Let’s get this over with right up front: I’m a believer in the apocalypse, at least the man-manufactured one that seems, barring a late-Act III entrance from some serious, ass-kicking deus ex machina, inevitable.
Additionally, I must confess that I came to my knowledge/world view late in the game, getting turned on to Kunstler and peak oil and other earthly delights after the vanguard, but apparently before the bulge of the curve. Ironically, I find this unbelievable: how can a political dunderhead like me be early to the party? Is it possible that the majority of my countrymen are more preoccupied, more obstinate, more, okay, stupider than I? For chrissakes, Will Rogers, American icon, pointed out the folly of ignoring the obvious more than 50 years ago; are people really so dense as to not get that, like land, at some point we will have burned through our supply of dead dinosaurs?
And really, really, does anyone actually believe in suburbs as an inalienable right? Of sprawl as manifest destiny? While we’re at it, does anyone actually believe in Manifest Destiny anymore? That some unseen power said “Poof! lucky white dudes! You really are my favorites! Grab what you want, pave over the rest and throw up a Starbucks every 500 yards! And get me a decaf Venti soy latte, while you’re at it, I’m cutting back on my caffeine intake.”
Besides, as Kunstler himself points out in, among other writings, this excellent review (of what looks like an egregiously irresponsible book), for this you’re chewing up resources? For 99¢ tacos and “Tuscan” minimalls and 3-Day Blinds and Axe? I’m no purist, I love In-and-Out and I drive my Corolla and I spend most of my waking life in front of a computer that will eventually kill off a square mile of rainforest or something when it hits the landfill, but Bratz dolls? Putting aside the allocation of precious resources to perpetuate several particularly nasty features of the patriarchy, on a purely aesthetic level, they are ass.
Like I said, I’m as bad as anyone else when it comes to much of my consumption, meaning it is thoughtless. I do not think about blood-stained oil when I curse the traffic on the way to my shrink appointment; I’m adding to the problem with almost everything I do, and thinking about the extent to which I’m stomping the world to death with boots, Australian Blundstones, borne to me across the ocean on fairy wings, natch, makes my head throb. How do I change!?! Where do I start!?!
Alertness, right now, is all I know I can do. And I know it is the thing to do in part because practicing it is so alarming. How starkly I am struck by my ability to take things for granted when the power goes out for 26 hours. 26, you see? Every last minute counted.
I’ve implemented a few things to help me stay aware and awake, which I’ll share not to lord it over anyone (who am I to talk?), but in hopes that it might help a few overwhelmed types like me find a place to start:
- I’ve trimmed down my possessions to the point where everything has a place, I can put my hands on most of them without too much thought, and there is plenty of space in between them.
- For the most part, I did it by reasonably “responsible” methods of recycling and reducing consumption. On the recycling side, I’ve increased my reuse of items, paper, mostly, before sending things off to the Magical Recycling Place. (I’ve always been a fanatic about reusing bags and rubber bands.)
- On the consumption side, I simply buy far, far less than I used to, purchasing used items where I can, borrowing where appropriate (e.g. the library instead of the bookstore), buying fewer trendy/disposable items and thinking about whether I can wait or do without before I buy.
- Also concerning consumption, I’ve dramatically reduced the amount of fuel I use by quitting acting (which is mostly auditioning, which is mostly driving) and working from a home office. I live a little too far from the public rail system to make use of it, and buses are notoriously slow here in L.A., caught in the same traffic as cars, so I still drive my beloved Corolla. I’ve toyed with getting a Prius or a biodiesel conversion, but without retiring my car, I don’t know how much good I’d be doing. The only long “commute” I have now is my weekly Toastmasters meeting, 10 miles away in the Marina. My plan is to finish out the year there, then look for a Toastmasters within walking distance of my home.
Not that much, really, but a start. And for anyone who’s interested, #1 has improved my life in many ways besides feeling better about not being such a piggy. My stress level is down and my productivity up, if not in all areas of my life, at least in some.
Besides the peace of mind that comes with a reasonable baseline of organization has got to have some salubrious effect on the world, as well, if only in that it frees me up to think more about serious matters. Right?