Thursday, January 21, 2010

Minimal Impact Man

I went to a screening of the documentary film No Impact Man at a local indie cinema here. I'd been looking forward to it since hearing about it several months ago.

It's a good film and raises important questions about our profligate American lifestyle--- and more importantly, about the flexibility of that lifestyle. If, as many suggest, the effects of Peak Oil occur powerfully and suddenly, our present wasteful, energy-rich lifestyle will go right out the window in a hearbeat. What happens then?

Perhaps, as Colin Beavan and family did by choice, we all will find ourselves foot-stomping our laundry in the tub and using beeswax candles for light--- but by necessity. How many will adapt? How many will insulate themselves with money (the rich, duh!) to avoid change, even if it can produce positive effects on their happiness and fulfillment (as was arguably the case for Colin's family)?

I've been making efforts to reduce my own impact, but there's always further to go. Maybe a long-term transition is the key to minimizing the impacts.

I recommend finding a screening of the film and hearing what it has to say about how we live.

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At 1/22/2010 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another take on No Impact Man

At 1/22/2010 10:17 PM, Blogger Algernon said...

Thanks for the link.

Reasonable article, reasonable response. Kolbert's article presents a milder form of the pervasive criticism to Beavan's (and Farquharson's, and Smith & McKinnon's, etc.) experiment (or "stunt," to Kolbert). Some responses to Beavan (on his blog, as he reported in the film) were quite hostile. I can now put my finger on what annoys me about them all: they focus relentlessly and unnecessarily on what these folks failed to do-- e.g., achieve zero impact, use rigorously scientific methods, be relentlessly consistent, save the world single-handedly-- while typically overlooking what they do, in fact, achieve: learning something about themselves that would otherwise have been impossible, and bringing their stories to the world. I think they must be given some latitude for publicizing their efforts (yes, even for book and film deals), given that 100% success in negating their own impact would likely mean we'd never hear their stories.

In our modern, koyaanisqatsi world, these pioneers, flawed as they may be (surprise), are breaking new ground-- or perhaps turning over old ground that's lain fallow too long. We need these stories now more than ever. What impact could Thoreau have expected to make in his own lifetime? (Looking back, it's easy for us to mistake that life in the mid-19th Century was "hard" and "simple" enough all around that his railing against "excess" would have seemed silly; there were, of course, obscene excesses even then.) But his impact on 20th Century environmentalism is unmistakable. These nouveau Thoreauvians (Kolbert's term) are bringing us a message we need right now as we navigate the deadly straits between peak oil and global climate change.

I say, God love 'em. And read their books.


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