Miranda over at Simple Living has been taking some brickbats recently from readers from the sounds of it. For those of you who don’t read her blog (and if you don’t you should IMO), she and her family have been taking some massive steps towards reducing their energy usage (see her Riot for Austerity post for details) by 90% or more. It’s a laudable goal, and while she’s not there yet, she’s making good progress, and at any rate she’s doing a hell of a lot more than I am on that front.
The Achilles Heel in Miranda’s sustainability armor is that she’s got five kids, and it sounds like she’s taken some flak about that fact from readers, who claim that adding those five mouths to the world’s population is doing more damage to the environment than could be remedied by any austerity measures she and her family are taking.
What a load of shit.
I don’t focus too much on my efforts at sustainability here because it invariably turns into a ‘holier than thou’ kind of pissing contest. The vegans rip on the omnivores, the childless rip on those with families, and if you’re building a small, energy-efficient house off the grid, you’re going to get hammered by someone who lives in a yurt and forages for wild berries and smokes ditchweed.
For my part, my current living situation isn’t terribly sustainable. I live in a house in the burbs, have two children, and I drive to work every day. At the same time, I’m trying to learn more about raising, preparing and preserving my own wholesome food, and I’m trying to learn how to maintain my bike, and I’m going through my crap in the basement and trying to reduce my collection. It’s baby steps at best, and I realize that… but you know what? It’s all practice at this point anyway.
The way I look at things, all of the work we all are doing is just learning or re-learning skills that we’re going to need at some point, or possibly teach our children. In the fairly near future I think our society is going to take a step backwards in our standards of living. Whether it’s peak oil, climate change, economic chaos, geopolitical endgames, or something, else, we have a number of knives that we’re collectively juggling, and it appears that at least one of them is going to fall point-down pretty soon. This doesn’t mean we’ll be living in the dark ages anytime soon, but it does mean that some of the global support systems we rely on for power, food and goods are going to unravel, and there will be economic dislocation and suffering because of it.
We are learning how to live with less now while we still have the safety net in place. That’s what people like Miranda and others are doing. Oh, and her five kids? Well guess what: they’re learning these skills at a young age without having to unlearn some of the more pernicious aspects of our current living arrangements. You can look at her family as extra un-needed mouths to feed, or you can see five new teachers of a simpler way of living who will be able to do many good things for people in their lives.
If someone like Miranda is taking heat for her efforts, how would those of us who aren’t doing as much fare?