Saturday, 21 March 2009

The Great Global Epiphany - When did it happen for you?

Of course your epiphany might not have happened yet - to clarify what I mean, I'm talking about the moment when the realisation that our way of life is, I guess, an aberration, hits you. Suddenly you're aware that we're riding on the back of a depleting energy source, one that's use is impacting the environment to such an extent that the very narrow margins of environmental norms required to sustain it are being altered.

The moment you realised that we are unsustainable to the point we may well make the lives of our children's children untenable, that we may, in our quest for convenience, inadvertantly be practising vacarious genocide and taking along with us many other species on our path to our perceived perfect life.

This is generally followed by a decision on whether to do something about it, maybe we decide it's too late to bother, or that our actions don't count ... whatever, there's usually a point in which business as usual comes to an end and we feel morally obliged to do more than recycle our aluminium cans... has this happened to you? When, how, what provoked it, and what did you do about it?



Julie said...

Would I sound like I was sucking up too much if I mentioned that your book was one of my catalysts?! LOL.

Around 2.5 years ago I was becoming increasingly disatisfied with a number of things in the way the world works and how I felt my family were impacting it, when I chanced upon both your book and Singer and Mason's "The Ethics of What We Eat", both of which quite literally changed my life. Around three weeks later we went to see "An Inconvenient Truth", and *boom*, there was no going back to the way we had lived before. Even if it made no difference to the world at large, I knew that, morally, we couldn't continue to be a part of the polluting, consumerist culture.

Here we are 2.5 years later, and while we are certainly no paragons of virtue, we continue to make active, concientious decisions each day to try and minimise our impact. Do I think it's enough? No. Could I do more? Absolutely! So we keep plodding along, trying to teach ourselves how to grow and preserve food more succesfully, mend, sew, knit, refashion, innovate etc etc.

It's exhausting, but endlessly rewarding.

Cheers, Julie

dixiebelle said...

I was into 'environmentalism', off and on over a couple of years, but after watching 'An Inconvenient Truth', the decision to really get back into 'going green' was made. I found alot of inspiration and help from reading, forums, and blogs.

Though I have moments of disillusionment, questioning, pondering, panic, being overwhelmed, or feeling hopeless and like my meager efforts are pretty much useless, I just cannot see myself ever going back to how I was before. Even if I am not sure if what I am trying to achieve is helping, it feels better to live a more frugal and sustainable life...

knutty knitter said...

I've been green ever since the Clyde dam was built. Not rabid green but at least thinking about what I was doing. As soon as green stuff became doable I'd do it and I'm still the same. Not perfect but trying.

viv in nz

Sharon said...

I have been concerned about the environment since childhood. Some things that made me feel the urgency of the problems we face are - 'an inconvinient truth', the focus in the media on the development and modernisation of china, having children (and for the first time seeing horror that is disposable baby stuff - and seeing how wasteful some people with babies are for the sake of 'hygiene').

labanan said...

Wow! Thinking it or doing something? I'm not sure. I remember as a hippy belonging to the ethos that believed littering was a very bad idea. I do think that was my start. Also my father telling me in 1968 when I was out the door to protest something at the parliament buildings that I should take a sledge hammer to a car instead. He says he didn't but he did. I hang out with these brilliant women quite often - we've known each other for years and I mean really known each other - been at births of babies and deaths of friends and family and lived together and travelled together and practiced our spiritual path together. the whole tamale. A few weeks ago we were brunching at someone's house and I said something about saving water or I don't know...and they said how much do you think about this stuff and I said - surprised at her and myself - ALL THE TIME. Every glass of water, every bit of plastic, every stupid purchase, dumb drive into town for nothing, all the time. I do what I can - but I fret about it endlessly. What good is that?

simple happiness said...

Great topic Linda - would love to hear about your process of discovery too.

I am enjoying other points of view here as well.

This is the first time i have written about this topic which is one of many dear to my heart. I have much to say, but will try to keep it brief. Many things will be left unsaid.....

Mine has been a gradual process and has been many years in the making. No sudden light bulb (LED or otherwise) moment for me.... Starting probably when i gave up my architecture degree as so many people wanted to build structures that were not sustainable in any way, as fast as possible (taking up more of our precious land). Somethings have just been naturally in grained within me though by growing up on acreage and producing most of our own food.

I do believe that an awareness needs to take place. With Governments focused on job creation and economics, there is a lack of focus on doing what is necessary to keep our precious planet 'alive' - there needs to be a balance. eg today $10mil to change a government department name - who cares? I believe that the money could have been spent more effectively elsewhere.

Unfortunately as time goes on, people are becoming more reliant on others and comsuming more (processed foods/ electrical gadgets) and have lost the tools we need to be self sustainable. Are we too busy now to think/worry or learn about our environment and sustainability? It worries and upsets me that this will become worse and people with then become more reliant on things that harm our environment. I know that i still have a lot to learn.

It might be the area we live in, or the people we know, but we are the only ones in our generation that has a vegetable garden. I couldn't imagine life without one.

I worry about our son's future, to the point of panic sometimes. I am hoping to arm him with enough survival skills and set up a place that he will be able to use to sustain him. BUT then walks in the climate and its ever increasing changes......

looking forward to others comments on their epiphany!

Kelle said...

Great question although I don't exactly remember a date or even a year. I guess we've been living our frugal, simple life for decades now. We raised our children(now young adults) to think about the future and how their action or inaction will effect it for future generations. I wouldn't say we are enviromentalists, but rather caretakers of nature.

We raise 95% of what we consume
(produce as well as meat) and we do it in an all natural way( nothing man made used, no antibiotics, chemicals, hormones, vaccines, etc....) We treat ourselves, as well as our animals, first and foremost with a healthy whole food diet and use herbs and natural remedies when needed.

Our goal is to make the smallest footprint we can in the time we're here. I sure wish more people felt this way. We struggle with my folks, both are so wasteful and have this entitlement attitude, it's VERY frustrating.

Linda Cockburn said...

It's been interesting reading the responses. Seems the commonality is a pre-existing consciousness around environmental stuff,eg like labanon says, with littering. I remember blocking toilets in Sydney with my 'if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down' motto in 1994 - littering, I used hankies instead of tissues, a general, try not to be wasteful attitude, but that's about all. It was that moment when the consciousness expands to encompassing every aspect of your life that's the big transition. I hear you Labanan with the guilt thing. But I always say that guilt has no carbon reducing capabilities, it doesn't increase biodiversity, or save water. So it doesn't really fit into the scheme of things. It's a motivational factor, but a negative one. There are better motivational forces out there to pick from.

I think there's a tipping point Dixiebelle, and sitting on the scale of doing something about it IS enough. You're part of the big ripple of awareness,one of a growing many. They say that the environmental epiphany is followed by all the stages of grief, when we realise the life we are living is going to end (with the end of oil, climate change etc). Shock,denial,grief, acceptance etc. And like all grief you don't work through each stage without transgressing to an earlier stage at various points. It's a process.

And Knutty Knitter - 'no rabid greenie' - I don't think too many of us would consider ourselves rabid greenies. It's so nice to watch what would have been rabid greenies ten years ago become much more normalised... part of the scales tipping. I had an ABC TV producer come see us in early 2000 and tell me to my face that domestic sustainability, no one was interested and by the way solar hot water doesn't work, it's a big have. How wrong was she!

Yeah Sharon, horror of disposable nappies. 40% of the contents of a family with small children is in DN - major cringe.

Simple Happiness - agreed on so many things you say - in particular the lost tools - but then we're all a part of finding those again, and sharing them where we can. I have a dream of starting a Museum of Lost Skills - which would be an oxymoron in some ways, as they wouldn't be lost then would they?

I think also, that the $10 million to change a dept name - spot on. I think we need a round table and put our money and resources on the table right now and say, 'How do we spend this to prepare ourselves?' Because we're going to need lots of the remaining oil to set ourselves up with the right tools if we're not going to have starvation and depravation on a grand scale. It defies imagination that we could ever see third world conditions in the western world, but it's more than a possibility.

I better stop ranting. I hope to see more comments on this!

Alice Kytler said...

I think I've always half been aware of it because my Father had all his life an ideal that he wanted to 'get back to the land' and become self-sufficent. I was aware from a way too early age that our life-style was destroying the planet! Or at least our chances of living in comfort upon the planet in the future. So I've always held this ideal, but have experienced frustration in how long it's taking my husband and I to get to the point of actualising it. So far we are only at the growing our own veges and reusing a lot of things as other things stage. But I suppose we make a lot of choices as 'green consumers' every day that are something. Either way, seeing 'An Inconvenient Truth' definately spurred me on to get moving with our plans.

Denise said...

Two books influenced me profoundly, yours and Affluenza which is basically about consumerism - how we have been brainwashed into thinking that we deserve the best of everything i.e. through submerging ourselves in debt. Gradually we are realising a greener and simpler way of life although it is not always as easy as it seems in magazines and books. Two years ago we moved to 5 acres and have put in a veggie garden and orchard and have been trying to outwit the wildlife for our share ever since. I have been learning skills too liking making soap, weaving baskets and making paper out of local plants - things I may never need but I feel better knowing I have some knowledge. I re-use and recycle as much as I can as well. I can relate to Labanan about constantly thinking of how I could be doing things better but I have learnt that like growing vegies, these things take time and some things are successful and some things aren't. Getting the kids on board is probably the hardest - not the food part - but getting them away from the computer screens and games. I think once you become aware, there is no turning back and I find there are more like minded people everyday rediscovering their own backyard and skills. Thank goodness for the old country fairs and shows were you can still see in action bullock driving, shingle splitting for a roof, iron mongering and knife making along with the preserves and cookery skills. I hope that we get to learn more of these skills before they are lost.

MrsTwinn said...

When we moved house about 12 months ago I had all these grand plans and schemes of being green and self sufficient all on a 1/5 acre block! Reality and a budget have woken me up to the truth that we can't all go 100%. But, every little bit does count and help. We've made a conscious effort to go environmentally friendly as our budget can support. We use Weenee nappies which are either cloth or compostable/flushable pads, have a veggie garden (no mean feat for someone who is phobic of insects) and try not to drive short distances. Reading your blogs have inspired me and given me many ideas and hopefully we will raise our children to be more environmentally and ethically aware than their parents are.
Caleb, you too are a great inspiration. If you can do it then my child/ren can too!

Gavin said...

Hi Linda. My Epiphany happened the very day I saw 'An Inconvenient Truth'. A wave of emotion came over me and I just knew that I had to do something to ensure a future for all life on our planet. Since then I have read many books (including yours which made me laugh so much), lots of documentaries about climate change and peak oil. I call it my "great unlearning". By that I mean that I woke up to the truth and have unlearned all the consumeristic habits that have gotten us all into this mess. I wrote about it in a post titled Why I choose to lead a sustainable lifestyle.

So 2.5 years later, we are starting to share our unlearning with others and have started a sustainable living group in our town. It is only small at the moment, but membership is growing all the time. Every small bit makes a difference, because we simply cannot afford to wait any longer for governments to lead the way.

N8chaluva said...

My eureka moment hit me in 1983 while driving to a job interview at a power station linked coal mine. In one moment I saw the yellow sulphur stained smoke coming out of the "cooling towers" and realised it was the same yellow smudge over the horizon I'd seen for many years over the ocean whan I was out surfing. I didn't actually think it would ruin the world, but i knew it was very bad. I got the job and within two years kicked my mining career. Within the next few months I bought my first solar PV cell to power my little sailing boat which I lived aboard. I now have 10 pv cells and with my family live off-grid.
regards, terry