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Pro-Impact Woman

March 19, 2012

This post is a critique of the “No Impact Man” experiment, and not necessarily of eco-stunts (of which there are many). I reject this isolationist view of ecological health, and much prefer to be a Pro Impact Woman.

So, I’ll jump right in by saying that I respect, truly, what people like Colin Beavan are doing as a reflection on the current environmental crisis. I will never scold someone’s desire to reduce their negative impacts on the environment. I also don’t want to downplay the importance of bringing global environmental challenges into the awareness of the general public. His work got folks thinking about their relationship to objects, to nature, each other, the world. And that’s certainly nothing to shake a stick at.

And I will also concede that the website has made it clear that the experiment was more “No Net Impact,” and that does imply the acknowledgement of some impact, inevitable by simply staying alive. But still: I’m very disappointed to have tag-lines and buzzwords such as “no-impact” being thrown around in the environmental movement. I’m going to make a case here for “pro-impact,” and hopefully through this positive human-ecology terminology, gain more public support. Speaking of public support, does it really help the cause to self describe as, “a guilty liberal who attempts to save the planet”?    *slaps forehead*

And as for the guilt associated with generating waste, again, I don’t want to stand in someone’s way if they’d like to eliminate their landfill waste input. Beavan, when describing his motivations for the lifestyle experiment, said that he wanted to, “find a way to encourage a society that emphasizes a little less self-indulgence.” Fine, I’ll stand with you there, sort-of.

But I would seriously question someone who wastes energy trying to eliminate “waste.” Not one system has zero-output; be it ecologic, social, material, energetic, etc. An output, once holistically understood, is not characterized as a waste, but as a resource. Officially, waste is an excess of an unused resource. Similarly, “consumption” has become a dirty word among many environmentalist groups. And I’ll make the same argument, that no system can survive without some form of consumption. One system consumes the output product of another, and so on.

So, why would we expend our precious energy trying to eliminate the essential elements of how we operate? The problem isn’t “self-indulgence,” we shouldn’t slap ourselves on the wrist for consuming and creating wastes. The problem is the nature of the wastes we produce, and the source of our consumption. Our wastes are toxic, and what we consume has been removed from our awareness. We should instead look to improving our relationship with what we consume and produce, so that we understand their source and destination, respectively. With a more mature relationship to these elements come transparency and awareness, so as to make better decisions. It’s not about ending a linear relationship all together, it’s about bringing it full circle.

And, humans have physiologically evolved as integral parts of the ecology, just as an ecology can prosper under our stewardship. It doesn’t make us healthier to remove us from the ecological contexts that we co-evolved in. We are literally hard-wired to be involved with nature. One example being how our anxiety levels decrease and seratonin levels increase when we interact with soil. And so, it doesn’t feel good to be shamed in light of our shortcomings, and tip-toe around, trying to be a “No Impact Man.” Post Earth Day environmentalism imposes a dichotomy of Humans and Nature, and no sir, I don’t like it.  I think it would be far more productive to accept responsibility for our impact, and to enjoy the positive aspects of it. That makes humanity a robust and integral part of the participatory ecology.

Ecological design will try to account for human needs and outputs within the context and appropriateness of place, and bring these elements into a regenerative cycle within the ecology.  Successful, regenerative design solutions have allowed humans to consume and output in a healthy, productive way. Ecological design acknowledges and celebrates participatory ecology.

I, along with my fellow stewards, will choose to be a “Pro-Impact Woman, (or Man).” Wherein I won’t deny my consumption or waste, but instead embrace it as part of something larger than myself. And I will try to re-cycle it into the ecology, productively and beautifully.

We are ecology. Accepting that responsibility and increasing our positive impact should be where we exercise our precious human energy, as opposed to shaming our existence and discouraging human-nature interactions in the process.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2012 10:19 pm

    Ah Emily you put such a positive and productive spin on this stuff. You go, pro-impact woman! Ps, I like your blog a lot, it’s in my google reader.

    -Julia

    • March 20, 2012 11:22 am

      Thanky Julia! I’m glad you’re reading… and it’s way more fun to be positive about something then being a debbie downer, or so I’m learning. Hope you’re doin’ well!

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