In Which I Get Cynical Over No Impact Man

(P.S. Reminder to self. Proofreading is good before posting. Proofreading two times is better and still usually not good enough.)

Spring is damn sprung. Already it’s approaching being beastly hot in this apartment which knows neither Autumn nor Spring. Upstairs neighbor climbs their way home up the steps and is tromping about. I have been sitting here with tears streaming down my face because allergies to what’s Springy about Spring are in full gear. Finally I realize, oh, my eyes are really really pouring so I take two Benadryl and now they’ve dried up and are no longer ferociously itching but the inside of my head still feels like it’s been turned inside out and scraped across a parking lot.

What I did this morning was I spent a little while wondering what it would be like to have $13 million dollars to drop on a residence in Sedona. Why I did that was partly because I was working on more photos from Sedona (see the Flickr account) but mainly because I spent some time last night reading up on No Impact Man and Family who live in nice digs on 5th Avenue, NYC, until recently had the 52 inch television screen etc., but decided to Go Ultra Green As An Experiment For A Year and are now eating food only grown in a 250 mile (or so) radius and using cool energy-saving bulbs and blogging about how to get along without restaurant food and new Diesel jeans as they’re not supposed to buy things like new clothes except for utilitarian undergarments.

He is blogging about not using paper products like no toilet paper for instance but he did find some recycled paper notebooks from Japan that he gets at MOMA (but he was down on his wife for wanting to drink juice from a juicery because the juice drinks are made from fruits shipped from overseas). And he has a book deal in the works for this project when the year is over.

And though he’s using energy saving bulbs etc. and not using the dishwasher or food processor etc. and is not using transport, there is also a movie in the works chronicling this and a film crew following him and his wife about.

Now how I went from reading about this to looking up those audaciously-priced villas at Sedona and wondering about that kind of lifestyle, I’m not sure, but it happened. One extreme went boing to another. And also because he’s relatively well-off and I’d read that before they went Green Very Green his wife had a splurge to help her through this time and bought two pairs of Chloe boots which cost two weeks of salary and her mother’s Bingo winnings (perhaps not these boots but Chloe boots cost a fairly steep dollar), I suppose that’s another reason I started thinking of What Its Like To Have More Money Than That Person On The Not Green Bus In Not Green Clothes. Thinking too about the Full Spectrum Fluorescent lightbulbs No Impact Man was touting that only cost $475 for a case of 40 and really reduce energy use but you have to be careful if you break them because they have mercury in them, which some say makes them not so good while others say no no you’re wrong they are better.

Yeah, I believe in Green. But reading No Impact Man made me feel fairly cynical, and this morning I found myself looking at the several million dollar residences in Sedona with their prime real estate gorgeous views backed up to national park land and which are no doubt second or third or fourth homes for those desiring to escape the city. I was thinking about how beautiful Sedona was and wondering what prices Those With Money pay for quality residences with grand views. I was thinking about how No Impact Man is going to want everyone to buy his book but during this year he won’t be buying anyone else’s book and won’t be buying any DVDs so slobs like us who have Not Green careers (Marty produces, plays and engineers music and me, well, I have no career) won’t be making any part of our living off No Impact Man…who wants us all to buy his book and go see his movie and invest in it. Feeling more and more cynical, and working on a couple of pics of Sedona, I thought I’d entertain myself by seeing what the rich pay for grand views from wonderful houses in a place that is beautiful and nice because it hasn’t been bulldozed and covered with city sprawl, which everyone wants to stay very Green looking, of course, so they don’t want you moving there (unless they are real estate developers) because though it’s all right that they are there, it’s not all right if you want to be. Kind of like No Impact Man wanting you to buy his book and go see his movie but not wanting to buy yours or go see your movie as your book and your movie don’t fit into the No Impact plan.

One could say though that No Impact Man is as dandy as all that because of everyone who’s going to read his blog and read his book and see his movie and so he might make an impression of some sort on some peers. Right?

Me, I’m wondering what his stock portfolio looks like and what his investment funds are supporting. Which, yes, I know, is really cynical of me.

Except for this. Yeah, baby steps. But then it comes down to the making money thing. And I think that’s where this really bothers me. What bothers me is the I’m Greener Than You Though I Make My Living Being Not Green With My Not Green Book Deal and The Film And Am Funding My Future With Not Green Investments But Buy Me Anyway Even Though I Won’t Be Buying Your Stuff This Year Because You Are So Not Green.

“Well, you do what you can do. It’s best to do what you can do.”

Yeah, sure. But something there seems so not right. Sure, we need to revamp how we live but the above model is kind of problematic. Isn’t it?

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

9 thoughts on “In Which I Get Cynical Over No Impact Man”

  1. I have the feeling that if we rely on personal virtues, whether those promoted by NIM or someone else, we’re doomed. Perhaps we’re doomed anyway, but as someone with residual leftist instincts I think some government intrusion should be a larger part of the answer, once we get the government back from the High Impact Men.

    For example, I can practice recycling virtue, at some cost to both me and the environment, since I live outside the city limits and my free private enterprise garbage pick-up corporation does not do recycling, hence I have to drive 10 miles each way in my 1994 high impact Dodge Caravan to recycle a piece of plastic.

    The city of Austin, on the other hand, like many cities, does recycling as part of the city government’s job. You put your recyclable out on the curb, and they collect it like your other trash. You do have to sort it, but that doesn’t require a lot of virtue. Unfortunately, I live a quarter mile outside the city limits.

    NIM seems like a nice enough guy, though he may be headed for divorce court.

    I read somewhere that those of us who have the lowest impact do so by being poor. By virtue of being poor, which is one virtue increasingly easily achieved.

  2. No, just plain personal virtues won’t do it. Nor will curbing the consumer but not placing heavy penalties on big business. Infrastructures need to change and how communities are developed.

    I suppose I’m just more cynical than you because I remain skeptical of NIM.

  3. I pondered this throughout the day yesterday. Grizzled thought anyone drawing attention to the cause was admirable no matter how self-serving their plan… I’m on the fence. NIM left a bitter taste in my mouth. Maybe it was his wife needing to stock up on luxuries before taking the no impact plunge. Gack.

    I know Grizzled and I try to do our best and then even better, but it is frustrating when we see someone’s Hummer blast past or see someone not even taking advantage of the city’s recycling program. I still have a carbon footprint even though I am attempting to make it smaller. It’s frustrating to see people who don’t even think about it and then to see corporations profiting from the large footprints left across the land.

    They say a bigger tax is what’s needed… a tax that will cause people to feel the pain of their choices… to have a true cause and effect that is felt right away. I agree to a degree, but I get frustrated when I hear that the consumers must make up all of the difference. If we want wind-powered electricity, we should be ready to pay twice as much… the providers don’t care what the source is, what the product is, as long as they are making a huge profits. Why must they make such a large profit? Why is the corporate profit always coming first? I know why… I just don’t understand it. I have no problem paying more for certain things. I think we’ve all been spoiled by not paying what things are worth. We expect everything for nothing even though somewhere, someone is getting screwed for our desires. I’d just like to see the corporations paying a little more as well. I can dream.

  4. It’s gonna sound harsh, I guess, but until the Fairy Tale Princes and Princesses with their Castles in the Sky (both corporate and private) are looked upon as true social pariahs rather than people sighing dreamily over it all and media hyping all to lust after and mimic the lifestyle, then we’re screwed. Because as long as that upscale is hyped, people will keep desiring to scale that kind of up rather than make conscientious moves downward. Which I know seems to put it back on the consumer, but I’m thinking of the still way too many consumers who have no problem with how govt and corporations conduct themselves as they really do want what they’ve got and so can’t condemn as they’d be condemning what they want to be in the future. Which doesn’t help matters.

    Until Upscale becomes trimming way back and the big profit margins and galaxy sized salaries are viewed as criminal, we’re screwed.

    All that just to say I agree.

  5. No Impact Man is a nincompoop. A jackass. On Colbert, he looked like Something The Cat Dragged In.

    No Impact Man makes me channel my grandparents. I’m only a few years older than Colin, but I feel a couple of generations removed. Maybe it’s because he is so wet behind the ears. My Grampa Lee used to talk about the Depression, how people survived, even in the city, because they knew how to do for themselves and wasted nothing. He talked about people growing food, even keeping chickens and goats, on the fire escapes. he wondered aloud, how people today (this was in 1980) would survive another depression, because they don’t know how to do anything.

    No Impact Man , aka No Skills Man, gives us the answer to Grampa Lee’s question. My daughter Liz said “I don’t know who I pity more, the guy who’s married to a woman who can’t cook, or the woman whose husband makes here publicly renounce toilet paper.” Colin’s analytical skills are lacking, but he has plenty of company; his comments are filled with people who think you can save the world by skipping shampoo and toilet paper. He can’t ride a bike safely. Most curious to me, when he does end up in an accident on his bike he does not have the social skills it takes to ask any of the people around him if he could borrow a cell phone to call his wife.

    Which is why i also call him No Contact Man. Except for the guy that hooked him up with worms for his compost, and people at protests, you never see any evidence that this guy talks to the people in his community. He has made it a virtue to give up the subway, despite the negligible environmental benefit of doing so, but he says nothing on his blog about the heat in his apartment building — no doubt the biggest single energy debt his family owes. He excused this on Talk of the Nation by saying that heat was part of his rent so he couldn’t do anything about it and it was up to “each person to make their personal choice” on how to save the planet. I would be so much more impressed if he were even contemplating getting together with his neighbors to do an energy assessment of the building. I would be so much more impressed if he seemed to know any of the neighbors’ names.

    “Something the Cat Dragged In” was one of my Grandma Mimi’s favourite expressions. I look at pictures of her in the 1930’s, when Grandpa had a job , but they cut his pay in half, and then a few months later in half again. Mimi went from being a spoiled southern belle to being a flapper, to plucking a home grown chicken every Sunday and turning it into a meal that fed 10 people. In pictures, she always looked good, even if she hadn’t been shopping for years. Colin, on Colbert, looked like he couldn’t figure out how to use a comb or how to hang his clothes up. Like being an environmentalist means you have to look like a bum.

    It’s working for him. He has started a half-assed project and attracted tons of media attention. Is it working for the planet? Daughter Liz, a newly minted environmental studies major, worries that people won’t give up driving soon enough to prevent serious climate damage. She groaned when she read about No Impact Man’s toilet paper rules. “If people have to choose between saving the world and using toilet paper, the world is gonna lose.”

  6. Susan, funny you found your way here. A couple weeks ago when for about a week I was looking at No Impact Man’s site, I must have seen a comment you left there (maybe on the buses and how they are not part of the problem but a solution) because I remember visiting your website and reading several posts, looking at the picture of the Champion Poplar, and enjoying it and what I’d read. One of the things that struck me was the sense of a blog where one saw community going on, which you have brought up in your post, looking for solutions in community.

    As I’ve noted, I’m skeptical about No Impact Man, and his blog hasn’t made me less skeptical. I think you raise a number of valid points, particularly about community. It could be No Contact Man views the internet instead as a way to build community, and in some instances I think it has that potential, but the type of community you’re referring to shouldn’t be neglected if possible. Some urban environments facilitate it better than others.

    I was about to quote what I thought was one of the better comments on No Impact Man’s blog, in which it was stated that it was believed he was confusing independence with efficiency, and I went to his blog to get the exact quote and see that it was you who had made the remark…which is why I would have gone to visit your blog back then as I was impressed by your observation, which I was trying to say in my own backward way here and which I didn’t do a very good job of expressing.

    Anyway, to quote what I think is the best observation I think I’ve read so far, No Impact Man is confusing independence with efficiency. 🙂

  7. P.S. I found it interesting his posting on how he needed a committed assistant to work for free…with their own computer, from their own location, using their own electricity in other words and etc. Which means he wants an assistant (for free) who will perhaps probably be able to accomplish certain tasks more easily than he can right now. But what really irked was the 10 hours a week for free when this is a cash enterprise for him.

  8. I don’t know why No Impact Man bugs me so much. Probably because he’s wasting precious time.

    On the other hand, the rich need to buy those state-of-the-art solar panels and Priuses and energy saving appliances, so that the manufactuers can get the kinks out and eventually lower the price so the rest of us can afford those things. Better his ilk is buying solar panels that monster TVs.

    Yes, that was me commenting over there. Also me shouting in capitals about his vision of kitchen soap making (with olive oil!) warning that you shouldn’t keep lye around the house when you have a two year old. I hope the kid survives.

    I am lucky to live in a vibrant community with nosy neighbors who know how to do things. I’m also lucky to have grown up with long-lived granparents who told me their stories.

    Maybe No Impact Man bugs me because because I’ve been doing his experiment, with much more introspection and much less fanfare, my whole life. Remember “Think Globally, Act Locally?” and “Live Simply, so that Others May Simply Live?” I have an idea I will be out turning the compost and a carload of hecklers will pull over and shout “Who do you think you are, No Impact Man?”

    Anyway, thanks to the rich folks for getting geeked on computers and the internet so the rest of us could eventually afford to have this conversation. And thanks for posting this blog; I have been so far unable to write about No Impact Man on my own page, but I’m getting closer to getting it together.
    You might enjoy reading about my flapper grandma, and “cootie garages” here:

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