I used to think sustainability was all about what the land could support season after season without undue toxic amendment by us. As the space between the land and me diminishes, I’m learning that sustainability doesn’t mean a lot without including what I can sustain. What can I support in what we’re developing? How do our choices fit in with the future of my family? What will I be able to participate in when I’m 70? Sustainable means not just globally or even locally, it means personally sustainable too.
|“The Good Life”
BBC 1970’s sit com
Being part of a downwardly mobile generation makes it especially hard to envision a life that is truly sustainable. The unconscious pictures I carry around of successes include a lot of excess. Big cars, big homes, big vacations – these are not easily sustained by the earth or my wallet. Still, its hard not to get caught up in the gravity of “more, More, MORE!”
Many of us were raised to expect that we could do as well as our parents did, if not better. For an increasing number of us, this is not the case. The idea of a retirement is pretty much a fantasy, the specter of losing everything to medical bills hangs over many of us as we age.
What does it mean to build a sustainable way of life in an economy of ever diminishing returns? How do I gently bring my life into the ever renewing cycles of the earth more fully and still pay our bills?
When I was a kid we used to watch a BBC sit com on the local public station called “The Good Life.” It was about an upper middle class couple that decide to give up the 9 to 5 grind and learn how to feed themselves by turning their suburban property into a food producing homestead. It was less about environmental concerns and more about quality of life for them, but I find myself scouring old episodes on Youtube for cost saving ideas to make our lives more sustainable.
|Tadg plants a tree
using only his lungs
Somehow its easier for me to see the modern quandary of sustainability against the backdrop of 1970’s British classist society. They make extraordinary efforts to change their way of life, largely succeeding. They also suffer quite a bit along the way, testing their relationship and their ability to face each day. Their legacy is one of charm, modest success, and cautionary wisdom.
There are quite a few of us idealists out there, trying to reshape our lives and creating suffering in the process. Aren’t we employing the same drive, the same expectations that were a part of our unsustainable way of life? Are unrealistic goals sustainable even if they’re for the greater good?
I often wonder what my life looks like to the compassionate helping spirits. They exist beyond time, which gives them a lot of great insight into what the ‘future’ holds. What does a whole life look if viewed without the restriction of time? If you saw me from that perspective, how would you answer the question: “What does the most sustainable Tim look like?”
My experience with the spirits teaches me that they would see more opportunities for grace in action than I do. They would know when to set seed to soil with the least effort, which projects to let go of for now, which to focus on. They would find more joy in each day. They would probably include our happiness as part of the measure of our evolving way of life.
Funny side note. I was ready to get this post up by Tuesday (my regular posting date), but my son’s cold finally caught up with me. Talk about sustainable goals! Not much can stand the withering force of pre-schoolers in winter.