Acorn & Chestnut

Few people affect me more than the likes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir. Of these three I've been reading excerpts from Meditations of Henry David Thoreau: A Light in the Woods and I am constantly surprised at how relevant their words are to now. So much that it only furthers my belief that everything is connected, no matter who you are or what you believe.

On that note I bring to you Acorn & Chestnut by Thoreau, a meditation that especially stood out to me:

I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest. What force has multitude? They only can force me to become like themselves. I do not hear of men being forced to live this way or that by masses of men. What sort of life were that to live? When I meet a government which says to me, "Your money or your life," why should I be in haste to give it my money? It may be in a great strait, and not know what to do: I cannot help that. It must help itself; do as I do. It is not worth the while to snivel about it. I am not responsible for the successful working of the machinery of society. I am not the son of the engineer. I perceive that, when an acorn and a chestnut fall side by side, the one does not remain inert to make way for the other, but both obey their own laws, and spring and grow and flourish as best they can, till one, perchance, overshadows and destroys the other. If a plant cannot live according to it's nature, it dies; and so a man.

No Impact Challenge

Credit: D'Arcy Norman under the Creative Commons License
How does it seem that a year can go by in the blink of an eye; as just one tiny suspension of time? It really puts into perspective just how tiny we are in this universe, and yet our impact is huge. I recently watched No Impact Man, a story about Colin Beavan and his family's journey through a year of living with as little carbon footprint as possible. I was moved by his endeavor and the very real conflicts that arose throughout the year. Colin sought to cut down his family's impact through various means like making walking and cycling their only mode of transportation, vermicomposting, shopping at farmer's markets and even cutting the electricity. Sound unimaginable? Beavan and his wife were criticized numerously by many, including environmentalists because of their 'extremism.' Many thought that going no impact was unfeasible and just something else for stressed out American's to add to their plates. But what Beavan was looking for was could he go no impact but still be happy? What he found was that even living minimally, he and his family were happy and healthy.

With the rapidly approaching new year it got me thinking about my impact and my hopes and dreams for 2010 (call it a New Year's resolution if you will). If I could go full 'no impact' I would but alas my lifestyle is too non-permanent to make it so. But I would like to devote next year to lessening my impact on this lovely planet, as close to no impact as possible. In fact, many people have already started their lessening with experiments such as No Impact Week hosted by Playing largely off of Colin Beavan's story, Huffpost set out to help guide people through trying a no impact lifestyle. Though I do wish it were more open to those who can't make drastic changes like switching to non-carbon producing transportation, nevertheless, it is still a good insight into what 'no impact' is all about. It's not about buying the things we think make us happy or that we assume we need but about simplifying our lives and making the most important aspects of our lives -- family and friends -- a priority. And at the same time we're treating the planet with respect. Think of it as a golden rule between us and Mother Nature.

As a matter of fact the average American throws out about 4lbs of trash on a daily basis. We're the highest trash makers in the world. And half the crap isn't recycled, adding to the tons and tons of trash in our landfills.  Everything we do today will affect tomorrow, be it good or bad. This is a reminder we should carry with us on a daily basis. The good thing is that 4,000 people have participated in No Impact Week and who knows how many more were already doing it. The smallest change can and will make a big difference.

With the holidays upon us we should also remember to keep our Christmas impact to a minimum, even if it means no gift giving. I know, it sounds terrible right? But is that truly what makes Christmas so joyous? The presents? Maybe it's the food and the time spent with family. At least that's what Beavan believes. He recently wrote an article on just that, a low impact Christmas, for Yes! magazine. Imagine the stress and money that would be saved by adopting this type of  mentality. It shouldn't be so out of the ordinary to give gifts whenever we feel like it.

The decision to go "no impact" is life changing. One that many people are not willing to make, but sometimes doing is believing. And you never know; one spark could cause a domino effect of change. The question is: Are you willing to try it?

Just something to think about.

(update: I just found started by Colin Beavan. Check it out!)