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Beyond the Checklist - Making Real Environmental Change Print E-mail
Rick Juliusson   
Wednesday, 09 September 2009
Beyond the Checklist - Making Real Environmental ChangeI'm sick of simplicity. Uninspired by recycling. And tired of that damned old checklist. It's just got us going in simple circles, not moving forward.

A while back a family came through town in their veggie-powered RV - a truly inspirational and innovative lifestyle choice that provoked much reflection and discussion about downsizing, re-usable energy, and family needs. But when asked what their message is for other families not yet ready to live on the road, rather than share unique insights inspired by their journey, they reverted to a poster of the ten things we can all do to save the planet. You know them already - CFC bulbs, low-flow shower heads, walk to the corner store...

That's what I'm tired of; what makes me worry that we're going nowhere. The 50 simple tips books came out 20 years ago, and it's still the dominant message today. Sure, we've added in some new technologies and eco-fads, but the pervasive existence of a simple checklist continues to send a message that a little is enough. That some surface changes will be enough. That a few band aids and corrections and blue boxes will clean up this whole mess we continue to create.

The reality is that we need to do more than just change a little of what we do, or how we dispose of it afterwards. We need a fundamental shift in how we relate to the earth, to each other, to our families and communities. A new way of understanding ourselves, what matters to us and to the world and how those shouldn't be in opposition.

When that shift happens - when we truly start understanding ourselves as responsible members of this small connected world - the checklist stuff just naturally happens. Organic local veggies are the only foods that make sense, and long hot showers don't make sense. We don't just use re-usable shopping bags, but we use them in co-ops instead of chain stores, or fill them with farmers' market produce, or fill them with our own backyard produce and carry them to the market. Every new action and habit opens up even more ways to deepen the commitment and enrich the experience.

And the best part is, it stops being a checklist of things that someone else says we should do. Each new idea is a new opportunity, a chance to try something that feels even better, makes more sense, and puts us more in connection with our values and our world. I could self-righteously write up a list of all the ways our family has shifted and honed our lifestyle, but I'm much more interested in the changes to come. Whereas I used to heave a heavy sigh each time a new item came up on the list - knowing I should do that, but it's just another burden or inconvenience - I now am excited by each new possibility (even if I'm not yet in a position to take it on), knowing that it will bring a new level of clarity and alignment

So by all means, please do carpool and recycle and buy front-loading washing machines and everything else the list suggests. But then let's throw the list away and start making the real changes as soon as we can. As long as newspapers and inspired RV activists keep circulating the old checklist as an enviro-icepack or measure of our global responsibility, the big shift simply won't happen. The checklist needs to be seen as a stepping stone, an easy entry point into a long and deep and Joyful journey of the soul.

Rick Juliusson is a stay-at-home dad, writer and rural farmer committed to finding more sustainable, Joy-filled, community-oriented ways to live. He shares his experiment, challenges and inspirations at his blog, in national magazine and online publications, and next year in a Fathering book.

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