Saturday, September 12, 2009

The (Forgotten) Concept of Moderation

I see examples frequently that pragmatism and moderation are largely forgotten concepts on modern society. I'll skip the political bullshit that offers myriad examples and cut straight to the event that prompted me to write this post.

Author and New Yorker Colin Beavan came up with a gimmick for a book... he'd become "No Impact Man" and subject his family to a year without modern conveniences and products in order to reduce their impact on the world... to shrink their "carbon footprint." They were to do this while living in a 9th-floor co-op apartment on 5th Avenue.

The premise itself is reasonable enough, but the execution is almost farcical. Why should we care that some schmuck decided he'd walk up 9 flights as a personal hair shirt in a building that has a functional elevator? His fairly ridiculous antics such as turning off the electricity and replacing their refrigerator with a "pot in pot" evaporative cooler are simply not inspiring to normal people leading normal lives... I doubt that it's going to encourage many people to consider working conservation into their everyday choices and paring down waste in their lives... and frankly I think people who buy their kids $975 boots aren't people to emulate anyway.

The rational thing to do is to reduce our impact in sustainable ways... meaning things we can continue to do indefinitely as improvements in the way we live, not as ridiculous overdone experiments that grate on us during the whole time we've deprived ourselves of a normal life (and often lead to overcompensation when the experiment is over.)

Keep a car as long as it's economically viable (few of us live where it's truly possible to live without one altogether unless you're a writer who doesn't have to go to a job.) When it's really time to replace a car, buy one that MEETS your needs, not one that's ready for taking 7 passengers on the Paris-Dakar rally.

Buy a house that's big enough, not one you think will impress your friends because yours is bigger than theirs. Maintain your house and stay there, nearly everything about moving is both wasteful and expensive, especially if you're "moving up" to a McMansion. Part of maintaining your house is making its systems efficient, and USING them efficiently. Flush the toilet when you need to, but don't cool your house to 65 when it's 90 degrees out (and don't heat it to 80 when it's snowing out, either.)

There are thousands of things that nearly everyone can do to drastically reduce our impact on the planet without getting all stone-age about it. Ridiculous stunts like this just make many people think "that's crazy!" rather than "that's easy, I should do that!"

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