Monday, October 28, 2013

Making Choices

Unschoolers are often travellers.  Adventurers, actually. And we have been, too, when we made a road-trip to California. We spent a month on the road, and spent about $800 on gas. And that -- the gas -- is the point of this post.

It's obvious that adventure is a wonderful learning opportunity, and also that travel brings us closer to our loved ones, around the world. So sometimes it seems like a small sacrifice to support the oil/gas industry and further pollute and destroy the very earth we are trying to get to know! Um. Wait a minute. Maybe it's not such a small sacrifice.

We were thinking about stripping our savings accounts and credit card (and ability to fix more of our house) for an incredibly cheap trip (well... relatively speaking) to Hawaii, to see our boat-schooling friends. The kids were SO excited. I have never really wanted to go to Hawaii, but to see it with friends -- and from the ocean-perspective on their oh-so-green sailboat? I was totally thrilled. It was just a jumbojet trip away!

Then I had a conversation with a friend, which was actually about cars. His perspective was that I should be driving a hybrid instead of an ancient gas-hogging Pathfinder. While I still don't agree, entirely (see note further on in this post)... the truth I can't escape is that I shouldn't really be driving at all. And to take an airplane? No matter how much my kids want to "be like all their friends" and go on a big airplane trip... I can't stomach making that kind of impact.

So we decided not to!


We're not going to Hawaii!
And we feel great about it! Even the kids are finding ways to look around their disappointments at the positive things this choice brings us: We can Skype with our friends when they get to Hawaii (by sail, where they will live a very low-impact life on their boat), and then when they eventually get back home again to BC, we can sail with them, here. No, we won't get to see volcanoes oozing lava, here, but we do live in one of the richest marine areas of the world (though increasingly less rich, because of the environmental devastation we're wreaking). And definitely, exploring our own home has always been at the top of our list, anyway.


Next up: how to stop driving this car...
It's just plain difficult to live the way do (consumerist lifestyle) and not have a vehicle! We use it a couple of times per week for trips to get supplies at the building centre (because we're fixing our house, right now), to take the recycling to the recycling depot, and about once every 2/3 weeks to get groceries, in town (and do the other errands that pile up in those weeks). We've cut back our activities that are too far for the kids to walk to, but we still pick them up when it's dark out, and sometimes just when they're too tired or too busy to walk (it's a 3K walk to or from most places they go; 5K in some cases).

Doesn't that sound like a big pile of excuses? It does to me! I just can't figure my way around them! I'm absolutely open to advice on this topic. Comment away.


Why we don't drive a Prius:
Because we can't afford one. And that isn't going to change. The feel-good Urban Green is mostly only available to people with a bunch of pocket change, and actually driven by a consumerist sales-pitch that is more about profit than about saving our species. (Not that there aren't many other ways to be green, though.) But also because hybrids have been shown to have so much impact with their manufacturing, and the use of electricity being also not-that-green, their gas-savings pale, by comparison. (Link, here.) Once you factor in the manufacturing, gas use, electricity production (hydro and coal, in our area), and disposal of the two vehicles, it might be ever-so-slightly more efficient, over the very long-term (assuming we stop using coal-plants for our electricity, in the evenings), to drive a hybrid. But there is a serious emphasis on the word might. And as far as vehicles go, one can choose a very efficient small car, an ancient gas-hog like ours, or an extreme gas-hog, like modern SUV's.

Basically... the short story is that no matter what we drive, we shouldn't be driving. The oil and gas industry needs to be shut down, and we need to find a way to make that happen.

Great option I'd like to look into further: vegetable-oil diesel. Can even be home-made. For us, it's a bit difficult to afford to replace our vehicle at all, right now, but this is probably the next vehicle we'll have, if we do, indeed, have another vehicle.

Are we doing enough?    NO!
No way! I truly believe that the only thing that is going to save our species is for us to stop consuming so much! To stop buying stuff -- entirely. The government is tied up by its corporate backers, so they're powerless to help us. And those corporate backers are backed by us! We give them our money! We are slaves to our desire to buy stuff from them, and they are slaves to their desire to sell. We are the the only ones who can help us! When we stop buying the stuff, the corporations will fall. And yes, we'll lose our jobs. Most of us will lose our jobs. And everybody will experience a horrible shitty consumer withdrawal, where we don't even know how to provide food and shelter for ourselves. And people will die. Maybe I and my children will die. But guess what? We might die, anyway, from the storms, flooding, droughts, food-shortages, and inevitable wars that are sparked by the consumer-created climate-change. The difference with the first option is that I believe people, in general, are resilient, resourceful, and innately compassionate. And at least some will survive. And out of this will grow a new economy that perhaps will work a little better for us.


What are the answers?
I've started asking myself, with every purchase: Do I need this? And I'm a bit brutal about the answers. I know this is a start. But it's still not enough. I need a bigger answer.
I don't know. I don't know how, at this point, to even get rid of my car. And quite frankly I feel pretty miserable about that. I want so badly to get off the grid, but manufacturing of solar panels makes owning them not green at all. I'm hoping some bright piece of advice or inspiration comes to me, soon.

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

Yes! I totally relate to this. We have chosen to not take holidays that involve air travel, and our kids sometimes feel a bit like poor bumpkins (especially now that they're hanging out with kids who travel several times a year!). And it's so hard to ditch the car completely, especially living where we do. It sounds like an excuse, but I honestly can't think of a reasonable alternative. Most of what we own is second hand (Freecycle has furnished our house!), but that's still dependent on the consumerist lifestyle. Sometimes I wish for a major economic or environment upheaval that forces us to change, because I don't think it will happen otherwise. I hope you'll share your bright piece of advice or inspiration when it hits!