Middlebury, Vt.

Life in the middle of Vermont.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Living Lighter, with Less Room for Error

A friend in California was recently telling me about his two big homes and his BMW, and it reminded me that the distance between Vermont and most of the rest of America is far more than geographic.

My friend is worrying about whether he should trade in his Beamer on a new one. And here in Vermont we’re worrying how close we are to environmental apocalypse.

In Vermont, we have begun to think seriously about how we can grow our own food and live well with fewer cars and smaller houses. In California and elsewhere, the future is always brighter and richer and has bigger things. The trucks will always arrive at Wal-Mart with their cheap goods from China, the supermarkets will overflow with organic produce from Chile, and Starbucks will always offer 20 kinds of coffee drinks.

Most Americans seem to believe that a life disconnected from nature is indefinitely sustainable -- at least judging by the number of SUVs still on our highways, or for that matter, the SUVs filling the student parking lot at Middlebury College. Most Americans have built their routines around cheap energy and what songwriter Nanci Griffith calls “unnecessary plastic objects,” and many have blithely added two, three or even four children to the planetary burden. Most of these kids are learning to be happy little consumers themselves.

At least in northern New England, we recognize what a shifting climate could do to farmers’ bottom lines. We recall when the oil supply was so uncertain in the mid-1970s that you could only buy gas every other day.

We’ve watched the winter temperatures inch upward 5 degrees on average. That turns a lot of snowy 30-degree days into the rainy drizzle of a very long November. And we’ve begun to see that disappearing ice caps and warmer winters portend a deeply uncertain future, climatologically and economically.

Writers Bill McKibben and James Howard Kunstler have given some serious thought to what this future might look like. They find an audience among Vermonters because we already have the advantage of living closer to natural reality -- but also because we are not as materially wealthy and therefore have less margin for error.

Kunstler, the author of scary book called The Long Emergency on the coming depletion of oil reserves, is particularly alarming:

“Get this. No combination of alternative fuels or systems for running them will allow us to have Walt Disney World, Wal-Mart and the interstate highway system. We’re not going to run those things on any combination of solar, wind, nuclear, biofuel, used French fried potato oil, dark matter, or all the other things that we’re wishing for … One of the implications of the ‘long emergency’ is that we’re going to have to downscale everything we do.”

If Kunstler is right, well-off Vermonters don’t have much longer to enjoy that unique combination of a rural lifestyle supplemented by car trips to the Ikea in Montreal and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Less wealthy Vermonters will be hit much harder, of course, as the jobs dry up in the warehouse stores and service industries, and as farming becomes all that much more challenging.

Many of us share McKibben’s belief, in his book Deep Economy, that a partial solution lies in “a shift to economies that are more local in scale. Local economies would demand fewer resources and cause less ecological disruption; would allow us to find a better balance between the individual and the community, and hence find extra satisfaction.” Instead of globalism fed by “free” trade, says Kunstler, we’re going to have to reconstruct local networks of economic interdependency” or “we will starve.”

* * *

Can we make this shift to a more satisfying but less materially abundant life – and do it before ecological catastrophes force a far more meager existence upon us? Can a planet careening toward 7 billion humans come to a sustainable balance -- or are we just a several hurricanes and a few more years of polar melting away from the brink?

These are among the great questions of the age, well beyond what happens in Iraq or how to resolve the inequalities of race or class or North vs. South.

Looking at how my own behavior stacks up next to my beliefs, I find cause for both tentative hope and deep pessimism.

As for the latter, I finally tired this fall of cramming my tall body into a Subaru Outback. Instead of doing the responsible thing and buying what my friend Jay West calls a “Toyota Pious,” I put the Subaru up for sale and bought a used Audi A4. I traded a partial-zero-emission car for one that gets about the same mileage and has the same carbon footprint.

What can I say? I have always lusted after an A4.

On the other side of the ledger, we heated the house last winter with three cords of wood and oil that was 20% biofuel. We’ve been talking to Paul Kenyon about siting a wind turbine on our land. Billy Romp will be out here next month to add another layer of insulation in the attic. We work at home and seldom drive more than 5 miles a day to town and back. A lot of meals came out of the garden this summer. We are lurching toward a lighter life.

Individual steps like these are very important. But it’s also imperative that we demand more of our leaders.

That’s why the local and nationwide Step It Up activities on Saturday, Nov. 3 will herald leaders of the past -- and will demand that today’s leaders take the steps only they can take to pull us back from the brink.

We shake our heads at the benighted ignorance of Iran’s President Ahmadenijad because he denies the Holocaust ever occurred. Yet our own president and a majority of our Congress have spent the last six years denying the reality of global warming.

I don’t mean to diminish the suffering of 6 million Holocaust victims. But if the world’s scientists are right, we may well be facing our own environmental holocaust. We can’t afford to play dice with the planet. Wherever we live, it’s time for every one of us to step it up.

- 30 -


Blogger ninest123 said...

ninest123 16.01
true religion jeans, air max pas cher, longchamp, timberland, nike air max, converse pas cher, nike blazer, michael kors uk, vans pas cher, north face, sac guess, sac burberry, nike air force, ray ban sunglasses, polo ralph lauren, hollister, north face, true religion outlet, coach outlet store online, michael kors outlet, louboutin, lululemon outlet online, ralph lauren, abercrombie and fitch, true religion outlet, michael kors, true religion jeans, nike huaraches, air max, nike free, longchamp, oakley pas cher, michael kors pas cher, hollister, new balance pas cher, sac hermes, air jordan, nike roshe run pas cher, mulberry, hogan outlet, ray ban pas cher, replica handbags, nike tn, nike roshe, vanessa bruno, nike free pas cher, nike trainers, air max, sac longchamp pas cher, coach purses, polo lacoste

12:56 AM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

tory burch outlet, jordan shoes, oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet, oakley sunglasses, michael kors outlet, chanel handbags, longchamp outlet, uggs outlet, ugg boots clearance, burberry outlet, tiffany and co, nike shoes, michael kors outlet online sale, louis vuitton, cheap uggs, prada outlet, oakley sunglasses, polo ralph lauren outlet, louis vuitton handbags, michael kors outlet, replica watches, ray ban sunglasses, nike free, ugg outlet, louboutin outlet, ray ban sunglasses, louis vuitton outlet, oakley sunglasses cheap, cheap oakley sunglasses, air max, tiffany and co, louis vuitton outlet, ray ban sunglasses, louboutin shoes, longchamp handbags, burberry outlet, longchamp handbags, prada handbags, louis vuitton outlet stores, air max, uggs, michael kors outlet, polo ralph lauren, michael kors outlet, louboutin, rolex watches, gucci outlet, christian louboutin

12:59 AM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

soccer shoes, bottega veneta, instyler, iphone 6s plus cases, converse, nfl jerseys, soccer jerseys, iphone 6s cases, mcm handbags, p90x, jimmy choo outlet, baseball bats, ghd, north face jackets, iphone 6 plus cases, iphone 6 cases, ipad cases, hollister clothing store, air max, babyliss pro, chi flat iron, iphone cases, beats by dre, valentino shoes, timberland boots, mac cosmetics, vans shoes, celine handbags, insanity workout, asics running shoes, ferragamo shoes, wedding dresses, north face outlet, abercrombie and fitch, oakley, ralph lauren, air max, mont blanc, lululemon outlet, reebok outlet, abercrombie, s6 case, gucci, herve leger, ray ban, birkin bag, new balance shoes, iphone 5s cases, vans, nike roshe run, louboutin, giuseppe zanotti

1:01 AM  
Blogger ninest123 said...

hollister, ugg, canada goose, moncler, pandora jewelry, rolex watches, montre homme, moncler, sac lancel, thomas sabo, moncler, swarovski crystal, sac louis vuitton, ugg, louis vuitton, links of london, barbour, moncler, juicy couture outlet, moncler outlet, canada goose, ugg pas cher, converse shoes, pandora jewelry, louis vuitton, doke gabbana, swarovski, coach outlet store online, pandora charms, canada goose, moncler, canada goose, juicy couture, pandora charms, supra shoes, moncler, canada goose uk, canada goose, ugg, marc jacobs, moncler, ugg boots, canada goose outlet, sac louis vuitton, canada goose jackets, barbour, wedding dresses, karen millen, toms shoes, louis vuitton uk
ninest123 16.01

1:04 AM  
Blogger 柯云 said...

louis vuitton outlet
oakley sunglasses
gucci outlet
ugg boots
coach outlet online
air max 90
canada goose jackets
tory burch handbags
michael kors outlet
beats by dr dre
ray ban sunglasses outlet
hollister clothing
louis vuitton outlet
louis vuitton
michael kors
coach outlet
cheap nfl jerseys
nike blazers
giuseppe zanotti
michael kors outlet
nike roshe runs
adidas superstars
louis vuitton outlet
abercrombie & fitch
cheap oakley sunglasses
timberland outlet
louis vuitton purses
canada goose jackets
ugg boots
coach factorty outlet
louis vuitton handbags
louis vuitton outlet
kevin durant 8
michael kors handbags
louis vuitton handbags
prada handbags
ray ban sunglasses
moncler sale
kobe bryant shoes

8:32 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home