The Dissonance Between Dreams: Re-writing the Sust Enable Episode Scripts

“For any viewer who has been camping, a tent may not sound like the most… comfortable living option.  On the other hand, it has some real benefits to my mission to live sustainably!

…Inhabiting it uses no energy–neither heating nor cooling is an issue.  While it might seem like it at first, a tent is not just a summer option…  Look like cramped quarters?

Well, it’s big enough to sleep in and to store my clothes in.  And that’s all I need.  It means I will be spending more time outside, in nature…

Plus, unlike in an apartment, I have the ability to develop my home in unlimited ways!  Stay tuned for later episodes that show how I modify and enhance my living space to be more and more manageable, including temperature control, comfort and additional amenties.”

Dear Readers,

Sust Enable was my dearest fantasy.  Sust Enable meant that I would solve the entire world’s problem of environmental sustainability all by myself.  In an urban setting and with no money.  What’s more, I’d do so while producing a film about it!  Take that, thousands of years of environmental degradation!

For those of you who have followed my tumultuous three-month sustainable living experiment through my blog posts here at Sustainablog, you may think the quoted text above is a strange thing to say, or even bizarrely humorous.  Indeed it is.  Above is the exact wording of my original script to the Sust Enable episode on Shelter, last updated sometime in May.  As I sit in the video editing suite listening over my previously recorded voiceover, I cannot help but laugh out loud at the absurd, unsubstantiated statements I am making.  But these are sour laughs.

Because once, I believed these statements were true.

Nowhere in the script, mind, do you see my warnings about the risks of poison ivy.  Nowhere do you read of swarms of mosquitos plaguing that time spent so blissfully “outside” the tent.  And nowhere, shockingly, do you read about how incredibly trying it is to live in a tent when it rains every 36 hours.

I suppose tribulation was never really considered when I was planning Sust Enable.  You can cut the optimism of the above passage with a knife!  So what if it isn’t so fun to live in a tent?  So what if mold develops, and I can’t sleep a wink for the hard ground, and the overall environment of the cramped quarters is oppressing?  …Well… So what indeed.

The footage my cinematographer shot during the three-month Sust Enable project was based, structurally, around these scripts.  I now am struggling–both with how to restructure the scripts to reflect the reality of what happened, and with how to reconcile my old attitudes with my new perspective.  Can I truly say that living in a tent is an awful idea and would never work for anyone, under different conditions?

The very beliefs from which the idea of Sust Enable emerged have undergone immense shifts and changes since the project drove to its grinding halt in July… and now in September, I am still trying to relieve the physical and mental stresses accumulated during the three-month Sust Enable endeavor by lavishing hot showers and unsustainable amenities on myself.

Yet openly unsustainable is not how I want to live either.  I am still trying to sort out my priorities and values, after my too-ambitious sustainable living project, well, “kicked my ass” a little bit.  In any given instance, it’s hard to break down: what was wrong about the sustainable living techniques I was utilizing, and what was wrong about my attitude?  As the experiencer and producer, it’s hard to sort out where I end and where Sust Enable begins.

On the other hand, I am extremely grateful that my most thrilling dream of green accomplishment and social liberation was not a dream deferred, like so many others.  It was a dream fulfilled, even if at times, it played more like a nightmare.  I’ve met many people since the Sust Enable living project concluded who tell me they could never do what I did.  I’m not so sure they should sell themselves short of their possibility–heck, I’m not sure I could do what I did!  Yet somehow, it was done.  But I acknowledge that I wouldn’t be able to do it if it weren’t my passion.  I was driven during Sust Enable.  Now, while the outcome isn’t as polished as I would have liked to imagine earlier, its influence will still resonate in my life and in my actions forevermore.

“Sustainability is Now” is the Sust Enable series tagline.  While I’m not so sure that sustainability IS now, I am sure that it is possible.  And I’m sure I’m on my way.

“Episode 1: Introduction” is now available on the Sust Enable website: www.sust-enable.com

Related posts:

To Live Relevantly: My Story of Defining Sustainability

Toward a (Re)Definition of Sustainability – Part 1 of 6

Toward a (Re)Definition of Sustainability – Part 2 of 6

Why Can’t Every Product Be Sustainable?

  1. Alfonso


    Why continue deluding yourself into thinking that you can reconcile the unsustainability of industrialism with the desire to live sustainably?

    It’s impossible. The “amenities” you’ve grown to love are all products of an infrastructure that takes, takes, takes from the Earth without returning.

    Your project is at best a token, silly effort to backstep on the inevitable march to collapse that Western civilization has been on for thousands of years.

    The very fact that you still cling to luxuries like hot showers and driving across the country shows just how ironic the “Green” movement is:

    “I care up until the point that it stops being convenient.”

    The simple truth is: This ENTIRE way of doing things is killing the environment. Sustainability means taking down our entire infrastructure, somehow depopulating the world, and not relying on the safety-net of running water or instant food. It means DOING IT YOURSELF.

    Eco-liberals and pretentious fucks with Toyota Priuses aren’t helping anything but their egos.

  2. Caroline Savery

    Dear Alfonso,

    Thank you for commenting on my post. In response to your comment:

    I agree with you. Nothing short of “taking down our entire infrastructure, somehow depopulating the world, and not relying on the safety-net of running water or instant food” will redeem our planet’s life-supporting ecosystem. But is that going to happen? Tomorrow, or ever?


    The immediate comfort of creatures still influences all of our decisions and collective decisions. We are still animals.

    Yes it will doom us, but if anything, that’s an oversight of God’s. Knowing an intellectual truth does little to influence our immediate feelings. And “if no one else is conscripted to give it up, then I won’t either.” Psychology has taught us so much about why we are where we are today.

    Your point was mine exactly at the beginning of the 100% sustainable living experiment. Now I realize that your point, while factually accurate, is completely irrelevant.


  3. Alfonso

    It’s only irrelevant in the context of one who still feels entitled to the comforts and privileges that being white in Western civilization has afforded her.

    To those slightly more humble, however, it’s EXTREMELY relevant, in fact, more so than your vague response.

    Basically what you’re saying is “We’ve already fucked up, but continuing to fuck up with the aforesaid knowledge is somehow not as bad”

    Also, why use psychology to back up anything? If I told you that you thought you were a butterfly, would you believe me? Those psychologists are only deader and whiter.

    I’m sick of the “human nature” argument.

  4. Alfonso

    Also, please don’t mistake my ramblings for point-and-shout accusations (as easy as that is to do, I admit).

    I in no way claim to live environmentally sustainable, nor do I disagree with the fact that you and everyone else aren’t either, except of course in the global context of disagreeing with modern industrialism.

    What I do disagree with is the inherent pretentiousness of the “green” movement, because it basically consists of trying to use the privileges of an environmentally destructive society to somehow halt or slow that very destructiveness.

    Example: If you are vegan and you somehow find yourself working in the upper levels of a meat processing facility, would it really make sense to use that power to try to produce less meat? Especially knowing that you can instead use that power to shut the facility down?

    Think about it.

  5. Frank

    Excellent work! I’m looking forward to seeing the direction you take with the project. I think you should keep the original voice overs, and head the way of funny-ironic. I believe it educate the naivety of total sustainability while also bringing change to others’ lifestyles that have been utterly and extravagantly detrimental to the environment. Honestly, I think this is something you could sell to Discovery Channel.

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