I heard about this documentary tangentially. I had always thought it was about some guy living in a cave for a year. The reality is more fascinating. It is about a couple with a toddler, in New York City, who try to give up as many environmentally negative things in their life as they can.
What made this movie special was that the guy had an easy going, non-perfectionist attitude about it. His goal wasn’t to be pure. His goal was to cause himself to see and think about things he would not see or not think of otherwise. So yes, he was inconsistent and learned along the way. I would say he reached his goals. Just watching the documentary caused me to see and think about things I would not otherwise see and think about.
I have to say that this guy’s wife has to be the queen of being a good sport for putting up with all of the things she put up with for an entire year.
Doing without toilet paper for a year stuck in my mind the most. I wouldn’t have done it. I also don’t think it is one of our largest environmental problems. Toilet paper can be made from many recycled and non-recycled things beyond just trees. It can also be made with a whole lot less toxic junk. I sort of thought it was funny that he was doing without toilet paper at the same time he was updating his blog via a lap top, but after a bit of time he put a solar panel on the roof of his apartment building to power his laptop.
I liked that he mentioned that recycling plastic is really “down-cycling”, as the use of plastic is proliferating with the rationale that people can always “recycle it”. “Recycling” plastic is really “down cycling” as each time plastic is recycled, a lower quality of plastic is the result. Eventually, what is left is unusable toxic crap that gets dumped where something lives.
I also liked that the family gave up meat for their year of living green. Too many people are myopic to the impact of meat on the planet. I also have to applaud them in making their diet completely local, even if local meant grown within 250 miles. The wife, a caffiene junkie, gave up coffee. This really made me think of all of the distant places my food comes from and how I would be the last person to go completely local.
The one place where I felt this documentary fell short was talking about population control. Almost nothing has as large of an environmental footprint as adding another human being to the planet. Especially one in the United States, Canada, the UK or Europe. An incredible amount of waste and pollution is built into the infrastructure, more than greener behaviors can make up for. The Earth has almost 7 billion people on it now with projections of it going to 11 billion within 40 years.
Having another child did come up in a conversation between the husband and the wife in the film, but their conversation had nothing to do with environmental impact.
On to other points….
Annie Leonard, the producer of “The Meatrix” and “The Story Stuff” project in an interview I recently saw emphasized the need for political action in addition to changing personal habits. People changing their habits will help much, according to Leonard, but a lot of that good will be undone if corporations do not stop producing goods without the impact of those goods in mind.
One of my favorite statements from this documentary was that he felt individual action was good, because it helps people get and stay engaged. My guess is that engagement will likely sustain the action necessary to get corporate behavior to change.
My other favorite idea from the documentary came in his answer to a student who asked if they could only do *one* thing for the environment, what one single thing should they do? His answer was to volunteer with a environmental group. Volunteering will teach people that they are part of a community. When people don’t see themselves as part of a community, they come to think that their actions don’t matter.
All in all, a thought provoking, non-judgmental and fun documentary. A must see.
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