Well, at least according to Alma Gaul, a journalist at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, these are the lessons I learned after the year-long No Impact project:
"First, he learned that it is possible to live with a much lower impact and that individuals can make a difference. 'This has become explosive,' he said. 'There’s something about just trying that has tremendous power...'"
"Second, he learned that there are limits. Some systems, such as transportation, packaging and electrical generation, make it difficult or impossible for individuals to make sustainable choices because, in many cases, choices do not exist.
"Therefore, Beavan said, it is important for people to speak out and prod businesses and governments into changing systems. Such change would have tremendous benefits.
“'There’s no reason, as a country, that we shouldn’t have a thriving renewable energy system,' he said. 'Some people believe in global warming and some don’t. But the rest of the world does believe, and we have the opportunity to be the leader. Think of the jobs this would create, think what it would do for our economy.'
"Retrofitting existing buildings for better weatherization would create many jobs, for example..."
"Third, he learned that what many people might think of as deprivations really are not hardships at all. In fact, a no- or low-impact lifestyle brought a measure of happiness that Beavan had not anticipated, and it can create a happier planet, he thinks.
"Instead of vegging out in front of the television with takeout food in plastic tubs, for example, 'my wife (Michelle Conlin) and Isabella (their daughter) would sit and talk while I cooked,' he said. 'From step No. 1, it strengthened our family.
“'If we work for a happier planet, we end up with happier people. If you believe in a creator, then how or why would (the creator) create a world in which the interests of people and the interests of the environment are separate?
"'You have to believe that is what is good for the planet is good for people....'”
"Fourth, people need to get more involved for true progress, and we need to do that now.
"Beavan said he is optimistic about human nature, but 'what concerns me is people’s lack of involvement. We’ve withdrawn. Democracy can’t work without our help.
“'We’ve learned so much in the last 200 years. We can watch videos on cell phones. But we’re done with that now. We’ve made enough of that kind of progress. Now we need to turn to getting water to people on the planet that need it. We need to take time to reflect.
“'We as a society are in an emergency. We need to stop and ask ourselves, What is the real meaning of progress? People basically want to do the right thing. It is time for the conservatives and the liberals to stop fighting. We all want the same thing. … All of us kind of know that something’s wrong.'”
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.