Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Church of Climate Change



Do you remember when everything clicked? When you suddenly realized how your actions impact our environment and how living more lightly could help the Earth, its creatures, your health, your conscience, your family? Are you a different person after the CFL light bulb went off than you were before?

Many of us are. The changes start out subtle and innocuous. We began carrying a canvas bag when grocery shopping or we swap out a couple incandescents for CFL bulbs. In the weeks and months that follow, we spend hours plugged into the Internet, gleaning information, and then fly into action, making change after change. Soon, we are different - unrecognizable to the people who knew us before.

We eat differently. We shop differently. We socialize differently. We read different books and wear different clothes. We prepare for apocalyptic scenarios like Climate Change, Peak Oil and economic collapse and talk about "simple living" or "self sufficiency." We take up knitting or canning. We plan elaborate "victory gardens" and dream of owning chickens. Voracious shoppers become anti-consumers and take up the Compact. Fast food eaters scour farmer's markets for locally grown, organic produce. Some of us trade in boon companions like the Desperate Housewives and Jack Bauer for new friends like Crunchy Chicken and No Impact Man. For those who knew us before but, for whom the light bulb has not yet gone off, it may seem as if we've joined a cult.

Indeed, in many ways, the green movement - or any social movement - bears certain hallmarks of a religion. In addition to the lifestyle and personality changes, we divide people into"believers" and those who are "willfully ignorant." One of the movement's best known leaders, Al Gore, has been labeled a "prophet in his own time" and has a devout following. There is also the talk of converting or "influencing" others. I, myself, feel a bit missionary-ish when I write about inspiring change in others or spreading "greeness".

Is global warming really a religion? Nah. It's an unfortunate fact. Are my lifestyle changes extreme or fanatical? I don't think so. They just fit. Living lighter feels more healthy, honest and honorable. I'm happier this way - even if there were no such thing as global warming or Peak Oil.

But how about you? Are you a believer? Can I influence you to make just a few changes? Recruit you to spread the word?

18 comments:

Burbanmom said...

GREAT POST! I feel exactly the same way! I almost feel like the missionaries that were slipping under my door ;-) And I NEVER like to come off as pushing my ideas on other people. But at the same time, isn't it important to share the information?

It is strange to look back on how much my daily habits -- as well as my general philosophies -- have changed over the past six months. I don't know if I'm any happier, per se. Ignorance being bliss and all that. But I think I do feel more plugged in, and a bit more purposeful. And I've met some really nice folks along the way :-)

Thanks, Green Bean. You always seem to eloquently express what I cannot.

CindyW said...

I get what you mean about cult. Even my husband calls me a kook, albeit in a joking manner. But backed by a preponderance of scientific evidence, "greenism" requires no leap of faith, unless one has no understanding of or respect for science(like my sister in law).

Can you imagine if it was a religion? Thou shalt not use plastic bags? Thou shalt not drive a Hummer? :))

Green Bean said...

Thanks Erin. Isn't it amazing how much our lives have changed in just a few months - and how much we are like those missionaries of yours. BTW, that is my all time favorite line of yours. I don't know why but I think of it often and laugh. :)

Cindy, I love it! Let's keep the commandments going. Thou shalt not use the dryer, except on rainy days. Thou shalt not eat food outside a 100 mile radius of your current location. Thou shalt not buy holiday decorations at Target. ;-)

Melinda said...

I just received a long email from my sister. She told me she'd been reading my blog for the last few weeks, and she apologized for being so out of touch with me that she didn't know we were "so involved in sustainability."

But she also told me she and her husband were inspired by our changes, and beginning to take our advice and make changes themselves. And that she was extremely proud of me and what I was doing.


It was very shocking and moving at the same time. I think a year ago she would have thought we were nuts. But the lightbulb just clicked with her.

And it was interesting that my own sister felt like she didn't know me because I'd changed so much in one year. That she needed to catch up and get to know me again.

Good post, Green Bean.

I was just pondering that those of us who are blogging about this stuff are in a sect of this cult - or something like that. We all congregate in groups on the blogosphere: there are the knitting sects, the foodie sects, the 90% sects, the gardening sects, the thought-provoking sects, and the a little bit of all the above sects.... Different interpretations and solutions to the same set of issues. I must say I love it when these sects come together.

Sheri said...

i've been lurking for a few days now on your blog.

very well said! these daily habit changes carry such momentum.

katecontinued said...

I enjoy this timely post. I wonder how many people are like me? I started 38 years ago with my first inclinations, at the first Earth Day. Since then I never again could leave water running for daily tasks, routines.

Then 25 years ago my focus was frugal living - because I was poor. A chunk here, a bit there. I learned to re-purpose, re-use, and re-cycle (to get the can return money). The crisis of powerlessness as our political will and democratic rights are being ignored put a real urgency to my own current challenge.

This week Melinda wrote me and I was thrilled at this community's interconnectedness. The real irony for me is that same day I got an email from my adult son who was praising my blog. Like Melinda's sister, my son was inspired and amazed. What a wonderful thing we have going here.

Jennifer said...

I like your line "living lighter". That pretty much sums it up for me. I hate to sayit, but THAT is the primary goal for me in everything I do.

I mean, I DO care about the earth and such. But, living LIGHTER (and cheaper) is what has caused me to get canvas bags, start a compost pile, garden, salvage and buy used as much as possible, freeze myself in winter, turn off lights obsessively, etc.

However, that being said... though I STARTED this journey on a purely simplicity/monetary basis, I am more an more sucked in by my impact and role in the world around me. :) The more I read, the more I know.

arduous said...

I love this post. Sometimes I do feel like a missionary, and it makes me uncomfortable, but I think the key difference between the church of climate change and the church of ... anything else, is that no one is TELLING me this is the absolute truth. I have to do the hard work and figure out what I believe, what I don't believe, and why. So yes, I believe in climate change, but I believe it because I've read and studied the evidence.

That being said, sometimes I think it would be EASIER if it were just like a church and I could just follow some commandments! There's such a preponderance of information out there (much of it contradictory, I still haven't figured out if dishwashers are good and water efficient or bad)that sometimes I just wish I DIDN'T have to think so much!!

Chile said...

What I find intriguing is the wide range of reactions I get from casual conversations while I'm out and about. In a thrift store, a stranger and I debate the merits of canning versus freeze-drying food for storage. In a grocery store, I get in an argument about why shopping at WalFart is bad. In a used bookstore, one of the guys tells me Kunstler's book has been sitting on the shelf for 2 months. (I looked and it's gone now. Darn!) Another employee tells me "not to worry my pretty little head" over peak oil. Grrrrr.

I say what I think and believe, sometimes forgetting that others don't know this stuff...

Shannon Hodgins said...

Oh golly, I gotta quote you on this. That IS SO how I've felt.

I've found that once you start going crunchy....you just keep seem to go crunchier. (Hence my blog's name). One door leads to another, leads to another.......

It is a little obsessive, but I think it's also because I have kids. Kids that may have to deal with all the mucky muck muck right in the prime of their life.

It's caused me to deeply think about everything, right down to future reproduction. Heck, even 1/2 of all I'm doing at the gym is in case I have to survive some of this or teach my kids to as well.

I guess I can be a "worst case" person in that I need to be able to cope with the worst case, and celebrate the best. If nothing happens I'll be 20 pounds lighter, in shape and feeling good and growing my own food with lots of thrifty talents. You really can't lost in the Church of Green.

Ultimately it's also about respect to me....and how I want my kids to feel and live and grow and love.

Wow, you so moved me with your post! Shannon

Shannon Hodgins said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sandy said...

Very well put. It's so nice to read reports from like minded people. Sadly, however, even though I live in the Bay Area, and we're supposed to be all liberal, I feel so alone in my perspective in the world around me. I can see my friends rolling their eyes -- even when I don't preach to them. Or worse, I think they behave almost worst to just push my buttons. Like the co-worker who said --"Last night we turned on everthing in my apartment, just because we can." and "I'm guess I'm not into all that green stuff because I have an 8-month old, I don't need a hobby."
It makes me want to run to a commune. Any commune need a securities litigator?

kale for sale said...

Green Bean - I do remember when everything clicked. And yes, I often feel like I have a gospel choir at my back when I talk about where our food comes from and how it gets to us and of course, what we can do instead. And it's about then I realize I'm the only one left in the room. I'm a believer and learning how to delicately spread the word and keep everybody at the table at the same time.

Green Bean said...

Sandy, I don't understand comments like that of your co-worker. I have two kids that's why I don't need a hobby, I need to keep this planet functioning so that they can have a home. As to communes needing securities litigators, you'd be surprised who you might run into. Indeed, we might have crossed paths in my former life.

Kale: teach us your tricks for delicately spreading the word. of course, sometimes the fresh taste of local food can green folks up real quick.

Theresa said...

I do remember the thing that happened to me the first time things "clicked". There have been more clicks since then, but the first one was two years ago when I was standing next to my car waiting for the ferry to dock, looking over at the transport truck next to me and making eye contact with a chicken, stuffed into a tiny crate with 4-5 other chickens. The truck was full of hundreds of these crates. At that moment I felt more shame than I had ever felt before. I was ashamed to be part of the reason for the suffering of that chicken who was looking me right in the eye. I looked away first.

I'm a vegetarian now, trying to go vegan, and have made tons of other 'green' changes since. Going with the religious metaphor, sometimes its like I'm speaking in tongues considering the looks I get when I talk to some people about ideas like reducing consumption or refusing to be a billboard for corporations by wearing their conspicuously logo-ized clothing!

Idaho Locavore said...

Very good post. It is sort of like joining a "new" religion, although in reality it's more like going back in some good ways to the way people used to live.

I think the issue with friends and family is they have all bought into the progress mantra - adopting the new all the time is progress, and progress = good. Doing things the "old fashioned way" is anti-progress, and that's bad. It doesn't help that everyone's financial security depends on the majority buying into the progress myth. That tends to lend a bit more emotional impact to turning your back and moving in a different direction. It also tends to make people who don't want to look at things that closely a lot more uncomfortable, whether they realize that's what is going on or not.

LifeLessPlastic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LifeLessPlastic said...

Beautifully-written! Actually,
this post reminds me of one of my all-time favorite songs. It's by the artist Sia and it's called "The Chruch of What's Happening Now." The lyrics go like so:

I want to change, to rearrange
What is going on
I need to change, I need to play
Like a five year old

I can't detach from the past and all of the pain
I need to learn, start from scratch begin again

Throw away yesterday
Today is a brand new day
Throw away yesterday
Today is a brand new day

So I'm going to eat one hundred sweets
I don't care if I get fat
And I'm going to speak one I won't censor me
I know I can take nothing back

And I'm going to jump I will unburden
I cannot go too deep
I will not run from bad things I've done
They're things I'll try not to repeat

Welcome to
The church of what's happening now
Head straight through
It costs nothing but change

Throw away yesterday
Today is a brand new day
Throw away yesterday
Today is a brand new day


Anyways, if you like checking out new music, you can just look it up on YouTube. It's an amazing song!

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