Insights by Goldie
The climate (and times) are changing, and so must we

Sound Consumer | March 2007

by Goldie Caughlan
Quality Standards Specialist

Every personal choice and action ever made by each of us who share this magnificent but beleaguered planet is indelible. They ultimately link us to every other choice and action that we make, now and in the future.

Our present predicament with global climate change reflects our failure to appreciate the magnitude and inertia of long- ingrained habits and our collective lack of will to change. We know now we must make changes. But by design or default, we either consciously are seeking survival solutions by lessening our impact, or we’re continuing (consciously or not) to contribute to worsening the situation.

It takes more than information to effect change. I once read somewhere that “No matter how complicated things seem to be ... they’re never quite that simple!” We need humility and patience, coupled with a mounting sense of urgency, to prod us into action.

As we pick our way through the emotional debris from information overload, let’s uncover and salvage the long-lost habits and practices of frugality, of living better with less, and of living more simply — that others may simply live. The mound of muck choking our lives and our planet is not sustainable.

Choosing what some call “active simplicity” is a means to revitalizing our life-support system here on Earth. It means scaling down and practicing living, not just consuming. The rewards are both tangible and soul-satisfying.

More creative, community-building, time-rewarding and interdependent living is energizing, healthful and just plain fun! More food comes from backyard and community gardens, cooperatives, farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSAs).

Choosing mostly local foods, in season, we discover unusual and beautiful foods with more flavor and nutrients. We can extend the seasons by freezing, drying, home canning and pickling for winter.

Living simply does not need to mean sacrificing access to necessities, nor to culture, art and recreation. We simply become more frequent users of consignment and thrift stores, public libraries, community centers, intercultural exchanges and neighborhood organizations. We can rediscover intergenerational opportunities, volunteer and work exchanges with local farms, and environmental and outdoor recreation groups.

Each of us needs to determine what our responses to the challenges we face are to be. We know that for this to work, being just “sustainable lite” is not all that is required. This is new territory with no map for this trip. As we realize that most of the consequences scientists are measuring and projecting are the result of our species’ collective behaviors, inventions and products — that’s indeed an inconvenient and painful truth.

There is global grieving as the environmental concerns mount. Grief is a necessary catharsis that is painful, but can be healing. As in all critical emergencies involving loss, we can afford to indulge in our grief for a short while only, for we have no time to waste. We must redouble our efforts.

I’ve been processing this in a personal way and I keep reading, thinking and working on it. It’s a steep learning curve! My own self-coaching and reflection goes something like this: “I must do my part. It’s the only responsible way.” I also know that because many will not (or simply cannot) do their share, others of us must pick up the slack. That’s where personal commitment and action matters most.

As my inner process continues, I think, “I must willingly do my share and then do more. I can and I will because I understand that I’m key to making meaningful basic changes, here and now.”

I believe that when (not if, but when) we internalize this intent fully and manifest it broadly we’ll see that our small and individual changes have combined with others. Like drops of water, they’ll merge into a flowing river — and become a torrent of change that will be a powerful force for modeling new paradigms of behavior.

Living the future that we envision, consciously and willingly, offers a potent and gratifying means to become an exemplary life model for others.

More about: climate change, local food

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