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Choices

Lots going on this past week, with little time to write. After a relaxing holiday I came back to deadlines and stress, and all the good of my break is quickly exiting the back door. I of course am frustrated by this, and find myself extremely short tempered and cranky, torn between doing my work and taking care of myself.  Why do I always have to face this choice?  Why is it so hard for me to find some kind of balance?  

Ironically, my research is on the structural barriers to sustainability, with a focus on how consumer culture stemming from market individualism is the biggest hurdle we have to overcome.  In plainer language, I study how our crazy busy lives – generally forced upon us for basic survival – prevent us from making more sustainable choices.  

This past week has been a great example.  I am constantly having to choose between being efficient in order to make deadlines, and following a slower, but more sustainable path.  For example, in the midst of all this week’s madness, it was my turn to pick up the shares for the CSA.  I also needed to stop by the market to get some basics.  This took up nearly all of Saturday, a day I very much needed to spend at my desk, working.  Then of course I had to cook up some of the food that was spoiling in my fridge, and get other stuff prepared and into my freezer.  I also ran out of bread, so have been making bread.  And yogurt.  And sprouts.  Did I mention the pumpkin I roasted, gutted, puréed and put into the freezer after midnight last night?  All this food from scratch is very time consuming.  (Just wait until I have my own goat and have to add milking to my chores!)  And at this point I should also be starting to think about my garden, how to build a cold frame to get thing started early, going through my seeds, figuring out what to order and so on.  

Yesterday I got an emergency call about a border collie puppy who was going to be put to sleep at the pound unless I could take her.  Saving her (sustainable pet) involved driving across town, rearranging my living room to accommodate a crate for her, and now an extra dog to exercise without a  yard, and feed without an income.  

(Meet Kess: )

 

I had no idea my life could be so busy with out a “job.”  And while I try to live as sustainably as possible, I still fall very, very short of what I should be doing.  I still throw things in the dryer, I still drive a fair bit, often short distances when I am short on time.  I still yield to buying stuff that is prepackaged (like dish soap or shampoo) because I just haven’t had the time or energy to find a better alternative.  And despite my efforts to avoid doing so, I have still been buying meat on those horrible styrofoam trays because I haven’t had the hour and a half to (yes, you guessed it) drive to the inexpensive, drug and hormone free butcher I like in Strathroy (Ralph Bos Meats). 

All this to say, if I have this much trouble making even a few steps towards more sustainable living, how are people who work full-time jobs – or worse, several part-time jobs to make ends meet – with kids to feed three times a day and shuttle all over hell’s half acre, expected to make such changes?  

If I recall correctly, James and Alisa wrote in their book The 100 Mile Diet that doing the 100 mile diet was a full-time job.  To do it to the extent that they did, it certainly is.  This is why I decided on a few caveats before starting, but still it takes up a good portion of my time to eat locally.  Now throw in trying to make other changes, and you definitely have a full-time job on your hands.  When you already have a full-time job, this gets tricky.  In my case, I have a full-time job (the dissertation), and four part-time jobs (the library, two other paying gigs, and the dogs).  Throw a deadline or two in the mix, and I reach my limits pretty quickly.  By the end of last term, I was a complete wreck.  Two weeks into this term, and I’m quickly on my way to that point again.

Sadly, efforts at living more sustainbly are not valued in our society.  They may be deemed as quaint and altruistic, but if they get in the way of meeting deadlines or working a “real job,” they are seen as elitist, snobby and a silly waste of time.  I know this because I’ve had people make that clear to me when my ‘slow-ness’ has interfered with their plans, or with meeting deadlines.  Academia offers an excellent example of just how far we have come from valuing sustainable living: autumn – the season to harvest and preserve food in preparation for winter – coincides with grant application season.  Now if we lived in a society that valued sustainable food and eating, grants would be written in winter, not in the middle of the harvest.  How are we ever to over come this?  I fear it is going to take a major catastrophe.  But until that happens, I am going to continue to live as sustainably as I can, by choice.

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