5.3.4.1.1. Individual Steps

Of course, different steps can work. Even little things matter, if the scale of the repetition is large enough, that is, if others do it also. Individuals can try to question things that seem to be automatic behaviors, such as wanting children or requiring personal transportation. Margaret Mead noted that this is how anything has every been done, by the actions of committed individuals.

 

5.3.4.1.1.1. Live Frugally & Eat Well

A first step for an individual can be to live frugally. An individual can reduce her role as a consumer, by not seeking meaning in the acquisition of things. That would result in fewer clothes, fewer tools, fewer toys, and fewer luxuries, which would force the economy to change from obsolescence and growth to development and permanence. That does not imply being impoverished, just having a smaller selection of luxuries.

Simplicity can continue with the diet, by eating lower on the food chain, with more vegetables and fruits. If you cannot grow your own food, then buy it locally, from a small organic farm. This practice also keeps the money circulating in your neighborhood.

Reducing the consumption of meat will reduce the demand for meat and cattle, which will reduce the use of rangelands and resources for these animals. But, meat tastes good, and it is good for you, so make sure the meat is from a place you know is certified as being free range or organically grown and cared for.

Raising animals for food consumes large quantities of natural resources, including water, land, and oil; domestic animals destroy habitats and generate a tremendous amount of water and air pollution. Even traditional agriculture is being replaced by reliance on single cash crops, monoculture. Global warming, pollution, industrial farming and the monopolization of food production are threatening to wipe out plant species and degrade arable land. Then, there are the unknown risks from chemically-treated or genetically-modified foods.

An individual can live without many personally-owned things, such as computer, table saw, car, or lawnmower. Many of these things can be rented for short periods of time, if they cannot be shared in a neighborhood. If you live in a city, use public transportation or cars for hire. If you live in a small neighborhood, try to share rarely used things such as mowers or chainsaws.

 

5.3.4.1.1.2. Make Your Own Things

In many cultures, individuals assembled their own houses. That may not be possible if the house is complex, but any individual can participate in finishing and personalizing their house. Individuals can make their houses more efficient and naturalize their settings, with native plants in a sensible arrangement. If you have a yard, use natural plantings that require only natural water from rainfall. Arrange them sensibly around your house to cool or protect the house. Make things that you need to keep your shelter useful. Compost organic waste to renew the soil.

 

5.3.4.1.1.3. Reduce Consumption of Materials & Space

Many people are trapped in cycles of material addictions. Partly this results from kinds of social competition and runaway production, and partly from the establishment of artificial needs and wasteful trends. Health and possession can be balanced. This balance will reduce consumption and waste. Individuals can redefine luxuries and necessities.

 

5.3.4.1.1.3.1. Reduce Consumption of Fossil Fuels & Reduce Emissions

Walk or bicycle if you can. Get a hydrogen car if you can; otherwise try to buy a more efficient combustion engine, some of which can get 50-70 miles per gallon. Share your car with others in a carpool or pooled shopping trips, or share theirs. Take care of the car by getting it tuned and keeping tires inflated. Drive it more slowly.

Other needs, such as pets, can be shared, also. Shared pets would benefit many pets and reduce the number of unwanted animals-the millions of unwanted animals that are abandoned and then often disrupt wild or conservation areas, trying to fend for themselves.

Avoid buying things that cannot be recycled ort reused easily. Avoid buying things that you do not need. Avoid paying for them with credit. Use less paper or energy at work. Reuse paper and envelopes.

 

5.3.4.1.1.3.2. Reduce Material Waste

A house is often the largest item people will build or buy. There are many ways to reduce the impacts of homes. For instance, build it in a good place, where it will not cover fertile soil or interfere with water cycles. New houses are a major source of habitat loss.

Reduce unnecessary waste in your home. Do not heat it or cool it beyond a reasonable amount; if you want it really cool, for instance, consider moving closer to a planetary pole. Use natural kinds of change such as open windows or evaporative coolers. Use natural light or mechanical nonelectric devices to open cans.

Reduce toxic substances inside the house. There are many potentially hazardous chemicals and chemical combinations, even with substances that are benign on their own but toxic in combination. Gestation periods for illness or environmental degradation are long; the factors are too many and complex to consider. Since the modern petrochemical industry is less than one hundred years old, it is possible that the long-term effects of the thousands of chemicals in common use are not manifest.

Reduce the size of the house. Houses have been ballooning in size. All that extra space needs to be heated and illuminated, mostly by burning fossil fuels, and all that extra material needs to be extracted from the earth, then manufactured and transported,

Reduce the immediate impact on its setting. A big, new tract house with a lawn that that demands water, pesticides and a fuel-consuming power-mower, can be avoided. Often living places in cities or towns offer more amenities, not just cultural ones such as theaters or museums, but large public libraries, swimming pools, and parks.

Recycle things like aluminum, if you cannot avoid buying aluminum containers; recycle glass, batteries, and newspapers, if you cannot avoid them by reading on a computer or discussing things with neighbors.

 

5.3.4.1.1.4. Be Healthy

An individual can eat well and exercise regularly. Exercise can be a part of everyday living if you can walk to work or bicycle to visit friends. Reduce the amount of time sitting, especially in front of computers or televisions. Televisions and computers can be important parts of our education and communication, but they should not be the only part or the most important.

 

5.3.4.1.1.4.1. Develop Your Self

As an individual, you can learn something new about your location, for instance about many of the invisible parts of your environment, from insects to elemental cycles. Develop yourself before having children or caring for children.

Insist in pursuing a form of livelihood that is interesting and rewarding. The most important loss, according to Robert Reich, is the loss of the individual's power over their livelihood. Fewer people have the right or opportunity to choose their work, to make a living, to participate materially and meaningfully in society. They are constrained to taking opportunities present in the system, which is indifferent to people, other than as disposable, replaceable or surplus cogs.

 

5.3.4.1.1.4.2. Play

Individuals can engage in meaningless, unproductive activity. Do something for fun, without regard to its usefulness or rewards. Make something and take it apart. Play. Play is imaginative experience. Play is not limited by arbitrary rules and economic goals.

Play is the method of learning for most juvenile animals and a means of enjoyment for many adult animals. For humans, play is imaginative experience, entered into freely. Much human activity is play, in place in a community. Even science and philosophy are forms of play, attempts to solve the puzzles of existence. Schiller maintained that the source of both art and play is ``overflowing energy.'' Although early ethological definitions of play emphasized its activity as an ``outlet of surplus energy'' (Bolwig 1963), later definitions enlarged its importance in learning and information gathering. For example, play is also defined as: An activity with ``no immediate objective'' (Hall 1968); an experimental dialogue with the environment (Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1970); rehearsals performed in a nonfunctional context, of the serious activities of searching, hunting, fighting, mating (Wilson 1971); and, behavior that functions to develop, practice, or maintain physical or cognitive abilities and social relationships by repeating or recombining sequences of behavior outside their primary context (Fagen 1985).

Frederich Schiller, in his theory of education, emphasized the play of the imagination, which mediated and harmonized the needs of the body and the formative work of reason. For Schiller, play is activity for its own sake, where the drives of emotion and reason are harmonized. The state of play is whole and simultaneous. It unifies permanence and transition, chaos and order, and duty and selfishness. The object of the senses is life, the object of reason is form, and the object of play is living form, which he called beauty in the widest sense. Aesthetic play, like physical play, requires order and control. The rich flowering of human nature is possible only when the constraints of need are replaced by leisure and abundance. And through this facility, human beings and their institutions gradually evolve to a higher moral plane.

 

5.3.4.1.1.5. Participate in Community & Culture

Individuals need to participate in their communities. They can join conservation groups and volunteer to help with specific projects, such as saving bird or bat habitat. Work with the county or state on long-term plans for beautification or change. Planting trees works well for carbon sequestration, as well as beautifying an area and filtering pollution.

 

5.3.4.1.1.5.1. Work to Guide Nation & Corporations

Individuals can work to make changes, such as reducing the number of cars and roads, especially in roadless areas. Perhaps the number of cars could be restricted by a modified lottery system that allowed emergency vehicles and special needs vehicles and then randomized the remainder below an absolute number, which would be related to the number of roads and their condition, including crowding. Create a road-building moratorium; fix up the old infrastructure or replan what roads to be discontinued or changed into areas for housing or commerce.

Try to limit the power of corporations; work to revoke or amend their charters. Redefining corporations from fictional individuals to real, responsible collectives would make them more responsive to their effects and damages. Work to equalize things. For instance, try to tie politicians salaries to the average working wage, which would certainly be an incentive for them to increase the average; and, try to tie their generous retirements to standard programs, such as Social Security in the U.S.

Make sure that representation is more equal, with less gerrymandering by politicians for their own benefit. The Electoral College, for instance, was a good idea for a time when news was slow and people were less informed. There is no excuse for ignorance of the voters, now, so direct elections should be more effective. Try to get the constitution amended to reflect the value of wild nature and its automatic services that are incredibly expensive for us to duplicate.

 

5.3.4.1.1.5.2. Seek to Limit the Domination of Government & Corporations

Individuals can try to make sure that the size of corporations and governments fits the size of your community. Get commitments to invest locally to keep symbolic wealth cycling locally. Take community action to describe limits and restraints on corporations. Take legal action to correct corporate irresponsibility. Take personal action to educate others about elegant simplicity. Take political action to get representatives to address these issues, from local safety to international coordination.

Protest unhealthy actions. Write letters or make conversations about concerns. Start a dialogue with your neighbors. Take direct actions against harmful behaviors, which may be personal, community, or corporate. Get your community to be weapon free, not only from large weapons of national defense but also from personal weapons larger than knives. Get the community to observe itself.

 

5.3.4.1.1.6. Reduce Conflicts with Consensus Conversation & Compromise

Individual steps are incredibly simple. Start by listening. Accept what other people say and try to understand a different perspective. Many conflicts result from misunderstanding, and many misunderstandings can be resolved through communication.

 

5.3.4.1.1.6.1. Dualisms Conversations & Consensus

The words in any conversation may seem to contradict the words of someone else. Listening closely often resolves the conflicts in words. Many archaic cultures had formal paths to resolve conflicts, through conversations and consensus mediation. The political principles of band cultures are similar: All land is communally owned by the tribe, although household goods may be personally held; all decisions were made by consensus in which everyone participated; chiefs were not coercive rulers, but teachers and leaders with specific duties limited to their realm-medicine, war, or ceremonies for example. Population density was controlled by the traditional approaches to resources. Cooperation and consensus, as opposed to competition and individual exaltation, permitted planning to remain informal.

Government by local meeting assumes the common sense and wisdom of the common person in an open exchange of belief and need. It requires trust and esteem. Often this kind of involvement takes more time than just voting annually or having one person decide. The effect of presenting a problem before an American Indian council was to slow down response by passing it to the entire constituency and getting a consensus. This ensured due consideration. Living generations are responsible for limiting their actions within a reasonable framework of cost and irreversible change. The standard requires conversation and some consensus about the limits, which are never exact. Ecological value has to be balanced with socially optimal resource allocations that consider past and future generations as well.

 

5.3.4.1.1.6.2. Communicate Common Sense

Individuals can try to get other people to agree to be use more common sense. Try to get legislation changed to favor conservative measures. For instance, reducing the number of cars may be difficult. After all, the entire might and weight of advertising dollars is given to showing large vehicles ravaging the natural environment for fun-and it is fun to drive large bush-ripping, flower-crushing vehicles across the streams and the entire landscape, make no mistake-it just results in the suffering of other people or living beings.

Seek to have federal laws requiring recycling, as part of a larger use program. Saving humanity, or the planet, is ultimately a political task, and people do have power. The few citizens who were concerned about problems like the removal of ozone-depleting chemicals from cosmetic products, the efforts to ban unnecessary herbicides and pesticides, convinced others that these were important topics, requiring legislation and marketing awareness. As the marketplace has taken over a larger percentage of the public arena, people have more clout than ever, because the marketplace is accessible to everyone, and it is vulnerable to fads as well as to safety issues. Businesses are vulnerable to much smaller trigger effects. To change business emphasis, it may take only a change in profit margin of a percent or two. Mobilization, through communities, television, or the internet, has been made easier. Everyone wants to live in a healthy environment, and to provide one for the following generations.

 

5.3.4.1.1.7. Volunteer for Your Community

Volunteering is just the formal recognition of the required unavoidable participation in one's native society. It is formal because many people are estranged from the requirements of a modern culture or have forgotten how it works, as a result of alienation. Archaic peoples knew when to help others on projects. Modern people often have the impulse, which is reflected in the many volunteer organizations, but the effort is often disconnected, uneven or inadequate.

 

5.3.4.1.1.7.1. Serve Your Nation

You should agree to serve your nation for a two-year period, working on educational, security, maintenance, or emergency projects. The infrastructure of a nation, its roads, bridges, and canals, often need more maintenance than can be hired out. Special amenities, such as parks or low-cost housing, are often not considered profitable enough to design or build. Although emergencies rarely visit a community more often than once every twenty years, across a nation, emergencies are daily events and critical enough to need extra labor to resolve. Such volunteering will reduce the need for standing armies or drafts for military conflicts. This kind of service can be put to work on restoration projects, from houses and neighborhoods to conservation areas and wilderness areas.

Many other activities can serve a nation. You can also serve the nation by sponsoring laws that raise a minimum wage or issue coupons for minimum support for food, education, and health-care. Writing books and creating designs is also a service.

 

5.3.4.1.1.7.2. Volunteer Service for the Community

This service is common sense. You learn from the community that supports you with help and love. Each person should spend from two to four hours per week on community projects, from holding office to building centers or being a companion to the young or elderly.

 

5.3.4.1.1.8. Assess Your Self-Performance

One can always improve one's behavior. Sometimes people will consume too much or eat unhealthy foods or drink too much. The act of self-assessment can help people reduce self-destructive or harmful behavior.

It is important to keep things in perspective. Whether or not we buy a second car makes a big difference; washing out plastic grocery bags makes a smaller difference.

 

5.3.4.1.1.8.1. Question Things

The Union of Concerned Scientists has a handy rule-of-thumb for consuming: Ask yourself, "How big is it?" Buying an energy-efficient refrigerator reflects more on conservation than removing the light-bulb inside it. Buying juices in cardboard containers has less impact than recycling aluminum cans. Another good test is to ask: "What is this purchase supporting? Is it efficient production? Does it work towards my personal needs or goals?" Driving a fuel-efficient car or choosing recycled, nonbleached toilet paper is a decision that will be noted by the manufacturer, the distributor, the retailer and the market.

 

5.3.4.1.1.8.2. Act on the Answers to the Questions to Explore Changes

Asking questions is a good start, but then you should take actions based on the facts that the questions have uncovered. Actions have some effects elsewhere, even if they are not immediately apparent. Explore changes in your self as a result of your actions. Adjust your behavior based on what you see. Maybe the actions will not have exactly the effects that you want, but you will be more likely to understand how these actions mesh with others.

 

To see how these actions are based on responsibilities and on the characteristics of good places and good cultures, refer to the unabridged version of this work.

Dandelions Altazor Forest in Idaho

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