards to public awareness (note I did not say "acceptance") of global warming. There appears to be varying degrees of understanding of just what is going on here with the public and the numbers of deniers seem to be going the way of many of our animal species. ExxonMobil continues to use it's mighty power in the media to keep those oil I.V's firmly attached. It is going to be a hard realization for those of us who have become dependent upon big media for their information to understand that the enemy is us. Uncle Al's movie Inconvenient Truth did seem to help. I was somewhat comforted to see that upon a visit to my local video store none of the dozen or so DVD's of Inconvenient Truth were available, all rented. Something IS going on around here.
This year it appears to be generally accepted on many college campuses that global warming is real and that the future could be very nasty. Students seeking higher education are coming out with increasingly higher and higher debt and are willing to go to the bank to make up the difference in unprecedented numbers. They are investing in their future believing that it will pay off. Perhaps they will get it enough to help change our world for the better. If you count the number of "Sustainability Directors" on campus you will find at least some college officials understand that for their institutions to continue business as usual will kill us all.
I did honor "Buy Nothing Day" while at the same time trying hard to keep my relationships positive with those in my life who are still caught up in the "sale frenzy" that stores try to elicit from vulnerable shoppers. My approach to the futility of this yearly ritual is to have the long view. Wanting us all to wake up and try to figure our way out of this mess, is, of course, where I go when I think about what world my kids and grandkids will inherit. But wanting it now, without the necessary re-evaluation of all the things that make communities’ sustainable what we need?
For those of us who invest a good chunk of time trying to understand the complex issues of creating long-term and sustainable wealth in our community we can be a challenge to live with. Keeping those relationships strong and intact is what helps keep our community more sustainable. Yet there are the many and varied actions that we take each day that demand to be re-examined if we want to create a future worth living for our children. For me, taking the longer view with family about destructive consumerist habits is much like raising teenagers. You have to carefully pick your battles. Deciding ahead of time, what the issues are that you will put your energy into in terms of educating, cajoling, and humoring can be helpful. It is equally helpful to know what you can let go of, knowing that over time the obvious will become more of a national imperative.
I say this all with considerable trepidation. Recent news about global warming provides us with two high-profile disaster warnings that will take your breath away. Sir Nicholas Stern has predicted that climate change will cause the most massive market failure in history. As a result of a major study, the journal Science published information that it is likely there will be a near-total collapse of global fisheries within the next 40 years. Eminent NASA scientist Dr. James E. Hansen has publicly stated that we have about 10 years left to reduce our carbon releases, after that period of time, nothing we do will be likely to help.
All of this gloom and doom can in fact instill as sense of futility. We have all heard or thought, "What I do won't really matter." This pervasive myth perhaps is the greatest obstacle for most in our community who remain concerned with what we are doing to the earth. The reality is that this thinking is the exact opposite of what we need to do. One thing we can do is begin to change how we think about the materials we bring into our homes. If we begin to think about the true cost of an item besides it's monetary pricetag, then we are well on our way to making a real difference. The true cost of an item has to include the fossil fuels used to create it including the power used by the machinery, the plastics taken from petroleum, fuels used to transport by rail, truck or air, the energy required to use to product and lastly disposal. Reducing the heating of our homes, becoming wiser about our personal transportation, and reducing our electric consumption are within our means and is a start we can all do now. Supporting locally produced food and products will also strengthen our economy, support local families, and lessen our impact on the natural world. So to become good ancestors means that we take action now. When our grandchildren sit down with us someday and ask, " did you know about global warming? Did you do anything to stop it? " You will be able to tell them the truth.