Archive for the ‘Thomas Friedman’ Tag

Ethic of conservation

I’ve been reading Thomas Friedman’s amazing Hot, Flat, and Crowded, and am full of an urgency right now about our collective future.  Friedman says we are in dire need of three things: clean energy, energy efficiency, and an ethic of conservation. 

It’s this last one that worries me the most.  It’s the one that is most difficult to define, talk about, and transition to.  We’ve spent a century being wasteful in the extreme (especially in America, but also globally).  We’ve abandoned thrift and humility; we seriously believe we’re entitled to huge wealth and to using resources any way we wish to advance our greed; we measure success in terms of material possessions, and generally (if sometimes secretly) admire profligate spending.

Introducing and firmly establishing an ethic of conservation is a formidable mission.  The term does not mean just recycling soda cans or newspapers; it suggests a transition that changes the roots of thinking.  It involves losing all sense of entitlement, and fostering an attitude of constant gratitude and care.  It actually requires that we orient our lives towards compassion, that we leave personal greed behind and exist only for the benefit of others.

Anyone out there see this happening anytime soon?  Probably not, but our healthy future depends on it.

I have an older sister whom I idolize.  About ten years ago, I noticed something about her that, at the time, actually irritated me.  She has a way of being infinitely gentle with absolutely everything: people, ideas, and things.  She is always attuned to the feelings of others, and will sacrifice without hesitation for their needs.  She asks questions, rather than making pronouncements.  She puts away the clean dishes without making a sound.  When I first realized this, I was irritated by what I perceived as a weakness in her.  But soon enough, I came to undertand that she was not at all being obsequious; rather, she was operating from a well-entrenched ethic of conservation.  Ever since, I’ve been working on emulating her.

We must take conservation to heart, to the very source of consciousness and personality, and learn to exist day to day in unbroken compassion for all things.  Such a re-invention of thought is an almost impossibly tall order.  Nonetheless, we must chip away at it, or eliminate the human race.

The courage to change

I was thrilled last week to receive notice that I’d actually won a contest (maybe the first time in my life)!  Tanner Christensen, with the Creative Something blog offered a random prize drawing, and lo and behold, he drew my name.  So now I am the proud owner of Thomas Friedman’s new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded.  If it’s anything like The World is Flat, I’m assured of an inspiring read.

We have a new mandate: we must learn to live together in health and peace on a planet with limited resources.  We must lose our perception of ‘us and them’ and assume a new outlook of ‘us and eternity.’  The enemy is not the other guy; the enemy is our own ignorance and lack of imagination.

A few things perceived over the weekend may help to illustrate.  We prepped the herb garden by spreading the soil with newsprint.  This involved going to the recycling center and scoring huge piles of the stuff.  Most of what I scarfed was that very day’s edition, and most of it was glossy ad inserts.  Within the past 24 hours, news happened, reporters wrote it up, designers created splashy ads, editors revised, printers sweated out the production, distributors scurried all over plastering the environs, and then vast amounts of the product were summarily dumped. 

This syndrome occurs daily all over the world.  We can’t seem to reduce the waste, simply because the newspaper industry machine is so huge, we’re afraid of stopping it.  Change is all very well as long as we have decades to accomplish it.  Don’t ask us to take our knowledge and actually apply it right away; we’re too lazy, or scared, or dependent on our habits.  We think ‘we need the eggs,’ as Woody Allen so marvelously put it.

But I also read in the past couple days about two individuals whose change is brave and phenomenal.  Anne Rice has found Jesus, and Joaquin Phoenix is quitting the movies.  The queen of the vampires and the king of Hollywood lovers do about faces.  Their courage in aligning with the urges of their hearts, even though it may work against all the world’s demands, is exemplary and a positive lesson for us all.  Anything is possible, and to perpetuate waste and destruction because we fear change is unworthy of our gifts as sentient beings.