That was no vacation, it was the holidays: a forced shopping mall feeding frenzy spread over end-of-year overtime and out-the-door queues, visits with family, friends, friends-of-family, family-of-friends, gift-wrap shredding, plastic chucking, meat and sugar binging, gift returns and more cut-rate shopping.
No wonder come January we're ready to swear off every earth plundering bad habit that helped us survive the massive soul suckage of life in the information age. How long will we hold out this year, before reality crashes our resolutions bandwagon and boots us back into the vat of booze, chocolate and Big Macs?
I hate New Year's resolutions. But I've made a few that stuck, that reduced my footprint a wee and that you won't hear about from David Suzuki. Feel free to make them your own this year:
Like local musician Chris Luedecke, I quit my job, many Januaries ago. The nine-to-five cheese maze was devouring too many resources, including my soul.
John Ralston Saul informed me that in a contract with the corporation, you sell your rights as an individual and become a walking talking emailing representative of the corporation's every interest, unable to speak or act your own mind. That hurts the environment.
So does the commute, especially if it's in a single occupancy vehicle run on fossil fuels over miles of asphalt. At my cubicle I had a to-do list long enough to body cast a white rhinoceros, and to keep pace I lived on rainforest-grown fast food in Styrofoam packaging.
I could feel a date coming on with Canada's universal healthcare system, just as sure as I could feel the cholesterol congealing in my ventriculars as I stared at my cadmium-lined computer. I could envision myself on a hospital deathbed pining for the things I could have done with my life, if I hadn't spent it analyzing the market potential of new and improved pooper scoopers.
So I quit. Then I got bored, listened to a lot of Bob Marley. "Get up, stand up," he sang, and because I had time on my hands, that's what I did.
I had noticed that in opinion polls Canadians always claimed to care about the environment. I figured that if politicians work for the people, then any failure by them to do something about the environment was a failure by our employees to do our bidding.
"Why haven't we fired their asses?" I wondered. "We should be online, on the phone, at their offices, at the legislature, telling those useless spin doctors what needs doing." Instead we scoff at young "naive" activists doing just that, exercising their rights---which they haven't yet sold to corporations---to assemble and express themselves, to demand a better, more lasting, more just world.
And so, for a while, I joined those naive young activists. But eventually the money ran out and, unlike Chris Luedecke, I couldn't play the banjo well enough to sell records. Instead I got a new year's job in the non-profit scene, became a professional agitator and change agent of sorts. If I was going to sell my soul, at least it would be to the good guys.
It was good work, but the stress and burnout of perpetual failure was high. Activists are heroic in their efforts, but like New Year's resolutions, they change very little.
Some words by the inventor Buckminster Fuller comforted me when I reached the breaking point: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
It dawned on me that Fuller's words were as true for ways of living and using resources as they were for pooper-scoopers. And since I can barely work most technology, let alone invent it, I focused on thinking up better, more sustainable ways of living. A few years ago I started writing about them. For money. Now, like Randy Bachman, I'm self-employed; I love to work at nothing all day.
This is what I recommend for you in 2010, dear reader, if you really want to help the planet: quit your job, holler at politicians at every opportunity and make yourself a new job creating better ways of living.
If you're pissed that most of our beef comes from outside the region, find new ways to promote and distribute locally produced food. If you hate our dependence on coal and oil, import some of that Spanish hydrogen-powered fuel-cell know-how. If you hate global warming and homelessness, raise money for affordable energy efficient housing.
Sound impossible? It is, if our brightest minds stay busy selling better thing-a-ma-whats-its and ignoring real problems.