This is the story of one man and his family. Living on the Ninth Floor of a Manhattan apratment building. And it is a test of will. No toilet paper. Nothing wrapped in plastic. No rides in the elevator. This is real-life research being done by Colin Beavan who is researching a book on lviing with no negative impact on the earth. His wife and daughter are gong along for the sheer fun of it.
Beavan's blog, NoImpactMan is full of personal experiences with is experiment, and exhortations for each person to stop waiting, "During World War II, posters... persuaded us to ration, save food, conserve gas, turn our electric lights off at night and not talk about where our soldier relatives were deployed. With a little leadership, we changed our behavior for the sake of the common good. We changed the social norms.
"So my question is this: while we wait around for an elected politician who shows real leadership on the environment, why don't the big tent environmental organizations take the message straight to the people. Why don't they post messages like this on billboards all over the country advising us to drive less, turn our heaters down to 68 degrees and use less power?"
First, Mr Beavan, that was our grand-parents' generation of Americans. They'd just survived the Depression so a little more sacrifice hardly looked difficult. This is today's American with an air conditioned car, frozen food from all quarters of the globe, who flies on jet planes without a second thought, works in an office building that has constant forced air flow. In short a single person with a carbon footprint as large as an entire Iowa town circa 1941. How do you spell soft and entitled? Capital "U" and capital "S" I suspect.
Secondly, that was before much of America had come ot believe that the government is truly never to be trusted and instead they've gone for corporations, TV hosts and organized religion. Perhaps if the posters declared the ideas had nothing to do with government action...nice thought though.
Another recent NoImpactMan post talks about the difficulty of getting average Americans to really take global warming seriously, "The biggest marketing problem in history," he calls it. "Tell people that air pollution causes asthma in one in four children in central Harlem and the Bronx or tell them that global warming may cause millions of children to die of dysentery and the best you’ll get may well be a shrug."
His experiment is over at the end of the year. And Beavan's clear that environmental problems must be met head-on in the world's cities. "The fact is that if city dwellers can’t learn to live without reducing their ecological footprint then we’re in deep trouble because most of the world’s population now lives in cities. Saving the world can’t be left to the country bumpkins. It’s an urban problem."
His blogs started last February, with a battel to stop the paper junk mail that inundated his address daily. If you're curous about how the Beavans were doing last spring, here's an old newspaper piece.