For more ideas and ways to join a community of people who are searching for happier, more eco-friendly lives, got to NoImpactProject.org.
1. Stop eating beef. Worldwide, beef production
contributes more substantially to climate change than the entire
transportation sector. Plus, a diet with no or less beef is better for
2. Give up bottled water. The production of plastic water bottles
together with the privatization of our drinking water is an
environmental and social catastrophe. Bottled water costs more per
gallon than gasoline. Plus, the health consequences of drinking water
from plastic are not clear.
3. Observe an eco-sabbath. For one day or afternoon or even hour a
week, don't buy anything, don't use any machines, don't switch on
anything electric, don't cook, don't answer your phone, and, in
general, don't use any resources. In other words, for this regular
period, give yourself and the planet a break. Keep your regular eco-sabbath for a month. You'll
find that the enforced downtime represents an improvement to your life.
4. Tithe a fixed percentage of your income. Currently, many of our societal health and
welfare services, at home and abroad, are tied to consumer spending
which, in turn, depends upon planetary resource use. But the idea of
buying stuff to help people is crazy, especially when you consider that
our consumption is harming the habitat that we depend upon for our
health, happiness and security. If you want to help, don't go shopping.
Just help. Commit to tithing part of your income to the non-profits of
5. Get there under your own steam. Commit to getting around by bike or
by foot a certain number of days a month. Not only does this mean using
fewer fossil fuels and creating less greenhouse gasses, it means you'll
get good, healthy exercise and we'll all breathe fewer fumes. A city
with pedestrian and bike traffic is a lot more pleasant to live in than
a city filled with vehicles.
6. Commit to not wasting. Wasting resources costs the
planet and your wallet. Don't overheat or overcool your home--a few
degrees make a huge difference. Let your clothes hang dry instead of
using the dryer. Take half the trips but stay twice as long. If your
old cell phone works, consider not getting another. Repair instead of
rebuy. The list goes on and on.
7. Build a community. Play charades. Have dinners with friends. Sing
together. Enjoying each other costs the planet much less than enjoying
its resources. Let's relearn to joke around and play in ways that cost
nothing to our pocketbooks or our planet.
8. Take your principles to work. The old adage "the cost of doing
business" can no longer hold true. We must act as though we care about
the world at work as much as we do at home. A company CEO or a product
designer has the power to make a gigantic difference through their
business, and so do the rest of us.
9. Dedicate a day's worth of TV viewing to eco-service each week. The average American watches four and a half hours of TV a day. Take one day off from the tube each week and joining with others
to improve our planet. Voluntary eco-service is a great way to find community who support your values and
also a great way to learn about environmental issues and the quality of
life issues that go along with them.
10. Believe with all your heart that how you live your life makes a difference to all
of us. We are all interconnected. We make a difference to each other on
many different levels. Every step towards living a conscious life where
we consider the consequences of our actions provides support to
everyone else--whether you know it or not--who is trying to do the same
thing. We are the masters of our destinies. Let's act as though it is so.
For more ideas and ways to join a community of people who are searching for happier, more eco-friendly lives, got to NoImpactProject.org.
As you may know, Japan has lower per capita carbon emissions
than any Western European country. For that reason, I asked my friend,
Sean Saskamoto, who recently moved to Japan and who blogs at I'd Rather Be In Japan,
to check in with us every so often. I thought we might be able to learn
a little something about "happier planet, happlier people" lifestyles
from Sean's experience there.
Here is Sean's latest dispatch: A few years ago, a friend of mine who works in the New York City Public School system described his students’ idea of how to deal with trash.
“They ate junk food all day and tossed the wrappers on the floor. Anytime I asked them to put their garbage in the can, they just shrugged and said that’s what the janitor was for. By the end of the day the classroom was ankle deep in trash.”
The idea that the trash is someone else’s problem, someone else who gets paid to deal with it, really struck me. In one sense, it’s true that there are folks who get paid to clean up after us. But does that relieve us of the responsibility of cleaning up after ourselves? Are we really that compartmentalized?
One of the first things visitors to Japan notice is how incredibly clean the subway stations and streets are. It’s even more surprising, considering how difficult it is to find a trash can. There are very, very few public trash cans. Often, people carry their trash with them until they get home. Even at home, the trash situation is complicated to say the least.
We sort out trash into several different clear plastic bags. We even put our names on our trash bag, and if there’s anything in there that doesn’t belong, the garbage men return the bag for us to resort. It’s a pain, and the system is far from perfect, but what really amazes me is that everyone actually adheres to it. There is a deep rooted sense of personal responsibility.
As a teacher in a Japanese school, and the parent of a first grader, I see first hand how this value is imparted. Every student and every teacher has to help clean the school for 30 minutes a day in the cleaning time. Each classroom has a small closet with brooms, dustpans, and cleaner.
Once a day, we sweep the floors, take out the trash, clean the toilets, wash the windows, scrub graffiti off the desks, you name it. We do all those things that the janitors did in the schools back home. Even the principal and the vice principals get out the dust rags and the vacuum cleaners and clean up their assigned areas.
It’s a lot harder to throw your trash on the floor when you and your friends will be picking it back up in a few hours anyway.
We talk a lot here about whether our consumption-based economy and culture makes people happy. Because, since consumption of resources is the root cause our planet's woes, it would be an awful shame if it turned out that we were wrecking the planet without even increasing human happiness.
And it turns out, by the way, that this may be exactly the case. I've written before about how, in spite of a growing economy and commensurate increased resource use, American life satisfaction has flatlined.
Now a new study out of Wharton, published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, shows that women's happiness in the developed world has not just stalled, it is actually going down. Under the title "The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness," authors Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers point out:
By most objective measures the lives of women in the United States have improved dramatically over the past 35 years. Moreover, women believe that their lives are better; in recent polls asking about changes in the status of women over the past 25 or 50 years, around four in five adults state that the overall status of women in the U.S. has gotten better (and the remaining respondents break two-for-one towards “stayed the same” over “worse”).22 Additionally, the 1999 Virginia Slims Poll found that 72% of women believe that “women having more choices in society today gives women more opportunities to be happy” while only 39% thought that having more choices “makes life more complicated for women.” Finally, women today are more likely than men to believe that their opportunities to succeed exceed those of their parents.
Yet trends in self-reported subjective well-being indicate that happiness has shifted toward men and away from women. This shift holds across industrialized countries regardless of whether the aggregate trend in happiness for both genders is flat, rising, or falling: in all of these cases we see happiness rebalancing to reflect greater happiness for men relative to women. This finding of a decline in women’s well-being relative to that of men raises questions about whether modern social constructs have made women worse off, or alternatively about the interpretability of subjective well-being data analyzed over long-time periods. Despite findings of higher well-being among women in countries with less gender discrimination (Bjørnskov, Dreher and Fischer 2007), the decrease in gender discrimination since the 1970s has not improved the (subjectively perceived) lot of women.
These are just two paragraphs, of course, from a 45-page paper. Stevenson and Wolfers discuss many potential reasons for the potential drop in subjective well-being amongst women.
But my reason for mentioning this study is that it points to the failure of long-standing governmental policy that puts at its center the idea that increasing economic--and therefore resource--throughput will bring increased happiness. If it worked, why would the larger half of our adult population be unhappier. Maybe there should be different policy emphases?
Because if women--for whatever reason--have grown more unhappy over the last 30 years then, to my way of thinking, we have yet more evidence for the fact that we are trashing the planet for a way of life that doesn't even make us happy.
Trash the planet. Trash women's happiness.
What do you say we start looking for a way of life that makes both the planet and the people happier?
Meanwhile, what are your thoughts on the relationship of our way of life and women's happiness?
Here's another chance to discuss, here on the blog, whatever is on your mind.
Ask questions. Answer questions. Make comments.
Somebody hurry up and be the first to say something.
Now then, as for all you readers who get the blog by email, you will
actually have to come to the web page itself to participate and to read
what other readers are saying.
To do it, click here.
You'll see these words on the web page. At the bottom of the post,
you'll see the word "comments." Click on that and you will be able to
see what everyone is saying and you will also be able to leave comments
or questions of your own.
Let's talk. Let's have fun. Let's figure out how to save the world.
Recently, The New Republic published an article by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute calling the trend towards lower consumption coupled with the search for meaningful life no more than a public opinion bubble that has burst. They argue that individual lifestyle change--of which I am one of the chief national proponents, according to them--is meaningless as our culture attempts to grapple with the environmental crises.
Here is my reply:
Nordhaus and Shellenberger run a firm called American Environics that studies public opinion. They are, in other words, top-notch experts in determining what is politically possible. The problem, in the case of our climate crisis, is that we cannot content ourselves with the goal of doing what analysts like Nordhaus and Shellenberger tell us is politically possible. Instead, we need to change public opinion so that we can make possible what is scientifically necessary.
To wit, NASA’s top climatologist tells us that to avoid the most cataclysmic effects of the climate crisis, the human race must reduce atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide to 350 parts per million (ppm) by the end of the century. We are already at 387 ppm. The rub is that, because of the rate of societal and infrastructure change required to achieve this goal, most anybody in the know will tell you that 350 by 2100 may not be politically possible—yet.
But let’s take a step back in history. In the 1950s, opinion analysts might well have said that it was crazy to imagine that Americans would embrace the civil rights movement. Pollsters might easily have disparaged the actions of Rosa Parks, the civil rights activist who refused to give up her seat to a white passenger: “You need to be more aware of the public opinion backlash your actions cause.” But Rosa Parks didn’t care about polling data. She cared about what was right and that integrity of belief and action helped inspire a grassroots movement that changed the country.
Sixty years later, modern-day pollsters Nordhaus and Shellenberger are making the mistake of trying to dismiss another grassroots movement—the kind that could also change the country. The kind of movement that will not follow public opinion but will help lead it. The kind of movement, in fact, that may well help make politically possible the climate mitigation measures we need to take (huge investment in new energy technology, carbon capping, and—yes—lifestyle change).
That movement is “just another green bubble,” Nordhaus and Shellenberger tell us. What Nordhaus and Shellenberger have missed is that the surge is not only a “green” movement but also a “quality of life” movement. Its members are asking, Is it just possible that we can develop systems that are both better for the planet and better for the people? Because without caring for the habitat we depend upon for our health, happiness and security there can be no real quality of life for people.
Shellenberger and Nordhaus rest their entire thesis on the idea that public opinion will never embrace planetary happiness over human happiness. They are right. Where they err is in conflating human happiness with the ever-increasing societal throughput of energy and material—economic growth. They fail to consider the possibility—embraced by the burgeoning quality of life movement—that human happiness is not entirely dependent on throughput and resource use.
After all, we know that 40% of growth in GDP ends up in the hands of the richest 1% of the people. We need, therefore, something much more nuanced than plain old growth to help the global underprivileged. Meanwhile, according to the excellent work by Dalton Conley, quoted by Nordhaus and Shellenberger themselves, even the wealthy are suffering under the current paradigm—they’re making more money but questioning whether the quality of life sacrifices are worth it.
So let’s return to that backyard vegetable gardener who is part of this quality of life movement and who Nordhaus and Shellenberger disparage as ecologically insignificant.
The question is, what if, like Rosa Parks, the gardener believes—to hell with the public opinion analysts—it’s important to do what is right? And what if, through his or her dedication to looking for a better way to live, the gardener’s friends and family begin questioning, too? What if, in our questioning, we all begin to wonder whether planetary human well-being might be achieved directly instead of as a spin-off of how much we shop and use resources? Wouldn’t that represent a big step forward?
Nordhaus and Shellenberger skillfully but erroneously use the tools of rhetoric to dismiss the individual actions of this burgeoning movement’s membership. But we know from chaos theory that the flap of a butterfly’s wings can start a hurricane. We know from Rosa Parks that an individual action can be the falling domino that starts the chain reaction. So what if this quality of life movement helps people believe that a happier planet makes for happier people?
Whatever Shellenberger and Nordhaus tell us about the center of the bell curve of public opinion, the tail of the bell curve is thickening. None of this is to undermine the contributions that Nordhaus and Shellenberger make to the environmental discourse. It is to say that they should not deploy their rhetoric against a swelling grassroots movement that may help shift public opinion to make politically possible what is scientifically necessary. It is to say, in other words, that Nordhaus and Shellenberger should, for all their fancy words and naysaying, join in and pick up a hoe.
In this crucial point in history, digging, stumbling, reposting or emailing the below could do an incredible amount of good for the entire world. Just saying! :)
This post is by Garth Moore and comes from the 1Sky blog. Click on the link, fill out the form and an automated system will call you and connect you to your representative's office. Do it now and let them know that you support the current climate bill in the House of Representatives.
Please, once you've made the call, leave a comment here on the blog and let us know what reaction you got and how it felt to exercise your democratic rights.
Most of us have probably never called our congressional
representative's office before. We’ve attended rallies or sent e-mail,
but a phone call is different. It’s difficult to know what to say, when
to call, and to find the time to do it. But making a call for a timely,
critical issue is the best way to make your voice heard.
The next 7 days are critical for the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.
The bill is moving through a mark-up process where it can become a
strong bill or can be weakened by Big Oil and Dirty Coal lobbyists.
These lobbyists want more oil, more coal, polluter giveaways, and for
America to treat global warming as a hoax. They have the money and
resources to push their agenda, but we have a voice.
This is where your phone calls count. Congress needs to hear from
you: about your concerns to re-grow the economy, take on climate
change, and create a clean energy economy that works. You can make that call right now.
Making this call is short and simple: visit our online call center
and we’ll connect you toll-free to your representative’s office. We’ll
give you talking points and you can give us feedback about your call
with our online form. Relax and just speak from the heart.
Thousands of people have already called their representatives this
week. Early reports from our callers note that some representatives
have an active interest in the bill and some didn’t even know where it
stands. The more calls we make, the more political push we can create
to keep the bill strong.
Click here Two years ago we launched the No Impact Project, a charitable effort to get new citizens engaged in the quest for a way of life that is both good for our habitat and for people. As a result, people around the world are getting involved and making an effort. Please click on the link to find out more and to financially support our efforts.