I drive to work.
I haven’t changed all my lightbulbs.
I definitely haven’t checked the air pressure in my tires.
I often leave the water running while washing dishes.
I eat meat.
Oh yeah, and I want to have kids.
And I’ve stopped feeling guilty about it. I could make another list, one which would list all the things I have done (I have no air conditioning, I always unplug my computer at night, I always turn the lights off when I leave the room, and, oh yeah, I eat 90% locally and therefore have almost no trash). But there’s really no point. Because the truth of the matter is, while doing all of the above is a more responsible way to live, it’s not changing the world, and it’s not solving the real problem.
Listen to this podcast.
And then listen to it a couple more times for good measure. Think about it. If municipal water use in the US is only 20% of the total water use, with 80% therefore going to industrial and agricultural uses, me taking a twenty minute shower is not the problem. Seriously. There’s not even an argument there. Industry and industrial agriculture are the problem.
I hear things like this from students all the time, usually in the form of “but the lights are on in (insert name of academic building here) why should I turn them off in my dorm?” And I always answer the same way. Yes, it’s true that there’s a bigger problem. But that doesn’t absolve you from living responsibly. And this is true of water usage as well- industry is obviously a much bigger problem, but that doesn’t absolve me from living responsibly. I do try to conserve water as much as I can.
But I also don’t beat myself up over every little thing. I had a slurpee the other day and didn’t feel the slightest bit guilty (though I was pretty sure I felt my teeth rotting). I’m not environmental saint, and that’s not the point. The point here is that I accept that there are much bigger problems than me, and that ultimately I am a member of industrial civilization. It’s hard to accept. I don’t want to be associated with them in the slightest. I don’t associate, in many ways, because I sure as hell don’t want to be in other countries blowing things up, or drilling in the ocean, or any of the other million ridiculous and destructive things this idiot culture has decided to do. But I have to accept that I am still, unfortunately, a member. I really don’t have a choice. As I said last week, where the hell else can I go? (and as a reminder, go read this as well: Urban Scout: Hypocrisy vs. Rewilding)
And so yes, I stopped beating myself up over driving to work even though I could easily walk. You know what, it’s hard enough to get to work as it is. Really, what we should be working on, is ending the system that causes all this destruction in the first place. It’s going to be really hard for me to go get a slurpee if industrial civilization has crashed and 7-11 can no longer get the artificial sugar or the petroleum based cups or run the machine or exist in any functional way for that matter. But- and here’s where I always get stuck- what do I do in the meantime?
Try to live responsibly, for sure. And I try to take Derrick Jensen’s advice- doing what I do best, which is writing and organizing (and cooking and sewing)- because I know I personally don’t have the faintest clue how to bring down industrial civilization. But the other part of it is trying to find the people who do, and supporting them in their work. I was watching Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at lunch (there’s another industrial civilization member thing to do, DVDs are definitely bad for the environment) and thinking to myself how cheesy it sounds, but how spot on some of the comments on resistance in that book are. I’m not going to quote because I’m being lazy and don’t want to look it up, but the sentiment is that resistance is more effective when you aren’t alone. Alone, there’s no one to step up if you fail. Alone, you get caught up in your own head and don’t see the big picture. But with others, you have more skills than you alone could ever have, not to mention that working together you are more likely to see flaws in a plan that you would not catch yourself, and you are collectively more conscious than you would be otherwise (presuming you are starting with conscious people). Not to mention the support you can give one another- support that is absolutely necessary to function as a human being, much less a resistance fighter.
And so the final part of what I “do”- which is community building. But you already know that. I’ve been talking about it what- every day?