I'll be recording a spot about the election and the environment on the Montel Williams show on Thursday (and I think it will appear that day but have to double check). In preparation for that spot, I had to answer some email questions. Here are the answers just for you. If you're a long time reader of the blog, you may want to skip halfway down.
PLEASE DESCRIBE YOUR YEARLONG EXPERIMENT.
For a year my little family and I tried to live in the middle of Manhattan while causing as low as possible environmental impact. That meant learning to live without make trash (so nothing with packaging), using no carbon producing transportation (so we only walked and biked), eating only vegetarian, local and seasonal food (so a lot of eggs and cabbage in winter), not buying anything new (so a lot of shopping second hand), not using mains electricity (lots of beeswax candles), and conserving water. We also tried to negate what negative impact was left by having a positive impact through various types of volunteering.
It was an extreme experiment. The idea was not to try to get everyone else to live the same way, but to see whether what would happen to our quality of life if we consumed substantially fewer resources than the average American. In other words, do we, as Americans, need to consume so much to be happy?
The answer was a resounding no! In fact, reducing consumption,
in many ways, made us happier. This makes sense if you think about our
finances alone. We are all up to our knees in debt and it is incredibly
freeing to all of a sudden live a lifestyle that doesn't force one to
live paycheck to paycheck. But of course the experiment extended far
beyond just better finances.
WHAT IS THE START AND FINISH DATE?
Nov 21, 2006 to Nov 21, 2007.
WHAT DID YOUR WIFE SAY AT FIRST?
I LOVED YOUR CHRISTMAS BLOG ABOUT YOUR DAUGHTER, TELL US WHAT HAS HER RESPONSE BEEN?
WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT THEIR GLOBAL IMPRINT?
That we Americans could be way happier if we used fewer resources and took better care them. People talk, for example, about how industrial chemicals end up in the water and how bad that that is for the "environment." But what's worse is the toxic lode may well be what is causing more of our children to have autism.
People worry that, because we drive too much and warm the globe, polar bears will die. But the fact is that driving too much means, for example, that kids all over our country are getting asthma they shouldn't get from the exhaust fumes. And it's not even like any of us like commuting by car and getting stuck in traffic jams. So the point about reducing our global footprints isn't that it will make the planet happier, it's that it will make people happier and also healthier and more secure.
SHOULD THE ENVIRONMENT BE HIGHER ON PRIORITY LISTS, AS FAR AS '08 ELECTION ISSUES?
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE THAT THINK GLOBAL WARMING IS JUST A "THEORY"?
So what we need to do is find ways to burn way fewer fossil fuels which means conserving energy as a society while at the same time investing in the development of energy sources like wind and solar that don't poison our land, water and air. And the great news is that, by some estimates, the work required to take these steps will create 5 million new jobs.
HOW CAN WE IMPACT THE ENVIRONMENT FROM THE VOTING BOOTH?
By choosing a candidate who will do something about the fact that we are poisoning the home that we live in. All the Democratic candidates and the Republican John McCain have decent environmental platforms. So voting for one of them is a good first start.
But even though all of these candidates have decent things to say about the environment, none of them have declared that they will make it one of the defining issues of their presidency. And that is what we need in order to deal with the emergency we find ourselves in.
So that means we need to do more than just vote. We need to get more involved. We need to organize together and speak as the people of this country to tell the candidates that we what our health, happiness and security to be their first priority. One way to start is to get involved with 1Sky, an organization that is trying to help the candidates see the wisdom of putting the condition of our home planet at the center of their agenda.
WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUNG PEOPLE TO KNOW THAT WILL BE VOTING FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2008?
Young people are the ones who are going to have to live on this planet for the longest time to come. They have the most at stake. The good news is that if they turn out in what could be a close thing on voting day, they also will get to make the decisions by being the extra voters that tip the balance.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.