Thursday, October 15

Blog Action Day: Climate Change

In the case of environmental activism, I have long felt that the most effective changes happen on a personal, domestic level. With the issue of climate change, it can be so overwhelming though and often I lose sight of how the small acts help the big picture. You hear the stories of polar bears drowning and how soon skiing in the Alps will be a far-gone memory. You see the evidence around you, insect populations surging out of control, flowers blooming too far ahead of schedule, seasonal foods growing off season. It is a huge issue and hopefully the new American administration will take positive and immediate action, especially considering President Obama's recent Nobel Peace Prize.

I look to America to do something because of the inequity of balance in terms of those who create the destruction compared to those who must suffer the consequences. The culture of America does not currently seem to lend itself to the changes that must be made. There is a stubbornness that is particularly unbecoming. People don't want to make sacrifices for the global good. They hardly want to make sacrifices for their own good (consider the high rate of obesity-related diseases). This sort of thinking must be overcome in order to make the necessary lifestyle amendments that will make a dent in the climate change problem. Or else we will have to wait until some radical climate related change is happening in American backyards. Because sympathy for the island nations that are already in danger is very slow in coming.

We need to remember that we are all connected. That the slightest shift in attitude and action on a micro level can lead to giant shifts on a macro level.

How my family works for climate change is very simple. We walk.

We are committed pedestrians. It is not always easy. We are exposed to the elements, to our neighbors, to time constraints. Everything must be thought of beforehand. It shapes us. Soon to be five of us. Sebastian often wonders why we can't zip around in a sporty little car like his school pals. And there are times that we envy those who have cars, who are not restricted to bus schedules and the regular confines of our small town.

Yet, I believe that for pedestrians, we manage to go far.

Walking makes us more conscious of where we are. It makes us more present and connected. We can't zone out to NPR when we are constantly called on to greet the people who we pass. We wouldn't notice the changing flowers or the insects living on roadside bushes. In a car, everything blurs past. You can go farther in one sense but in another you limited. Cars are bulky things, always in need of attention. Walking is light. It requires no oil or parking lots or toll booths. In many ways, pedestrians are freer than drivers.

It helps that we live in Japan. Part of being here is based on our desire to live without a car. It wasn't possible in Florida where car culture has dominated city planning. My generous parents gave us a little compact car and we used it everyday. But it turned out there was something missing in our lives. Walking had become part of our identity, part of how we experienced the world.

I know that when I say that how we do our part is to live car-free, many of you will not find that to be your solution. Some of you live in places where it is impossible to do this. The point of sharing our way is to encourage you to find your own way.
I believe the crucial element is that whatever you incorporate into your life has to be meaningful and give more to your existence. It shouldn't feel like a sacrifice. We don't typically feel sorry for ourselves for not being able to experience the speed and convenience of a car because we have found that the benefits are so great we can hardly see the disadvantages.

In combating negative climate change, our personal actions should be positive and not just for the sake of the planet, but for our own precious lives. Switching to a locally-based diet, or creating your own household products, or buying sustainable goods instead of the common disposable goods, these are among many of the small but vital steps that work for the good of the planet and your own life.

I think that the most radical change we can make is to switch from a mentality that devalues human life. When we care deeply for ourselves, the choices we make from that state of mind will reflect positivity. I hope to see waves of radical positivity surging through the world, taking the destructive habits by storm. The unhealthy state of our planet reflects the status of our collective health and right now we are not doing so well. We must fight for our planet by first fighting for ourselves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

YES! I absolutely agree with your analysis that American culture seems to be pro-car and anti-human. I particularly like your concluding paragraph: "...the most radical change we can make is to switch from a mentality that devalues human life." You have tied together our interconnectedness very clearly.