"We are members of the most destructive culture ever to exist. Our assault on the natural world, on indigenous and other cultures, on women, on children, on all of us through the possibility of nuclear suicide and other means – all these are unprecedented in their magnitude and ferocity.”"- Derrick Jensen, Listening to the Land
At some point, you just have to start doing things differently.
Take last fall. I was mowing the lawn one early September day when my mower died. It may have been neglect. I’m not saying. What I do know is that every time I cut the grass leading up to that fateful day – up and down, back and forth, over and over – I pondered facts I had learned:
A conventional gas lawnmower pollutes as much in an hour as 40 late- model cars.
Each weekend, 54 million Americans mow their lawns, using 800 million gallons of gas per year and producing tons of air pollutants.
Lawnmowers produce up to 5 percent of the nation’s air pollution and a good deal more in metropolitan areas.
In England, more than 70 percent of all lawnmowers are electric. Gas mowers are used mainly in larger private gardens or public parks.
Every time I pulled the mower out of the garage and started it up, all I could think about was the amount of pollution I was contributing to my neighborhood. Then the mower died. A ha! Now it was my opportunity to make things right. I promptly went online, did some research and learned that relatively few electric mowers are available in America, due to a lack of consumer interest. I did find one one that met my needs and budget, so I placed the item in my virtual shopping cart, gave the secure cashier my data and within a week, I was a new man.
I have since mowed my lawn weekly (all right, I’m exaggerating – I pale in comparison with my adjoining neighbors who mow every three or four days like clockwork, as I tend to let the grass grow a longer between cuts) and have done so with a clean conscience, knowing that with every step I take, nothing but cut grass and a bit of sweat is the product of my labor. All I smell is mulch underfoot. All I hear is the sound of one blade chopping.
I don’t share this grass-cutting tale to toot my own horn. I merely want to share the challenge of having to balance personal and cultural priorities. It’s not easy to go against the grain. You have to make sacrifices. When I wait too long between mows, I cannot finish the entire lawn without recharging overnight. When I have thick weeds to mow over, I am hesitant to use my underpowered electric mower, so I pull them by hand. Frankly, those are hardly consequences of any merit. I now enjoy peace of mind about using clean energy.
"Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible." – St. Francis of Assisi
I’m the type of person who likes to spread positivity in a variety of ways. If I had my druthers, I would slather the rear end of my car with bumperstickers like "War is Hell," "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" "We are a Nation of Immigrants," "Love Your Mother" and "Drive an SUV & You Drive Global Warming." But I haven’t done that. The problem was, I drove an SUV.
Ours was one of the more fuel-efficient, small SUVs, getting about 25 miles per gallon on the highway – already better than the federal plan to increase average fuel efficiency for SUVs, mini-vans and light pickup trucks to at least 24.1 mpg by 2011. But, was it good enough?
Several weeks ago, my wife and I drove to the theater to see An Inconvenient Truth, a film we had been anticipating for some time. We listened as former Vice President Al Gore warned us of the planetary emergency that we now face. He told us, without trying to instill fear in
his viewers, that if we do not collectively make changes to limit global
warming in the next 10 years, it may be too late. We saw irrefutable evidence that glaciers in both Greenland and Antarctica are melting at dangerous rates. We watched as scientists explained how rising temperatures relate to deadlier storms. Population rates are skyrocketing, along with consumption.
Help the planet
My wife and I left the film feeling more impassioned and empowered about doing all that we can to help the planet. I had already replaced the gas lawnmower with an electric one. We have been replacing old lightbulbs with new, energy saving fluorescent ones. And with the high cost of fuel, we have been trying to consolidate trips to limit the amount of gasoline we consume.
Driving home from the theater in our SUV, we looked at each other and one look said it all: We could do better. Last week we drove our vehicle into the dealership for the final time. We drove out that evening with a late-model hybrid. We chose to sacrifice space and comfort for the ability to consume less fuel and emit fewer pollutants out of the exhaust. We also knew it had to be done.
At the same time, I felt terribly disappointed that more Americans – and our national leaders – are not more concerned with the world’s plight. As nations like Sweden grow closer to total oil independence by 2020, America is looking like a dinosaur, hardly the world’s leader in creating alternative fuel technologies. When President Bush was asked if he will watch Gore’s film, he merely quipped, "Doubt it." Hardly a responsible gesture by the leader of the free world.
The time is now to embrace change and to move forward. The status quo is no longer an option. The future is ours to create.