Sunday, January 22, 2012

No Impact Man and Avatar

My boyfriend and I each pick out Netflix movies for our weekends. We are that… old. Still, it’s fun.

This weekend I chose a documentary my mom recommended – No Impact Man. It’s about a guy in New York City who tries to live without causing any negative environmental impact. At all. This is going to be heavy-handed, I thought. My boyfriend brought Avatar. Talk about psychological whiplash, I thought.

I was twice wrong. I loved No Impact Man – mostly, I think, because he, Colin Beavan, and his wife, Michelle Conlin, are so likeable. Isn’t she great? I kept asking my boyfriend. I mean, the way they talk things out, and the way she goes along with this crazy experiment, not because she completely gets it, but because she loves him is so cool, but we can see it’s hard for her.

And I had tuned out the Avatar previews and didn’t know about the environmental theme. I appreciated the strong female and gentle male characters, too. The imagined world is spectacularly beautiful. So these two movies made a good pair.

It was good timing for me. I’ve been trying to be a Lower Impact Woman of sorts. I discovered that I could turn my shower down by half to reduce the water stream. I’ve been shrinkwrapping windows and walking when I can. I mouse around in the dark at night, only turning on lights when I need them. I keep my house at 60, and instead of turning the heat up during the day, I drag a space heater from room to room.

I’m still consuming too much, don’t get me wrong. Today I threw away produce because I lost track of it and it spoiled in my refrigerator. Ugh. I drive when I don’t feel like walking, despite my fancy new bus pass, and I still shower every day. But I try to keep moving forward.

I went through a serious funk recently, though, when I was faced, again, with the amount of resources used by the fracking industry. Fracking is on everyone’s mind here in Youngstown, and was even before our earthquakes made international news.

What can my puny water savings mean when my shower water goes back into the wastewater stream, yet the fracking water, millions and millions of gallons, is loaded with toxins, and injected deep underground where we’ll never get it back? I might walk the mile plus to campus, but thousands of truck trips deliver equipment, chemicals and all kinds of stuff to each well. It makes an individual’s efforts feel futile and ridiculous.

But Colin Beavan reminded me why it’s important. At some point our country will realize we’re in crisis, and we all will have to make enormous changes in the way we live. And as much as we’ve already done that, because we love this planet so much, will help transition us into our future. Many of us will have imagined or tried living without this or that, and found ways to reduce our consumption. And sometimes it even improves our well being. Beavan talks about having lost 20 pounds from biking, and being a better parent because they unplugged the t.v. And if we reduce our energy consumption significantly, we’ll be in a much better place to negotiate for renewables, so we don’t end up in some smoked-out wasteland like the forest people in Avatar.

I’m planning to walk to campus tomorrow, in the rain, and although I like to give myself an out if I need one, it’s nice to be reminded what’s important.


  1. The tracking issue is so depressing. People are not educated on the topic. I went to the council meeting in Poland last night--they are proposing a fracking project under the park. Initially the meeting was all about the money. Then the objections began, but they lacked substance. I spent the day writing a letter and gathering material and going nuts! Nuts. Fortunately we have one good rep. who is working on it. I could go on, but it was nice to find on line the ordinance passed by Pitt against tracking, which proved very helpful. I copied it for the council member I liked and went to her house for a little chat. So much for writing today!

  2. When you see tracking in the post above, know that I mean Fracking. The computer auto-corrects it.

  3. Oh god, it's so awful. It's unbelievable how hard we have to work to protect what should so obviously be protected. I'm glad you found an ally. Much is at stake. Let me know if I can help.