M273: make-a-(green)plan riot for austerity

When I started make-a(green) plan I used the Riot for Austerity goal of 90% reductions in electricity, gas, water, food and consumer goods to establish my baselines. Step One – priority baselines . . .

What I am not drawn to are the contortions for calculating things. This is the link for the original rules. The food part is just mind bending. I won’t even try (and I am not alone there). I struggled with how I was going to track numbers and usage from the very first week of this challenge. I was correct in my notion that I wouldn’t want to record usage daily. Three was no way. I mention this because I had followed La Marguerite doing a daily footprint project for a time last year and I found those log numbers in each post annoying.

From the get go I haven’t had too high a numbers ever. Compared to average Americans I am an ascetic living on air. By May I think I was feeling that I was getting the hang of this and excited by improvements and new plans. This post was a snapshot in time.

At the half way mark I assessed again, but this time I just couldn’t make myself do calculations. This was when I’d discovered the word, Listacle (an article consisting primarily of a list) and proceeded to link to all of my posts that were essentially lists. I was really seeing the whole calculating, sharing part as pretty petty. I wrote, "My angst is this; I am wobbly about what part of all this matters beyond my own musings."

Despite the positive remarks of encouragement in the polite comments, I continue to struggle with the minutia aspect. Yet, I know for a fact it is important for a reader to have some measure of comparison. We just can’t know unless we have some figures. For instance, I can say I don’t walk enough and that this is the number one riot for austerity category, transportation, that I am weakest in changing.

The real numbers are that I drive about 16 miles at the very most a week. When my master composter class ends in a couple of weeks it will be back to about 6-8 miles a week. At that point it should be 0 miles a week because I live within walking distance of everything I need in my life. But, I don’t walk at all. Period. I used to walk miles and miles a day in New York, in Philadelphia and in the last year I lived in Phoenix. When I moved here I walked daily on the beach. Oh, did I mention that these daily walks were only for a period of a couple of months each time I started?

Sustaining good patterns is the toughest part. Like many, I am reluctant to start a new pattern (or re-start a routine) if I think I am going to fail. For me it feels more debilitating to have small failures over and over again than to simply hold off until it is time to commit in total. That’s just me.

I thought I was ready to make my big shift towards activity and out of my sedentary phase this last June with my Über Focus post. I then made a tactical error on my part by signing up half heartedly to an addiction challenge. I had to learn (again) that those things are the opposite of helpful for me making changes. In part I believe this is because I am a self-motivated person and handing over direction to a group or group leader dissipates my motivation. This is so important to remember for another reason. I need to be very careful not to rob those around me of their own motivational schemes. Tricky business.

So . . . I have achieved 90% reduction. Trust me.

But, I have in no way achieved my goals. This last chunk of the year will hold the challenge of maintaining or improving my low-impact sustainability reductions.

Nuns in Calcutta
Inspired by Rosa’s comments on the name ‘Riot for Austerity’


Rosa said...

Ha! Nuns kick ass. Seriously, I have met more really hardcore nuns through the peace movement than I would have ever known existed. Nothing like a couple nuns in the elevator, singing about peace, to *really* intimidate a slick district attorney.

I probably told you how my partner got a Kill-A-Watt (for me!) and that convinced him to unplug a bunch of appliances I hadn't been able to convince him about - some people are just more about numbers than others.

I think the Riot bloggers are split pretty clearly between numbers people and patterns people.

3 year olds are pattern people - Mica was really unimpressed by our talking about how long it was going to take to clean up the water he bailed out of the bathtub the other night, but seeing the orderly pattern of ceiling tiles in our kitchen disrupted (to allow the joists & plaster to dry well) made him cry.

katecontinued said...

Yes, I was thinking about that today - the statistics comments.

Love your 3 yr old Mica story! I am off to prepare for master composter class. (It cracks me up every single time I write it or say it).

Melinda said...

Yes! That's it! I really, really dislike the statistics people post, because it's not interesting and not helpful to me. And I'm really turned off by people in the group who demand to know my stats before they will listen to what I have to say. Because it's much more than the numbers. It's much, much more.

The numbers were a good starting point. But since I've reached 90% reduction, I feel like I'm nowhere near finished with what I need to do. I think this is where the Riot fall short. Because we cannot change the world by making small changes. We can help, but then we have to do a whole lot more to raise awareness, to build our communities, to make our changes sustainable....

katecontinued said...

I thought you did a really fine job with your 90% post, Melinda. That came across.

But, I do get it why I needed these numbers so much when I started, and I like knowing where I can look them up again. And, I was with dozens of people this morning in the master composter class who are conscious people - but do not live anywhere remotely near these kind of reductions.

Much more is need much faster. It is tough not to get impatient and pissy. I have to remind myself to STFU before I start.

I took a neighbor who broke his arm on his shopping circuit just now. Like a mantra, I need to say it inside my head. "Shut the fuck up, Kate. You have said all he can hear lately. Enough for now. Don't be pushy."

I remember vividly being pushed too much and resenting the hell out of the person(s) in past experiences, past years. I have been thinking lately that people are more tightly wound due to the economic anxiety.

What am I saying anxiety? Mondo Fucko Bu$h and Asshat Paulson have been threatening global ruin and despair for a couple of weeks now, right?

Melinda said...

I hear you. At our neighborhood sustainability meeting last week we all wanted to create big changes in our neighborhood... but realized many people don't even recycle. Basic, basic, basic... it's difficult to pick a place to start, and not to feel like you're running backwards.

How do I keep from the urge to just shake people to their senses?

My parents are doing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of remodeling in their kitchen and back yard right now. I've at least convinced my mom to add some new raised beds, to plant some blueberry bushes as a hedge, to use reclaimed hardware for the cabinets and doors, to (maybe) buy recycled plastic deck furniture... But my big push for green building materials didn't work. My suggestion that maybe now was not a good time didn't work. Sigh. And this is my own family.

You're right, though. Nobody changes overnight. And showing your own changes as an example - rather than telling them what's right - is often much more effective. It's so slooooow. Our society is changing so slowly! Argh.

But we push on, because we have to.

katecontinued said...

And I just got a hate-filled invective from my sister. I haven't heard from her in years and she recently tried to commit suicide. Apparently she decided to find my blog. I didn't give her what she needed, wanted in my blog (about her suicide attempt.) She also thinks I am contemptuous of my family and I am superior in my sustainability life. (Said in a much nastier way).

We have so many obstacles right in front of us. On the other hand, we aren't living in Haiti or Darfur or thousands of other shitholes where nothing and no one is coming to the rescue.

*sigh* It hurts.

Melinda said...

Sending a big hug. I'm sorry. Don't stop writing because of that, though. I love your words. And clearly you love to write.

Two steps forward and one step back. And so it goes, but we go forward.

Another big hug.

katecontinued said...

You are a dear - I thank you for being there.