Through the Lens of Radical Sustainability: Not Rose-Colored Glasses, but Green and Keen

This past weekend signified the very middle of my venture to live 100% environmentally sustainably.  To mark the occasion, I unwittingly placed myself in a situation where every one of my interactions and experiences emphasized my unique new mindset.

I spent the weekend on a camping trip with three of my buddies from college.  

Camping?  Yes, it’s a bit redundant: I live in a tent.  What is appealing about a weekend doing the same?  Well, I envisioned a change of pace, a change of scenery, and some good times with old friends.  What I got instead transcended that simplistic vision, but it was a powerfully emotional experience.

Their comfort levels--with bugs, rain, and physical discomfort–differed vastly from mine.  

Their concept of “camping“–purchasing huge amounts of camping junk, like metal pokers and lawn chairs, then tossing many useful things out at the end of the weekend–clashed with my own.  

Their idea of how to start a campfire–lighter fluid and plastic packaging–baffled and bewildered me. 

Whenever I tried to offer an insight, which had been gleaned directly from my six weeks so far of using many of the same techniques, I was ignored.  It soon dawned on me that they didn’t want to know efficient or respectful techniques for fire-starting or cooking or understanding the plants around them.  

They were “playing camp.”  

These were people who worked 40-hour weeks, drove to and from work, and were fundamentally disconnected from their environment, while I had recently grown deeply connected to it.  Psychologically, it seemed they needed the experience of playing “primitive” to alleviate the stresses of having spent months under a routine social system that they felt helpless to change.  Realizing this, I had no choice but step back and remain quiet.  I was quiet all weekend, examining the change within myself and between my friends, and realizing that…

It is official.  I have flipped.  The person who planned this three-month adventure is not the same as the one hereby perpetuating.  I can never thinking of “camping” in the same way as I once did, or as my colleagues do.  I realized yesterday that I will never buy a new car–at least, never one that runs on petroleum.  I realized I would never again be able to rationalize the purchases that my friends regularly made in their own lives.  I do not know what the implications of this shift are.  Strikingly, I did not seriously prepare for this possibility when I was planning for the three-month adventure.  

Now, though, I am aware of its serious effects.

(Go on to Part 2)

photo credit: from American Consumer News

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