Thoughts about eco-impact

I’ve been mulling about this blog entry for sometime now. I feel like this is something I want to share, but I’ve also wanted to allow the impressions to sink in and the thoughts to gel before writing something so “permanent”.

Well, here goes. A couple of weeks ago we took our daughters to see the doc film No Impact Man. It was being shown within the context of a film and panel series about the environment. Having heard and read about the film for a while, I knew it had a bit of humor and might be easy for the kids to watch. And, hey, maybe it would even be provocative for them and for us. And it was. I’m still thinking about it.

As it turned out, our daughters were the only children in the room. Naturally, although the room was full, once again as in many of these kinds of events, the panel was preaching to the choir. It was clear from the questions that the audience brought up in the discussion that preceded the screening, that pretty much everyone there, including us, was already putting into practice to the best of our abilities some of suggestions that the film brings up.

The speakers were both interesting and had some worthwhile comments to make: Ana Etchenique, vice president of the Consumers Confederation (CECU) and Jorge Navacerrada, member of the group Responsible Consumption, from the Community of Madrid. Ms Etchenique was feisty and gave nice examples of how she tries to apply conscience consumerism in her day to day. And Mr Navacerrada ended his participation with cogent words about how the general public can be informed online of ways to conserve energy and goods. It might have been nice to have a speaker from the private sector as well, maybe someone from a company that is practicing social and environmental responsibility or says it is; and the talk went on twice as long as it should have—but this is very much in the Spanish fashion.

That said, the film is not only entertaining, it raises a lot of questions. It’s a docudrama, really, that can be watched like reality TV. Maybe this was intentional, as Michelle, the protagonist’s wife, is apparently addicted to reality shows. So, much of their interaction seems just as over-the-top and contrived as these shows can be, while it also draws you right in. Can Michelle really be so superficial and downright lazy? Is Colin really such a controller? But it works. Michelle is probably the reason why the film works—she is like pretty much everyone else. She’s following along with the regulations that her husband imposes, believes in them half-heartedly, but really she craves coffee from Starbucks and loves to shop needlessly. She’d rather cut corners every once in awhile in their rigorous new lifestyle and continue to have some of those moments of immediate gratification that she’s so used to, and perhaps this keeps her sane. What Westerner isn’t like that? The almost ascetic lifestyle that they end up practicing within their year of attempting to have carbon 0 impact on their environment is, needless to say, exacting.

There are some basic principles which come up finally in the film and that are what I came away with or saw emphasized from my own thinking, and that I hope stayed with my daughters as well. These are: that we need to maintain a continued awareness of the gift we have in Nature and that natural resources are finite and should be respected and used with discretion, according to our needs not just our immediate desires; that before continuing in the cycle of use and toss, we should return to the post-war mentality of our European ancestors or our rural roots where most items could be repurposed and reused several times and in many imaginative ways; and that we can make small changes in our daily life that can make a difference maybe in big ways in terms of the resources that, ultimately, we share with many others.

It is this final point that I keep most top of mind. And it’s a difficult one. Because it involves making choices and decisions all through the day, and giving myself gentle reminders of what I need to do—keep a compost going, clean out plastic bags and reuse them, don’t flush all the time, turn off the router and the ready button on the TV and the stereo when not in use, make intelligent, healthful choices in the supermarket (minimal packaging, bulk items, fewer impulse purchases), and so on. All through the day, every day. It’s hard, and it’s tiring. But maybe it will make a difference? What I do know is that we I go shopping equipped with my big recycled bags and see others with their carts full to the brim checking out and getting plastic bag after plastic bag filled with products, it hurts to see. At the back of mind is the plastic bag island in the Pacific, with its accompanying Gyre and I’m horrified at what we’re doing to our world click for info. So I keep at the little things, the small decisions and gestures that maybe in their own way can make a positive impact.