Going on internet hiatus!
Hope everyone's homes are safe after Friday's fires...


Being Forgiving

There are times when I think about my life and I am disgusted with myself for the disconnect between my lifestyle and my values. I feel guilty. I make excuses. I try to think of the things I would do differently if I weren’t married, if I were richer, if I didn’t have dogs, if I lived somewhere else, if I had more time. Maybe I feel useless. Maybe I feel angry. Maybe I feel frustrated. I certainly feel selfish. Why do I need so much stuff? Why do I use so much energy? Why do I run the heat instead of putting on a jacket? Why don’t I take the bus? Why didn’t I buy my spinach from the farmer’s market? I’m just feeding the system, a cog in the machine. If I really cared, wouldn’t I do better? I know I can’t be alone in feeling this way.

The truth is yes, I do care. Yes, I am educated. Yes, I can change. But change is hard. Change takes time and effort. Changing habits takes mindful concentration. If we are to make an effort to live according to the concepts of sustainability and our personal values, we must simultaneously be forgiving of ourselves and others. Our culture did not arrive at excess overnight and this is not going to change overnight. We can’t even wave a magic wand and immediately transform ourselves. We can’t all be No Impact Man. But we can all make a continuous effort to change, and we can expect to improve over time. We can watch ourselves get better and better.

I haven’t made any steps forward in decreasing my personal environmental impact in recent weeks. I’ve been overwhelmed with the chaos of life – with home renovation projects, with caring for my dogs and family, with trying to eat healthier and be a calmer person, with holiday activities and the fatigue that follows all of these things. And that’s ok. This happens to everyone. Sometimes life moves fast.

 Instead of feeling like a consumerist slacker, I should feel gratitude towards the changes I made earlier on that allowed me to get through this time more sustainably. I should feel thankful that, even when I was overwhelmed with Stuff and Responsibilities and Stuff To Do, I stayed aware of my impacts and open to new information. In all that noise I continued to learn and to think about what I was doing.  My exterior life and habits did not change during this time, but my interior self did. When the stress diminishes and life slows down, I have projects to tackle, changes to make. And, now that I have time to reflect on the last few months, I am able to see that even though I felt like I was being lazy and selfish, I was still improving.

  •          I made an effort to buy all of my Christmas gifts from small, local businesses. I made an effort to buy as many of these handmade, eco-friendly gifts as possible, and to go for thoughtful quality over quantity. I also baked my own pumpkin butter to give family members and packed it into reusable, pretty glass jars.

  •          We installed a dual-flush low-flow toilet, installed an EnergyStar window, and purchased VOC-free paint. We repurposed a nice sturdy buffet into a pretty bathroom vanity.   

  •          We serviced our air conditioner and furnace.

  •          I donated good but underappreciated items to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and friends. I made a small monetary donation to 350.org.

  •          I found good homes for much of our construction waste so that it would be reused and stay out of the landfill. 

    • (I've done a bit more since I wrote this monologue a month or two ago... but the point remains good!)

·         Then there are the past changes that carry into our present lives, like recycling, using CFLs, having EnergyStar appliances, having newer and therefore lower emission vehicles, and eliminating unnecessary driving.

So I ran my space heater, and failed to program my programmable thermostat. So I failed to go to the farmer’s market this month and went to Crest because it was easier. I’m not perfect. I can’t expect that; we’re only human, and that’s a beautiful thing. We can dream and change. Our tiny efforts all count for something. Every little penny adds up to a dollar; every drop in the ocean makes up the sea. I’m not useless. While I felt I was doing nothing positive, I did do some small amount of good. I bet you did, too. And I will continue to good. I will do better. I will do best. In little steps. In my life time I will preserve a small patch of the earth in my name, a little peace of mind for myself, and a metric ton of good intentions for the future to come, with love for the world around me and all it contains. I will do this, and I will be forgiving of my shortcomings, because I simply am striving to live the best life I can.

We cannot be discouraged. We cannot allow ourselves to feel small and useless and selfish in the face of the whole wide world. We must remember, we must keep sacred in our minds, that the whole wide world is populated only with small people like us. There are no super humans on some far off Olympus whose decisions make a difference while ours do not. The only decisions that ever count are those that you and I make, your neighbor, your brother, your friend, your grocer, your mayor. It is true that some people have more power than others, but your personal footprint is just as important as everyone else’s. A gallon of gasoline you burn costs as much, travels as far, and pollutes as much as a gallon of gasoline burned by Bill Gates.  Individuals make the world what it is. Individuals change the world into what it will be.


Air Quality Advisory... and brief update on me

Today we have simultaneous plumes crossing the state, originating from Texas and fires in SE Oklahoma. Although Oklahoma's air quality is pretty good, this is one of the worse events in recent history, so if you have health conditions or are very young or very old in age it would behoove you to stay indoors this evening. Asthmatic ol' me is going to do just that, despite the seductively pleasant weather.

Now is an excellent time to tell you about the Air Quality Health Advisory mailing list that is provided to Oklahoma citizens by the DEQ. You get up-to-date alerts depicting spiffy graphics like the one below, with some extra information that I am not posting here, whenever conditions bring counties into the orange. (Not often - you might get a dozen emails a year, *maybe.*)

To sign up for the mailing list, go here:  http://www.deq.state.ok.us/aqdnew/AdvisorySignUp.htm
For more info on today's advisory, go here: http://www.deq.state.ok.us/AQDnew/advisory/index.htm

This week has left me feeling unexplainedly exhausted by the end of each day, and unwilling to spend much internet time catching up on emails and doing blog posts... so my apologies for being boring. I'm sure you have other things to do than wait breathlessly for me to get an energy spurt.