It’s hard to be an optimist for sustainability in a world of ever-growing apocalyptic threats of financial collapse, global climate change, nuclear disaster, drug-resistant diseases, and rapid species extinction, to name just a few. Humanity has really screwed things up and we don’t seem particularly eager to change course any time soon.
But what gets me out of bed each day is the fervent belief that, in spite of all our past failures, each and every one of us can thoughtfully choose a different path right now. We don’t need to wait for some technological miracle, economic opportunity, or social revolution to do the right thing. In fact, waiting to take action is the only choice we can be certain is wrong.
Call it what you will – sustainability, resilience, permaculture, or just living simply – we all have the power every day to make choices that will radically change our lives, and the lives of those around us. I believe this because I’ve lived it. My faith lies in the trust that, in so doing, we ultimately have the power to change society and, thus, to change the course of humanity.
When I was fifteen, my father took me on a cross-country bike trip from our home in Washington, DC to Seattle. After two months of earning the deep rewards of getting around under my own power, I fell in love with bicycling as a means of transportation – the reasonable pace, the connection to nature, the health and wellness it engenders, and the freedom from cost and environmental impact.
I returned forever changed. As my high school peers were signing up for drivers’ education and auto dependency, I deliberately chose a path less traveled. I decided not to get a drivers’ license and to, instead, commit myself to a life without cars. That commitment has shaped nearly every choice I’ve made in the past 25 years – from the mundane (how much to buy, what to wear, where to travel) to the profound (where to live, what to do with my life, who to fall in love with). In nearly every case, I believe it has directed me to choose that which is healthier, more economical, and much lighter on the planet.
Making commitments like this can truly revolutionize the way we see the world and respond to it. By taking pains to shape our life choices around the goal of being a restorative force, rather than a drain on planetary resources, we are closing the door to many dangerous possibilities and opening the door to a clean, green, resilient future. Realizing this vision takes considerable time and effort, but what could possibly be more satisfying?
While none of us can achieve this alone, together we can turn our species away from the brink and down a new path. We choose a sustainable future by taking conscious, deliberate actions each day in the service of something larger than ourselves. I believe we can all make that choice today.
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