Wednesday, April 30, 2008

I read an interesting article today about the Cuban fuel embargo period, during which food and fuel shortages led to sustained weight loss and improved health in Cuba. As much as we’re willing to talk about simplicity and say “less is more” and “bigger isn’t always better”, when it comes down to it, mainstream western society (and not just western society) is driven by some idea of progress as always growing in size and wealth, having more, not just having better or being better. It seems ironic that it’s so difficult to embrace the health and lifestyle and environmental benefits of having less. What I’m afraid of is that if we don’t embrace having less, we’ll be forced into it, in fact many people already are. But this only affects those who already have too little, those who are at risk of starvation, the people living on the edge in Niger or Malawi or parts of Ethiopia, not those in North America who really do need to lose fifty pounds and gain some muscle in their legs.

Unfortunately, I read Oryx and Crake not long ago (and hated it all the way through, although possibly being at a refugee camp at the time didn’t help). With the constant talk of food shortages and economic crises and the growing impact of climate change, I can’t get Margaret Atwood’s image of the future out of my mind.

It seems so simple: those in the west, in North America which is using far more than its share, need to use less. Less meat, less junk food, less junk, less fuel, better life. Then we need to invest in technologies that will allow us to keep what we need: solar capture, hybrid cars, sustainable agriculture, low-flow showers, whatever. And we need to help developing countries access these technologies too. It’s not rocket science, and any economic or environmental think tank can tell you basically how to do it. So why the **** aren’t we doing it?

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