This is a post from the Dear Sugar column in which the author writes a letter to her younger self.  It’s powerful and wise, happy and sad, and, above all, blatantly honest.  It made for an intense read this morning.

http://therumpus.net/2011/02/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-64/

Watch and listen to this.  The sounds of years and years of growth, disease, fire, re-growth, hard winters and glorious summers in the rings of a tree with the help of a little bit of technology.

Louis C.K. is, as usual, very crude in this latest internet go-round, but I heartily agree with the guy.  What does it matter?  Giving equal rights to homosexuals doesn’t affect the rights of heterosexuals.  Period.

This guy is impressive.  He unplugged from all social networks, from all email, and from his phone, and went old-school.

If I didn’t think I would immediately get the shakes, and if I didn’t need my phone/email for work (and if my mother wouldn’t freak out because she wouldn’t know if I was going about my daily routines or “lying dead in a ditch somewhere”), this would be an epic challenge.  Although, paradoxically, I would want to blog about it as I went.  Damn you, technology!

 

Recently, a friend shared an essay with me that dealt with “environmentalism.”  It’s a fascinating look at current environmentalist efforts, albeit a bit despairing of the state of things.  Despair aside, it has some important thoughts to consider.

It’s an incredibly long essay, and I don’t think you need to read the whole thing to get the gist of it.  Here’s a quick summary in my own words:

Environmentalists of the past were focused on preserving the environment.  They strove to keep the untouched wildernesses just that: untouched.  They longed to preserve Mother Nature’s mighty rivers, vast forests, barren deserts, and teeming oceans.  Their purpose was to limit human impact. 

In contrast, the environmentalists of today are focused almost exclusively on sustainability.  In the author’s opinion, sustainability is a dirty word.  Sustainability serves to find alternative energy sources, to reduce, reuse and recycle, and to make “green” cool.   

However, the author sees sustainability as merely covering up the true problem.  He argues that we have, in certain parts of the world, become accustomed to a certain comfortable way of life that we are unwilling to relinquish. Therefore, sustainability at its best is simply a means of sustaining our huge (and growing) energy needs.  This means establishing wind farms on thriving coasts and in pristine wilderness areas, erecting miles and miles of solar arrays in the deserts, darkening the sands beneath them, building hydroelectric dams and water mills in rivers and oceans, and harnessing nuclear energy.  All of these alternative energy sources impact the environment, the very thing that the original environmentalists wanted to prevent.

The author’s conclusion is that we are an energy hungry society and, as our numbers are continually increasing, we will only require more as time goes on.  He is not hopeful about a solution, believing that the time for effective change has passed.  However, he notes that if we reduce our energy consumption rather than substituting new types of energy, the global impact might be lessened, even if it cannot be stopped.

I agree with a lot of what this guy says, but I’m not sure how I feel about his tone of despair.  I invite you to just think on this.  Think about the impact that seven billion human beings are having on the planet, many of whom live in places where artificial light and heat, huge electricity consumption for computers, TVs, a myriad of appliances, etc., and individual transportation in fuel hungry vehicles is the norm.

I confess that I am one who is reluctant to give up many modern day comforts: I enjoy easy travel across long distances to visit my family.  I enjoy having a computer at home with which to connect to the world.  I enjoy being able to keep my fresh food in the fridge.  I enjoy energy-hungry medical procedures that are often life-saving.  But if we’re all going to hell in a hand basket because of all that, it’s a good argument to start cutting back.

Sometimes, politics get my blood boiling.  Tonight is one of those times.

Republican governor Mitch Daniels, in his response to President Obama’s State of the Union address this evening, said something which convinces me even more—despite what I imagine are the best intentions—how out of touch the Republican party has become:

“We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have nots; we must always be a nation of haves and soon to haves.”

Sir, please take a moment to look around you.  We ARE a nation of haves and have nots.  Many, many people are struggling to make ends meet, and to insult the intelligence of this country by making such a sweeping, positive statement promising that financial security is just around the corner is uncalled for. 

I gladly admit that the economic problems in this country have no easy solutions.  I challenge any member of the Republican party, however, to explain to me how we are to keep people off the street, healthy, safe, educated, and in any kind of quality life without quite a bit of government spending.  I agree that it’s not ideal to run up a great deficit, but it is downright inhumane to remove funding from social programs that are literally keeping people alive.

The majority of the students that I currently work with come from the very low end of the socioeconomic spectrum.  I have students who are homeless, students whose families cannot afford to keep the heat turned on, students who literally don’t know from where their next meal will come, students who have children that they have to feed and care for, and students who depend on the charity of others (and programs of the government) to get clothes, school supplies, hygiene items, food, and other things that many take for granted.  I wish the members of Congress could see these teenagers and realize that their efforts to not raise taxes, to ease regulations across the board, to decrease unemployment benefits/welfare/food stamps, and to keep the immoral, blasphemous gays from marrying and the floozies from aborting are far from helping them.

The reality is that we are an incredibly large nation with a continually widening income gap and citizens in need.  The policies (and lack thereof) of unbridled capitalism that many argue plunged our economy into the pits in the first place have become the sacred cows of the super-wealthy and need to be toppled.  The fact that politicians in D.C. are playing silly games to make themselves look good and President Obama look bad for the upcoming election is, quite frankly, disgusting.  I would like to imagine that the leaders of our country have, if not common sense, at least common decency to try to work together to find ways to help. 

Am I just railing against the Republican party, conservatives, far right radicals, and the (in my opinion) bat shit crazy members of the Tea Party?  Maybe.  But I do believe that, now more than ever, we shouldn’t be pointing fingers like children on the playground.  We should remember that every nation is a nation of haves and have nots, no matter what we’d like to believe.  And like it or not, the have nots, even those who are working their asses off, often need a little bit of help.

As we continue to reproduce and use up every last bit of resources that the wonderful earth has to offer, we will have to drastically think the way we eat, the way we treat waste, the spaces in which we live, where we obtain energy and how we utilize what we already have.

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Today, I stumbled upon the microbial home, which is an idea of building a dwelling that operates much like an ecosystem.  Waste is used for energy, artificial refrigeration is a thing of the past, and in-house beehives are the norm.  It’s the first of no doubt many concepts to move us toward a sustainable future.