Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No-Impact Man by Colin Beaven

Just finished reading a little book that I must recommend to all those interested in self-sufficiency, improving and/or protecting the environment, the local food movement and all other Good For the Earth endeavors.   Colin Beaven, an apartment-dwelling Manhattan resident, makes the commitment to try, over the course of a year, to reduce the environmental impact of his family of three.... to zero.  Mind you, he goes to lengths most of us wouldn't consider unless the world was already past crisis and we had no other options, but his writing is thoughtful and entertaining.  After reading his book, I was much more aware of things I could be doing but hadn't bothered -- and I had been feeling quite self satisfied.  Whether you consider yourself correctly labeled by "liberal" or not, Beaven's opening premises are well stated and very self aware:

"It's true that I had occasionally tried to make a difference in the world, but I was coming to think my political views had too often been about changing other people - and too seldom about changing myself."

"I made this mistake of thinking that condemning other people's misdeeds somehow made me virtuous.  I'd become, I realized, a member of that class of liberals who allowed themselves to glide by on way too few political gestures and lifestyle concessions and then spent the rest of their energy feeling superior to other people who supposedly didn't do as much."

So, he snaps! and becomes No Impact Man. The book is hilarious, touching and very thought provoking. Beaven doesn't leave all the blame at the doorstep of the individual - he discusses the ways that the individual guilt movement has kept us self-absorbed and self-castigating rather than focused on changing industrial waste and pollution standards, something industry is well aware of and works to support.

The book began as Colin's blog on his progress and the blog is still active.  Hop over to No Impact Man - The Blog to peruse the day-to-day.  I understand that this may all turn into a movie (a la Julie and Julia) but please do read the book before Hollywood makes it into some comedy.

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