Aim for Where You're Going

<p>[Last bit of musings about environmentalism started during my flight to San Francisco]</p> <p>When I was young, my dad got me involved in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soap_Box_Derby">Soap Box Derby</a> &mdash building small, aerodynamic, gravity-driven cars and racing them down a hill two at a time. There were all kinds of aspects of it that were important: rigidity of the car, oil choice in the wheel bearings, driver position, but at the end of the day bad steering down the straight track could ruin it all. If you found yourself veering off to the side, my dad taught me to not try to get re-centered in the lane, but just to aim for the center of the finishline &mdash; to aim where you want to go.</p> <p>I recently had a discussion with my sister, who is writing about food and diet, about how at every turn there seems to be an environmental minefield. The topic at hand was local organic food still often having a higher footprint than the same foods bought en masse in grocery stores, because for some unprocessed whole foods the last-mile transport dominates. There are lots of things like this: polystyrene is incredibly low-energy while compostable sustainable paper cups are much higher; small-scale organic clothing operations often sell stuff at exhorbitant costs, which I can only assume is in part because that their small scale means high per-unit footprint along the way in terms of energy, transportation and space usage (think hours of lighting in the shop per unit sold). I support them anyway, because they're aimed where we need to go.</p> <p> Sometimes things aren't clear, sometimes you have to make judgement calls, sometimes you have to give up on something you wanted to do 'cause it's too damn expensive or complicated, but what matters is that you're pulling things the right way, more than the average around you. In some ways it's a weakform of Gandhi's "Be the change you want to see in the world" that's less demanding when the change you want is really substantial and you don't feel strong enough to rise to that challenge in its entirety. </p> <p>I think this pretty important, and helpful in navigating things: you should do a lot, but you don't have to do everything. If you're pulling the world in the right direction &mdash; and being at least transparent if not forceful about it &mdash; I think that's enough. </p> <p></p>
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