JM in Gardnerville, NV -
"No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little."
- Edmund Burke
I was born in 1970 and raised as an environmentalist. I had a respect for the natural world, and enjoyed leaving a small footprint wherever I went. It seemed most folks I knew back then did too though. Nobody had a lot of “stuff”, but everyone was pretty happy.
In college I discovered credit cards…actually they discovered me. I was pulled over to a booth in the student union building, where I was told that I could have a credit card with no source of income! I was hooked! This may be the moment that started my decline into the world of consumerism for the next 15 years. The crazy world of credit…anything and everything you’ve ever dreamed about if you can just make that monthly payment. By the end of my consumerism craze, I had racked up enormous debt, had dirt bikes and quads, a huge pickup truck, a travel trailer, and all sorts of miscellaneous things around the house and in storage bins. It seemed totally natural to me, since all the neighbors were doing it too. Nobody wanted to be left out. I had even switched political parties to help protect this way of life.
During the 2004 elections, I finally took a break from this un-reality and started reading up on current events and what was really going on. One book in particular, “Crossing the Rubicon” by Michael C. Ruppert, was the wakeup call that I needed. And wakeup call is putting it mildly…it was more like a wakeup drenching bucket of ice water. The book discusses the crimes of our own government and geopolitics in a time of declining oil supplies. The term Peak Oil was new to me, and it scared the living you-know-what out of me. I even had nightmares about it. I knew that it was time to start making changes if I wanted to survive in the 21st century.
Making such drastic changes in my life has been tough. It took so long to get where I was, and I was trying to change back overnight. The first things to go were the dirt bikes. I saw first hand the destruction the dirt bike community was causing to the environment. I knew I was part of the problem, and just couldn’t be part of it anymore. Cable TV was the next to go. I couldn’t take the propaganda and corporate brainwashing any longer. My family got back into gardening, and began our interest in organic foods. This year we sold our ¾ ton pickup, our travel trailer, two quads, and bought an economy car (Scion xB) that gets up to 36 mpg. Selling all this stuff paid off all of our debt (not including the house payment…). My family has adopted a vegetarian lifestyle too, seldom eating animal products (except cheese…hard to give up cheese!). We’ve begun recycling and finding other ways to save energy like compact fluorescent light bulbs and skylights. I recently ditched my gas mower and bought a human powered reel mower. All these changes have left our neighbors shaking their heads. They think we’ve totally lost our marbles! One neighbor was almost angry that I had mowed my lawn with a Reel Mower! I think there is still much to do though. I’m always reading and thinking of ways to save energy and protect the environment. I’ve changed my political affiliation yet again, and started giving money to environmental PAC’s.
All throughout my life I’ve enjoyed bicycling. No matter which phase of life I was going through, there was always a bicycle nearby…not always utilized frequently, but always around. Bicycling has become my main passion these days, since it seems like one of the things I really enjoy and can still do that doesn’t have an adverse environmental impact. Back in 2001 I started a bicycle club at work. We’ve been riding during the lunch hour every week of the year for the last 5 years. Early on it was a fitness issue, but has evolved into a way of life for me. My garage is full of bicycles for the family now…cruisers, utility bikes, mountain bikes, road bikes, single speeds, BMX, etc… I realize this is a form of consumerism, but I think it’s a positive form!
Bicycle commuting was the next logical step for me. I’ve always wanted to do it, but I live 16 miles from work and the highway is dangerous. It took a few times experimenting with routes and doing partial distances (i.e. getting a ride home), before I got the guts to do the whole thing. This week was my first full commute, a distance of 42 miles using a safer route along the back roads. Plus I still got my 9 mile lunch time mountain bike in. Now I realize I can’t do 51 mile days everyday of the week…I nearly passed out when I got home…but it gave me the confidence that I can go without a car for a day here and there. I’ve logged nearly 90 bicycle miles since Monday…90 miles that may have been driven in a car!
I’m very happy in my new lifestyle, proving to me that sometimes less is more. Or to put it another way, “Minus is the New Plus!”