My Dad asked me the other day if I ever got scared up here all alone in the woods. Sure enough, I had just listened to an hour-long podcast about a serial killer, so at that moment, I for SURE thought I was about to be bamboozled, for lack of a graphic term, by a dude running out of the trees.
“Totally,” I told him.
He clarified: “I meant scared by, I dunno, coyotes?”
I don’t feel too nervous about any wildlife out here, maybe naively because I believe I am Snow White and the animals are all my brothers and sisters. However, the method I’ve taken to in the last couple weeks, when I do sometimes get a little uneasy, is, I kid you not, to yodel. I figure: A) yodeling is hilarious, so at the very least, I’ll get a laugh out of myself, B) What serial killer/coyote is going to want to attack someone who yodels badly and often, and C) Maybe if I got good, I could summon some mountain goats, and they could protect me. Foolproof, I know.
To further avoid the leakage/flood situation, I added a raised platform inside the tipi out of wood, and covered that up with a blanket for extra coziness. The only downside is that by literally walking the plank every day, I feel like a pirate.
Life in the cone of shame has regularized over the last few weeks, which has given me more time to think about the “why?” of this whole project, rather than just the “how?”and “what?” The first idea that came to mind, or phrase, rather, was: practice what you preach. I found it hypocritical that I was studying environmental education, preparing to talk the talk, and yet I wasn’t walking the walk. I was more than ready to teach about how precious and finite fossil fuels are, how important it is to conserve water, and how we need to be vigilant about checking the sources of our products that we buy; at the same time, I was living in a warm apartment, taking showers once or sometimes twice a day, and always buying new. Something’s wrong with that.
I’m not saying that living a comfortable lifestyle is unsustainable; these are just observations I made in my own life. Of course I would encourage anyone to take steps that seem attainable in their own lives towards a more cost- and energy-efficient lifestyle, but I do realize that it’s not always that feasible. That’s why I decided to capitalize on the time that I do have during my last semester in college.
I want to believe in what I’ll be teaching, and to live up to the standards and expectations I hold out big corporations that I criticize. Hence came the idea of low impact living. If only for a semester, I wanted to see what it was like. I wanted to see if it was doable, it if was comfortable, and if I learned anything about myself or where I wanted to take my career. If it worked, I could vouch for such a lifestyle to others who might be interested. If it didn’t, I’d sure have one hell of a story.
To be frank, I know I’m not making any kind of impact on the world in my efforts to live closer to the Earth, let alone on my local community. My reduction in fossil fuels for the next three months is not going to hinder the global increase in atmospheric carbon concentrations, nor will it prevent phenomena like glacial calving or ocean acidification. I was naïve enough to think that Dobie Gray was singing “give me the Beach Boys,” instead of “give me the beat boys,” in his song “Drift Away,” but I’m not naïve enough to believe that I, Kate Burgess, am going to save the world by living in a triangle for the next few months. Even if I did it for the rest of my life. It’s important for me to recognize that, and for me to also recognize that in a lot of ways, this project is self-indulgent, and that I need to remember to be humble about what nature can teach me. Of course I still dream of reversing some of the anthropogenic impact we’ve imposed on this planet, and I completely intend on doing everything I can to do my part, but I can’t get ahead of myself in thinking that I am holier than thou, or even that I could be relieved from my duties as an eco-minded citizen because of this tiny project.
In being humble, I also want to remember to be grateful and gracious, not just to the people who have helped me out, but to the land I’m on and to all who have walked before me. The other night, I misplaced the top half of my retainer (yeah, yeah, I still wear it), and I spent upwards of an hour scouring the ground in the dark, retracing my steps until I gave up. I was not ready to have to drop a couple hundred bucks to replace it (that’s equal to…let me do the math…carry the 4…a LOT of Ramen). But lo and behold! The next day, I step out of the tipi, the retainer is sitting right next to the door pole on the ground. Upon seeing it, I kid you not, I yelled out “THANK YOU GREAT SPIRITS,” and did a little jig.
That night, when I was reading “Nature’s Way,” a book about native wisdom by a man who is a tribal member of the Oglala Sioux in South Dakota, I came across a part about being grateful to the ancestral spirits. Traditionally, upon receiving good news, he and his family would yell out “THANK YOU SPIRITS!” Dude knows what he’s talking about.
Oh I hear a Barred Owl as I type this! Neat.
Another idea I’ve been toying with is the idea of sustainability as a concept and what it really means. It’s an ambiguous term, and lately, after a few discussions in class, it’s become apparent that when using it, it’s unclear who’s doing the sustaining and what’s being sustained. It’s a sexy idea, one that’s easy to latch onto because of its prominence in marketing and media. I think it’s important, however, to dig deeper into the concept and discern a meaning that is both concise, and congruous to more distinguished ideas of environmental friendliness.
For my definition, I’ve boiled down a few core principles that I think may lend themselves well to living a lifestyle that is, in fact, sustainable (in the truest sense of the word), both in cost and efficiency of resources:
- Have an appreciation and respect for the land and impermanence of the resources on Earth
- Make informed choices about the products and services I purchase/engage in, considering their efficacy and economic value to all considered
- Act in ways that not only reflect a respect for the land/fauna, but in consideration of peoples’ safety and general happiness as well
- Be/get to be humble
I’m fortunate to have been able to have the time to think about this stuff, and I would love to have more topics to chew on, so any philosophical questions thrown my way would be gratefully received. This project has sparked a very interesting dialogue, and I’ve had so many good conversations with folks about cool initiatives they’re taking in their own lives as well. (Shout out to Dr. Reitsma who powers his car on Veggie Oil). Can’t wait to keep learning!
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