My Sunday School class is awesome! They push me. They aren’t “green”. They are mostly quite a bit more seasoned in life than I am. This is the one place where I consistently get out of my “green” sandbox and into where most people are living their lives. At least in regards to issues of sustainability, environment and the now almost universally accepted dreaded term “green”. This doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the environment in general or that they aren’t open to my perspective. God bless them for that! It’s just not something that is on their radar on a daily basis like it is for me. My honest belief is that I am not fit for the general population anymore because I am so dang green!
A couple of weeks ago we were having a conversation and I can’t even remember about what we were discussing but I chimed in what about the Environment? And some one else said what about Social Justice? It then dawned on me that I was having the wrong conversation. To me Social Justice is an integral part of the Sustainability conversation. There is not one thing that deals with Social Justice that doesn’t deal with Sustainability and of course spend enough time in the community of sustainability and you will hear the mantra "People, Planet, Profit". This person brought up hunger in the US. The truth is, if there was more general knowledge about managing food transportation and industrial farming then I believe we could begin to understand how our current food system is about abundant waste not about feeding ourselves. If we could have a meaningful conversation about how to change that system, what could it do to help the hunger problem? I won’t go into a long dissertation about the system. Plenty of smarter folks have done this but obviously not enough for regular folks to hear it.
Another member came to me afterwards and said when "I hear sustainability I hear go back and give up technology". He then asked for my Blackberry as a representation of what life would be like without precious technology. Now those of you who know about me and my Blackberry, you know how ridiculously attached I am to it. So after the panic attack of being separated from it passed, I said I had never told him that I think we should go back technologically. In fact, sustainability in my mind is a futuristic problem solving adventure. It’s not about going back. Although some things are "everything is old is new again". Granted, vegetable gardening, composting, using items for multiple purposes, bicycling, walking, mass transit, buy less, use less, do seem like a Grandma kind of thing to do but they all have a new twist and are by choice not just out of necessity.
However, modern solutions are the answer. Whether its renewable energy, smart grids, transportation, clean air, water or the environment, they will all have to be solved with new ideas. That doesn’t mean we can’t be inspired by solutions from the past but over all it will have to be solutions that address where we are today. Besides who wants to give up their Blackberry, iPhone or Android?
What is clear, is it’s going to have to sink into our cultural DNA. I know our friends in England and France who subscribe to Eco-Apocalypse scenarios are saying that even one generation is too late but the truth is there is a lot cultural behavior that has to be broken through to make the changes we are discussing. I do firmly believe that in 15 years we will live so completely differently from now that people will think "How did we ever think that what we did was okay?"
But then that leads back to how do you have a meaningful conversation with the “unconverted” about why even little steps are important? How do you use terms like sustainability and make them individually meaningful? I come back to the same answer over and over again. Be an enthusiastic example! Preaching, teaching and debating doesn't say nearly enough as showing that change makes no difference in quality of life. In fact, it proves the opposite. By simplifying and making different choices, a lot us feel better, less cluttered and amazed by how much our lives have changed without us feeling any effect at all. Maybe Grandma was right...actions do speak louder than words. Now that's a conversation I can sink my teeth into.