For the next several months I am going to share some of our Be the Change Project’s top tips for regenerative living taken from our eight years of trying to walk our walk.
Our lives are greatly influenced by Permaculture and Gandhian Integral Nonviolence resulting in a blend of greener living with attention to issues of social justice. We aim to be good friends and neighbors while improving the land and living a good life. It’s a high bar but we do pretty good with it...mostly.
My goal with this series is to share the edgier, more challenging, and frankly more uncomfortable elements of being the change. Recycling is fantastic. Changing your lightbulbs is great. Let’s rejoice with a collective pat on the back for about two seconds and then dig deeper. I want to help foment structural changes that lead to the creation of a more just and abundant world. I feel this starts with each of us and radiates out to our land, our neighborhood, our city, and beyond. Lest you believe that your individual actions have no impact, think again. Check out Erica Chenoweth’s research and her 3.5% rule for social change. Here’s a sample:
In fact, no campaigns [for nonviolent social change] failed once they’d achieved the active and sustained participation of just 3.5% of the population—and lots of them succeeded with far less than that.
Her work gives me hope and I hope you’ll read on to see our take for making that a reality.
#1. Electricity-Free Living
I’m starting with Electricity-Free Living but the order of tips has less to do with impact than with what I am in the mood to write about.
Turn on a light switch and magic happens. We’ve vanquished darkness, kept predators at bay through the night, and can see what color our socks are in our closet in the morning. Amazing! But what does it take to bring that light to our sock drawer? In Nevada, over 50% of our electricity still comes from the burning of coal. Soooo 18th century. And if it’s not burnt coal, that light is still likely connected to a giant, extraction-based company that’s run by billionaires who work against environmental rules and put profits over people. And then there’s the materials themselves - metals, glass, plastics, and so on that deliver the energy - which are mined (big holes in the ground made by big corporations), processed, moved around the planet burning more fuels, blah, blah, blah, same old globalism story.
And, two more things: one, those lights keep us out of sync with the seasons and wreak havoc with our circadian rhythms. Think of that: with electric lights on all the time we’re forcing our bodies to ignore the sun. To ignore the Sun! Who does that? Who, in the history of human existence has ever done that? Hubris out the wazoo. Second, more lights = more stuff = more shit from China or some other sweatshoppy-place run by a multinational that’s conveniently outsourced US pollution and treats the earth and people like dung.
OK, so what can one do besides give up and watch more adorable cat videos? Big action would mean calling up the power company and cutting the cord, totally. That’s a big leap and big leaps are necessary but not if they lead to abject failure. It’s what we’ve done but it took several years of baby steps with lots of mentorship and experimentation. So start smaller but continue to hold the bigger vision.
Here’s two actions:
1. Remove some light switches and plugs in a room or two. That’s right, get the screwdriver and either uninstall them or seriously cover them up. Call it a sanctuary in your home but do whatever it takes to get willpower out of the picture to make structural changes that are habit-forming.
2. Turn the power off for a month. That’s easy enough to do: just call the power company and say you’re going out of town. See how fast your rhythms adjust, how well you sleep, how good your lover looks in candlelight. Dang! how great you look in candlelight. Have parties all month to share the fun with your peeps. Guaranteed you’ll learn tons, inspire the hell out of people along the way, and end the month with warm fuzzy feelings of self-righteousness.
Go ahead, do it! Dooooo it! You’ve got the power.
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