A year and a half ago I was sitting in Starbucks drinking a tall café au lait with a friend of mine who is an English professor in Boston. She and I were some of what felt like the few, the proud, without cars on the North Shore. But, now we were discussing my recent purchase of a car after my stint as a public transit/bike commuter.
“What’s the best part of having the car?” she asked,
“Getting to Salem so quickly.” I laughed.
“Do you miss being a walker?”
“A little… it’s a different way of thinking about things” I responded, “Without the car I knew I could only do one, maybe two things at a time. I could go to the grocery store but then I had to go home. Now I think oh, I can go to the grocery store, and Target, and stop by the thrift store and drop off books at the library too. In an hour.”
We were talking about a transition, a different way of viewing the world, a new way to exist in time.
This is what Bill McKibben, (who for the fourth time, I joined in a literary excursion) is talking about in his book Eaarth. It’s nearly the same book as Plenitude, though McKibben is terse and staccato. He focuses on environmental indicators of distress on the planet; Schor showed diagrams and pointed toward economic markers.
Both of them are trying to propose, in their own way, toward a transition, a different way of viewing our world, and a new way to exist.
They both take the way we (Americans and other First Worlder’s) are living and compare it to adolescence, a time of rapid growth, seemingly endless energy and change, frenetic pace and a belief in our inability to get hurt. They say, however – Look, we are through with that, we have come to the end of our growth spurt, and it is time to settle down. In one of McKibben’s metaphors he likens it to realizing it’s time to go from “boyfriend” to “husband.”
It’s time to transition, time to view the world differently, time to exist in a new way.
What way is this? Well, Schor wants us to define our dreams as one of plenitude, self provisioning, and collaborative communities. McKibben would like to decrease our dependence on carbon, increase our resilience to changing climates, and strengthen our local communities. There’s an incredible amount of overlap in these two visions, and when you visit their websites you find that their suggestions for implementing change, and even what change might look like are very similar. McKibben’s website is [350 dot org] and he endorses the Transition movement. Juliet Schor’s website and organization sponsors Collaborative Communities as a way to change. Both provide material for starting change in your own community, whether it is through PDF document, or a series of connected webpages.
In truth, I laughed a little as I read through the materials since they are so similar, but I still like the premises of both of them. That one person is not enough, that a group (as that old Margaret Mead quote we all love to parrot says) is what will change our futures, and especially that we must envision a new way of living, as a community, not simply try change things for the better using the same techniques which got us here.