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Killing Ourselves with Convenience

Springtime resolutions from a struggling activist

I'll be honest: I feel like a pretty shoddy environmentalist at the moment. I just drove about 2,400 miles in the past six days. Well, technically it was my bandmate doing all the driving, fearless leader that he is, but the point remains that I burned way more  liquefied dinosaur bones than I've ever burned in one sitting just so I could go play a few shows at SXSW. While I'm thrilled I did it (there's nothing quite like the hipster Mardi Gras that 6th Street becomes in the thick of the festival), the early summer I returned to up in Chicago got me thinking about the future of pretty much everything I like to do.

The honest truth is that most of what we do isn't sustainable. While plenty of European countries may have gotten a handle on running efficient economies with hardcore recycling programs and renewable energy sources, we Americans remain gluttonous in our ways. We want all the things, all the time. We want to do things our way. We want commodity and we want convenience, the future of the planet be damned. 

We're all guilty in this. Even the most eco-mindful Brooklyn families order their reusable coffee filters from Amazon, who promptly ships them out in a gurgling, oil-guzzling beast of a vehicle. We all like to replace our slightly worn old stuff with bright and shiny new stuff. We all buy things just because we've been tricked into doing so by omnipresent advertising. We all throw out way too much.

It's easy to feel powerless in the face of the huge, all-consuming America machine. It's easy to feel like there's no stopping it--or worse, it's far too easy to feel like you are helping to stop it when you're in fact doing hardly anything at all. Buying the "green" Clorox wipe doesn't make you a hero of the earth when you could just suck it up and use a rag and some vinegar to clean your kitchen. It's time to stop pretending that consumer choices will save the planet and start accepting that only choosing not to participate in consumerism will.

I'm trying to start. I just went on a road trip, so I'm still stinging from a whole slew of mindless choices that blatantly violated my own beliefs--purchasing bottled water, roadside junk food, Exxon/Mobil gas. But while speed-reading the American landscape on the way back from Austin, I plotted out some new ways of living--ones that are hopefully less harmful than any ways I've lived before. I'm going to fix up my bike, get in shape and give my beloved geriatric Honda a bit of a break. I'm going to wash a lot of clothes by hand and let them dry in the air. I'm going to try to avoid food that's not a whole, unprocessed plant. I'm going to stop doing things just because I want to, because it's the easiest way or because some anonymous ad agency decided I should. I'm going to strip down my actions, think of all their consequences, try to stop murdering the planet beneath my feet. Because this is a pretty great place to call home and you've always got to make sacrifices in order to take care of the things around you.