Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Last call for resolutions

So, a friend passed along this quote the other day. It comes from Katha Pollitt's New Year's column in The Nation, and since it's a New Year's column, and today January 31, this is the last day I can file a response. Among her "Resolutions for Liberals" is:

4. Don't think your lifestyle can save the world. I love slow food! I cook slow food! I shop at farmers' markets, I pay extra for organic, I am always buying cloth bags and forgetting to bring them to the supermarket. But the world will never be saved by highly educated, privileged people making different upscale consumer choices. If you have enough money to buy grass-fed beef or tofu prepared by Tibetan virgins, you have enough money to give more of it away to people who really need it and groups that can make real social change.

I find I often agree with Katha, but this... well, I have to hope what Katha means to say is that individually changing your own lifestyle is--on its own--not meaningless, but is not enough, and we need to support groups working on a larger scale.

Of course it's ridiculous to suggest that we can shop our way out of this mess by running up our platinum cards at the Eco-tique, but it's also ridiculous to discount our individual efforts as frivolous. After all, there seems little doubt that the habits and expectations of American consumers have added more than a few notches to Al Gore's PowerPoints. Unless you really believe it is Too Late--or you're a Jesus Camper and exempt from global warming--there's every reason to change your lifestyle, preferably now. Even small steps are better than no steps at all.

If it's the "upscale" part that bothers Katha, would we be better off saving our pennies at WalMart and sending checks to charities? I can't believe that's better.

The world will not be saved by a single magic-bullet Answer, but rather a combination of choices made by nations, corporations, communities, AND individuals.

It's the implied either/orness of her resolution that bothers me. True, we can't do it on our own, but we can't send in a check and expect someone else to do it for us.

So, it's hard to save the world. It's complicated. I'm finding it hard and complicated just to change my own habits. And maybe it's because I'm working so hard that I'm ready to fight anyone who says my choices don't matter. I found this article in the Guardian to be a good example of small steps based on a "low carbon diet." Some were new to me. I, for one, plan to avoid having a second fridge by keeping more booze in the outhouse for 2007.

And I resolve to keep working on my lifestyle.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Here here Queen Whackakatha, for articulating so clearly the importance of being green, and for putting the kabosh on Katha Pollit's either/or of personal and political action.

But remember that the target of her ironic skewer is folks--including politicians and business types--who think green is an individual lifestyle choice rather than a fundametal shift in technology, especially those who then get all full of their own cool alternative piety.

Again, what I like about your carefule honesty is that you go green without all the answers and attendant piety.