My 10yo son and I are participating in the No Impact Project this week. Although for many years my family has been involved with the environmental movement (as well as committed to lessening our own ecological footprints), the No Impact Project gives us an opportunity to talk about these issues more, learn to take more extensive steps, and make connections with other participants. I certainly felt that way during Crunchy Chicken's Low Impact Week.
Isn't this mass experiment just hype, a stunt? Isn't it in some ways counterproductive since it leads the "consumer" (formerly known as the citizen) to feel responsible for climate change rather than the government and large corporations acknowledging their profound role and responsibility in this problem?
Perhaps so. I will end this week by talking more about the problems of personal versus political action.
But for now, I am taking Bill McKibben's words to heart: "The first step, clearly, is to take personal responsibility--to cut your own impact." He goes on to explain why personal action is not enough. As he writes, "If we want to have as little impact as possible on the planet, we must have as much impact as possible on its politics. At this point we're not going to solve this one lightbulb at a time--we're going to solve it one planet at a time if we're going to solve it at all." He recommends No Impact Week as not only a way to "minimize your personal [impact]" but to form a community of people actively making not only changes in their lives but changes in the culture that will then allow our politicians and other leaders to step up to the plate, that is, to "maximize your political impact." Personal change turns us into actors. When we see ourselves as effective people, we can have much more powerful voices for political change.
In addition to doing right by the planet, going "No Impact" is truly the way to do right by ourselves. By pushing ourselves to live up to what we say we believe, we're asking ourselves to face up to ourselves. Instead of letting ourselves get by with easy rhetoric, we are allowing ourselves to grow, to bloom into more responsible and effective people--on this issue but also on all other issues. It is a way of celebrating the potential of humanity--and the potential of ourselves.
(Check out the reference to this essay on the Huffington Post!)