Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Consuming Our Way out of the Climate Crisis

It was morning, just a tick past eight, and I was walking.

I regularly walk my errands, because it's good for my soul.  My mind clears when walking.  Anxiety  and scatter drifts away, and my thinking focuses.  I see the world around me.  I feel and smell and hear, and the rhythm of my movement calms me.  I was heading home, having dropped off our trusty hybrid Honda for a routine service.

It was cool out, and a little overcast, and the leaves were dancing down from the trees as fall began.  On the roads, an increasing flow of cars, as the DC metropolitan area woke for another morning of anxious rushing busyness.

My walk home would be just over three miles, which would take me, at my modest pace, fifty minutes.

This is, of course, inefficient.  Inconvenient.  It requires effort.

I could have called a Lyft or an Uber.  I could have had the dealership drive me home in one of their courtesy vehicles.  But I didn't, because, well, why?  Am I in that much of a hurry?  I am not.  Do I need the exercise?  I most certainly do.  Is my convenience worth that expenditure of energy?  I don't think it's necessary.

And as I walked, I found my thoughts turning to the way we are taught to think about caring for our planet.  What we need, we are told, is new efficient stuff.  We need a $50,000 electric car.  We need a $50,000 solar roof and a $12,000 home battery unit.  We need a three hundred dollar wi-fi connected thermostat that pours data into the cloud through our two hundred dollar router and our big fiber optic multi-thousand dollar annual connectivity charge.

I do not question that these are nice things.  If one has the resources for them, then by all means, go ahead.

But I'm not sure that consuming the same amount differently is the full moral response to a climate crisis.  It's like switching up your diet, and eating two thousand calories of kale instead of an IHOP pancake platter.  It's the same amount of calories, only I'm not sure a human being can eat that much kale.  As much as I love greens, death by kale seems a bad thing.

Somewhere in there, we need to consume less.  Just...less.  We need to travel less.  We need to rush about less.  We need to rediscover the old classic virtue of thrift, the simple pleasure of slower and smaller.  Of using the legs God gave us.  Of being aware.

This isn't hard.  In fact, it's rather pleasurable. 

And so I walked, and I breathed in the cool air, and I watched as the other humans rushed towards our future wrapped in tons of shiny new steel.