Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Redefining Normal


One Green Generation

Thank you all so much for your wonderful, thoughtful comments on my last post. I really enjoy comments and find they are very important to my writing and my thinking. So please don't be shy about leaving comments here!

I write a lot about redefining normal, so I thought it would be a good idea to share with you a post I wrote a couple of months ago about the subject...

Redefining Normal

Grain at a local farm

The Power of Consumption

The last couple of days I've been struggling with how to begin the Green Your Insides Challenge. And then it hit me that I needed to address this: the reason it is so difficult for anyone to green themselves, inside or out, is that society is constantly pushing us in the other direction. We have learned since we were wee tots that we are supposed to want more, want better, want now now now. And usually, we can have what we want... so we do.

There are studies that tell us otherwise, there are blogs like this one and many others that tell us that we have to stop consuming to save the planet, there are books that tell us that we should save our money for retirement. But the power of the here and now, of the signage, the advertising, the glitz, and the frenzy, says we should do it now Now NOW! We should buy, we should spend, we should get that house spic and span with harsh chemicals that kill all those germs, we should send our wools to the cleaners and put our delicates on the low laundry cycle and then iron to rid ourselves of wrinkles, we should use this product for dandruff, and that product for gum disease, the children need these toys so they aren't singled out as different, the lawn must remain lush and green because that's the American dream, we must have the latest technology or we are missing out on life, must buy this, must do that, must go now Now NOW!!


Breathe. Relax. Let yourself take control of this moment. Take your time to ponder your purchases. Take your time to figure out who you are and if this or that product really jives with your sensibility. Don't let yourself feel guilty buying things. If you want them, buy them with pride. If you don't want them, do not buy them. Just don't. Teach your children that it's ok to want but not have, to look and admire but don't touch, to only buy things that really matter to them.

Do you believe in climate change, peak oil - or at least that oil and food prices are rising and we need to alter our lifestyles accordingly? Do you believe in creating a safe indoor environment for yourself and your family? Do you believe it's time to make our communities stronger, more environmentally sound, more resilient, more enjoyable, and better places for our children?

Then don't let the momentum of our society keep you rolling down the wrong track. A wise man once said to me, "We have to stop the train from traveling at high speed down the wrong track, before we can turn it around and get it going in the right direction." If you're on that train, step off. And be confident.

It's scary to tear up your own lawn when others around you think you're crazy. But you are the one doing the right thing. And sooner or later, they will follow. Because it's beautiful, because it makes sense, because someone else is doing it too, and because they like it.

If you're in the toy store or the grocery store, and your son or daughter really wants something... stop. Cast away your tiredness, your crankiness because it has been a long day, your feeling that you just want to get out of there. For one moment, visualize five years from now, and then 50 years from now. Will that bit of junk food turn into a life-long habit that leads to obesity? I know it's a big question, but will it? Will that toy that may or may not have lead in it turn into a medical problem down the road? Will lots of little spending here and there eat away at your savings, or increase what you have on your credit card, so that you are always in debt? This is not about guilt, it's about staying true to who you are and who you want to become.

And I know these are difficult questions to ask yourself when you're tired, cranky, and hungry, but they are extremely important questions. Because what we do right now affects what happens to us and our world later. So it is time to ask these questions for ourselves, for our families, and for our planet.

Redefine Normal

Redefine Normal. Why are we as a society led into a pattern of doing things that harm ourselves, other people, our financial well-being, and the planet as a whole? I don't know. It probably has a lot to do with corporations wanting to make a profit, and inundating us with advertising that makes us want their products. It also probably has to do with a history of impoverished, malnourished people who wanted more in order to survive, and then we just got onto that train and didn't stop when we were satiated. And it probably has to do with an economic and political system that revolves around us buying things in order to keep the economy afloat - just because it has been that way for a long time, but not because it can't change. It can change.

So let's change it together. Because we can't wait for someone else to do it, we certainly can't wait for our politicians to do it, and grassroots non-profit organizations are finding it tougher and tougher to gain enough funding to do it. So it is up to us. And don't be bashful. A few years ago, when I spoke to anyone about climate change or a decline in energy supply, people looked at me like I was a purple alien from another planet. We have gained momentum. We can do it. Let's redefine normal. Together.

Because we can change, and because we must change.

How Do We Redefine Normal?

When we make decisions about buying, selling, and overall living, we must take into account the quadruple bottom line:

  • People (social impact),
  • Planet (environmental impact),
  • Profit (financial impact), and
  • Personal (self impact).

Don't buy things that will hurt you. Don't buy things that will hurt others. Don't buy things that will hurt the planet. And don't buy things that will set you back financially unless it helps you, others, or the planet.

And redefining normal is not just about buying, it's about living, breathing, working, and enjoying. Learn what harms you indoors, and take steps to change it. Smile at others walking down the street, because it puts a little more good into the world. When going on vacations, rather than contribute to or condone our world's problems (and most likely end up feeling guilty afterwards), go somewhere where you and your family can have fun, learn, grow, and contribute positively to the world. Jennifer talked about going on a camping trip in her backyard, complete with tent, s'mores, and a good imagination. What a splendid vacation!

Redefining Normal May Be Uncomfortable At First, But It Will Soon Feel Good.

I'm not asking you to give up everything you know as normal. On the contrary, do not become overwhelmed - the idea is to create a sustained change in ourselves, one that lasts a lifetime. So do it as quickly as you can, but don't burn yourself out, do only what you can do and keep working on it as you walk through life.

The same is true for any change toward sustainability, big or small: it may be uncomfortable now, you may feel out of your element somewhat, you may feel that you are alone or different from others around you. But be strong, keep true to your convictions, and wait: sooner or later, others will follow. And sooner or later, you will be addicted to the new you. And this will become your new normal.

Step Forward.  Now, Together.

Climate change is beginning to have a serious impact on our world. Oil and food costs are trending upward. An economic recession is taking its toll worldwide. It is time to take a good look at how we live our lives, and take steps to change that. Please start now. For yourself, your family, your community, and your planet. Redefine Normal.