Sustainability for Dummies

I regularly check /. (Slashdot), both as a part of my job keeping up with developments in science and engineering and as one of the many ways of generally training a wider eye. The great preponderance there is technology-oriented, and a serious plurality of that is gaming-related and so of little interest to me personally. But there’s a non-tech thread soliciting advice about marriage for geeks that serves as a good parallel to some wider points, green and other.

We should admit that the concept has become rather trite, even and especially as an advertising tool. I think it was at 80% in the first month, and has pulled up the remainder of the ladder in the time since.

Anyway, the /. poster made the point that he and his fiance were self-ID’d geeks and that most of the books about marriage were aimed at alpha-male jocks and submissive cheerleader wives and hence the incompatibility issues related to sports just didn’t apply to them. Commenters graciously pointed out, among other things, that ‘intelligent people do not need the rubberstamp advice found in self-help books’ and that honesty and openness were the paramount virtues of any marriage. Well put; those points alone open up all manner of questions about anti-elitism and best-selling books along the lines of ________ for dummies and what have you. That people are willing to self-identify as dummies in pursuit of some rudimentary guidance on basic human behavior is indicative of their token interests in the first place. Sort of like trying to figure out how to ‘go green’ with ease, without changing any of the larger elements of your life – you can just buy the right cleaner or bowling ball and Voila!

That’s as stupid as it sounds, itself a point that should be the subtitle on the Dummy Guides to Everything. Just as there is no circle drawn around your town demarcating a sustainable distance from work or play, there is no definitively green lifestyle, per se. Despite our fascination with collective experience, most everyone’s quotidian existence has certain unique aspects. It is these which are malleable and in play, open to alignment with planetary-mindedness, if that’s the idea, or allegiance to your favorite team, as the case may be. The point is not achieving a level of relative sustainability regarding what you are already doing but embarking upon a transition to less waste and better food.

We can’t superimpose sustainability on this system any more than we can mandate faithful marriages by tweaking the kinds of lies that are okay (or agreeing that men and women are simply – darn it – from different planets). We can identify ways to better living and begin to buy and vote accordingly. This will entail a lot of work and probably include reading many books and talking with people smarter than you (and me), but will definitely and without doubt result in better freedom.