Last week I finished reading Colin Beavan's No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process, and I've been meaning to post about it since I started the book.
I appreciated his honesty in recognizing (in hindsight) that his demand that his fashionista wife not wear fur was perhaps hypocritical since he "managed to exempt, back then, [his] leather shoes from [his] concern that humanity puts vanity before kindness to animals" (4). I, too, struggle with the day to day choices that put my convenience before the needs of my planet and our future. I can totally get behind Beavan's fear of being a "do-nothing liberal" (4).
I did not appreciate how often his project involved his wife giving up something that she was clearly quite attached to when he didn't really give a rat's patoot. When he blew his nose with a paper towel first thing, I wanted to shove that paper towel UP his nose. Or other orifice.
The quandary that the book presents can be summed up when Bevan quotes then-candidate Obama as saying, "Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f---ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective" (Beavan 219--I can't find the original article, but here is HuffPost's coverage of the comment).
Yes, real change does rely on collective effort, but any collective is made up of individuals, and I believe in what Margaret Mead said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." It is disheartening to learn that a man whose personal legend is built on community organizing seemed to dismiss the "little person's" contribution.
As a read, this wasn't the best book I've ever read, and it's not the best I've read about decreasing environmental impact. A lot of things that he seemed to be learning for the first time I've known for a long time, but I am almost 20 years younger than he is, and in theory we've been getting better educated about such things. I was also involved involved in an organized kids' action group for environmental awareness when I was young, so I'm probably a little better informed than people my age. I wanted less statistics and more human story, but I am a story-geek, so that makes sense.
I can totally get behind Beavan's continued blogging: http://noimpactman.typepad.com/, and I'm looking forward to checking out the documentary on his year.
I have more to say on this, but I've run out of steam tonight. Maybe another post later.