Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day, Green Procrastinators!

On the first Earth Day I can remember--which was, in fact, the first Earth Day ever--we were already running behind.  Waayyyy behind.   If the experts are right, and Al Gore deserved his Nobel prize, we just might save the planet if all of us started making radical changes in our habits yesterday.  

So why do I have trouble making room on my to do lists for this oh-so-important concern?  Why is the earth itself just one more ball to juggle, in my clumsy circus act?

One problem is that I often feel I am losing ground in the short-run.  When it comes down to choosing what I will concentrate on, on any given day, I have trouble thinking out far enough to take my celestial home into account. 

Another issue for me has been the disconnect between those of us focused on social justice work and the green movement.  Van Jones, author of The Green Collar Economy:  How One Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems and founder of Green for Alldedicated to "building an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty," recognized this divide and has been working to bridge it.  He was the featured speaker at the annual banquet of my social justice organization--before the book, and before his short-lived appointment as Obama's Special Advisor for Green Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.  He inspired us to begin to work for green jobs as part of the solution to our city's crisis of black male joblessness.  This large-scale green concern made my agenda.

But at home, I am not fully "walking the talk" that has been part of my discourse for decades.  More like crawling, or limping the talk.  I do recycle pretty religiously, and have stepped up my efforts in the last year to include discarded mail.  I keep my thermostat set low in the winter and high in the summer.  I have switched almost all our light bulbs to eco-friendly CFLs, and I energetically fulfill my family role as the light police.  I try to bike to nearby locations, though my increasingly manic schedule has crowded out much of the time I used to give to biking.  I combine errands whenever possible.  I supply my household and wardrobe extensively from resale stores, rummage sales, and the occasional curbside discards.  

But I haven't gotten around to re-establishing the composting effort abandoned when my first husband moved out, a couple of children and several step-children ago.  I still print and collect too much "hard copy."  I am lagging in the default mode of paper bills from too many creditors and service providers.  I bought reusable cloth bags for shopping, but almost always forget to bring them along to the stores.   I leave my computer plugged in and drawing power for a large part of most days.  Ditto my cell phone charger.  I am often too cheap to buy reusable batteries and too disorganized to use the ones I have purchased.  (Why does it feel suddenly like I'm kneeling in a dark curtained space, waiting for absolution and a hefty penance?)

I could go on.  But the point is not self-congratulation, or confession.  I can do better.  At least a little better.  And if incrementalism is all we are capable of, it is preferable to doing nothing, in my opinion.  So today, after 40 years of Earth Day, I am going to commit myself to getting my bags to the store.  Storing them in the car, in plain sight, should help.  When that change is consolidated, I will move on.  There are some decent lists of things we can all do, small and large, available at Planet Green and SimpleMom

I'm pretty sure I won't go so far as one green-zealot I read about on a list I was sent.  This passionate planet-saver, in company with claimants to diminished shampooing and shared bathwater, touted his/her reclamation of food particles from dental floss for reconsumption as a green achievement.  In retrospect, maybe it was meant to be humorous, but sometimes we people with a cause can be awfully grim in its pursuit, so I've never really been sure. . .

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