Tuesday, April 13, 2010

We Are A Community - Lessons from No Impact Man

No Impact Man is a documentary about a family attempting to live for a year making no negative impact on the environment. Colin Beavan, his wife Michelle Conlin, and their daughter Isabella live in New York City. During the project, they attempt to make little or no trash, buy nothing but food, eat only locally, use only bikes for transportation, compost all their garbage using a worm bin, give up elevators, television, and eating out, and even ultimately turn off the electricity to their apartment. Any negative impact on the environment is offset by positive action, such as volunteering for a project restoring oysters to the Hudson River for water filtration.

The movie gave a lot of information about our impact on the environment. But the most interesting part of the film to me was the evolution of the relationship between Colin and Michelle. Initially, Michelle was skeptical and reluctant, and few habits die hard, such as the daily cup of non local coffee. During the course of the year Michelle is transformed by the effort to live intentionally and simply; she said the best part of the project for her was the intimacy in her family. Colin is transformed as well as he helps Michelle live out her own dreams. They grow closer without the diversions of television, restaurants, and lights and electricity. They spend more time outside as a family during the hot New York summer. Their friendships deepen over home made meals, games of scrabble and charades, and meaningful conversation.

The main lesson of the film, for me, was the importance of community for social change. Colin speaks about community:

People ask me, "If I can just do one thing, what should it be? Not use plastic bags or not use plastic cups?" I would say if there was only one thing to do it would be to volunteer with an environmental organization. Part of the reason for that is because there's community. I believe very strongly that a lot of the environmental problems in our planet have come because of the breakdown of community. Because without community none of us feel accountable to anybody else. All of us are interconnected on many levels. If you're religious, then you understand that at a religious level. But even if you're just practical, you can see that we're interconnected. If I splash a puddle and you're standing next to it, it splashes you. If I make pollution you have to breathe it in. My mind wants to tell me that I'm the only one that's important, you know? So I have to keep teaching myself over and over and over again that that's not true.

At the end of the project, Michelle spoke about what changes she would like to maintain. Her list included biking, little or no garbage, the farmer's market, eating mostly vegetarian (with a hot dog now and then), and no television in the house. The first thing she wanted to get rid of was the composting worm bin in the kitchen!

No Impact Man was very thought provoking. The project inspires us to look at our own daily lives and discover how we can lessen our negative environmental impact and increase our benefit to the planet. We can also ask ourselves how we can become closer to our families, friends, and neighbors and build close knit communities. As we learn to care for each other, we naturally want to take care of our environment which sustains all of us.

For more info, see the No Impact Project.

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At 4:55 PM, Blogger Racn4acure said...

Now, that would really make one think. As it should. Very interesting. If nothing else, it might make people think what they could do without even if they didn't want to go whole hog.

At 8:31 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Hi Art, yes, that's true. We each can do some small part. I think that was the message, even though we can't live completely without impacting our environment, we can be more conscious of our choices.

At 9:03 PM, Blogger Joy said...

I can't wait to see this documentary! I've been following the blog from before it got "big" and am really interested to see it.

At 11:12 PM, Blogger Anne said...

Hi Joy! You'll love it, the movie gives a lot of insight into the lives of Colin and Michelle..


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