The First Step

Tomorrow I take my first official step in what I hope to be a lifelong endeavor- sustainable living. I am heading to Dancing Rabbit Eco-village, an established permaculture community (“society of communities”, to be more accurate) in northern Missouri.

As this is the first “issue” of my blog, I feel a description of how I came to this decision may be in order, to properly paint my perspective.

I never paid any attention to the climate change “debate” until around the middle of 2006.  I had recently PCS’d (Permenant Change of Station) to Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia. I also had just spent the last few years bouncing around the Asia-Pacific region with 31st MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit),and was fresh off my first deployment to Fallujah, Iraq.

I had long since understood that most of what we had done in Iraq was for oil; and I think this is no secret to the average American now as well. As such, I had already developed a disdain for fossil fuels, and our hopeless dependence a substance that would eventually run out. I was consistently plagued with the thought that we would be fighting more wars, destroying more communities, more cities, and more cultures in the future. Though I was proud to have taken part in such a widely-known operation, bear in mind that the Battle of Fallujah officially became to bloodiest battle of the Iraq war once we ceased combat operations.

Many of those I served with consider that statistic a “badge of honor” of sorts.

I do not.

I don’t see how I can be proud of such bloody conflict; especially an unnecessary one. It was an unnecessary war from start to finish. It’s now 2014, and I fear we are likely seeing only a tip of the “hate America” iceburg, that has resulted.

So, I had already started down the path of less consumerism, less fossil fuel usage, less bravado and nationalism. I had also become an advocate of checking the statements of our political leadership, and was appalled by the rampant lying, manipulation, and omittance of information to the general public, about a myriad of subjects. Even more appalling to me was the public’s collective aire of apathy and self-imposed ignorance. Had the war been fought in or near their homes, it wouldn’t have lasted a year. But since the reality of the conflict was thousands of miles away, Many civilians I spoke with/speak to  often approached it with the same mindset and concern as their favorite reality TV series.

And one quote keeps coming to mind:

“It is the coward that threatens when he is safe” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

So, I was already an advocate of moving away from fossil fuels by the time I saw  Al Gores presentation, and it quickly piqued my interest. I began tearing into the issue, checking facts on both sides with regular reports from NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association), NASA, and IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), et al. Of course, during this process I ran into many conflicting assertions. There were many arguments on both sides of the issue that I was never able to verify with any solid source. This can be a very frustrating experience, especially when the assertions are polar opposites.

However, over time one trend became clear; any time I WAS able to verify facts and assertions with legitimate, respected organizations/ experts, they always rested on the side of climate change being real, and instigated at least in part by human activities. This trend has continued for almost a decade, yet the public remains divided, I think because they just don’t have the time, energy, or the will to actually check the facts. Many would rather believe everything is fine, as that requires no adjustments, no change. It is the path of least resistance that appeals to them; the reality, the truth of the matter, is a distant second.

So, for the last few years, I have tried my best to strike up conversations at work. When I heard false/misleading rhetoric, I would regularly step in and assert not only what I had read, but would also give them the source of the information, so they could check for themselves. Unfortunately, this has never been met with a desire to learn or check any facts, nor a willingness to accept new information; it was always met with bravado and anger. When I would ask them for their source, so I could fact-check for myself, they rarely had one other than Fox News, (occasionally) MSNBC, or Facebook posts. It doesn’t seem to occur to citizens that none of those sources are dedicated to any kind of truth, they are dedicated to advertising dollars and self-serving attention.

After a couple years of getting on my co-workers nerves, it struck me that perhaps I was appearing as little more than a blow-hard; for all my talk, all the little statistics and processes that I’ve learned about over the last few years, I’ve never once put the concept of sustainable living into serious practice in my own life. I kept the A/C usage low, recycled, and even moved within walking distance of my work; but essentially, I was still living just like those I was pushing so hard to change. I began looking into ways of being a better example through personal action rather than just hallow, inexperienced (albeit passionate) words.

My original plan was to buy an RV, outfit it with solar panels, occasionally picking up and traveling the country. A much smaller-scale life, and much less wasteful. The plan was to head out west and bounce around some of the national parks, living frugally and pouring my time into astronomy (love me some space). I began a strict budget. It took about two years for me to reach my financial goal.

During those two years, I had developed some concerns over a few facets of the plan. The first and most obvious was the continued dependence on fossil fuels, through both consistent fuel needs for the RV and the continued connection to processed foods and petro-chemicals. Even though I would leave a smaller carbon footprint, I would still be dependent on big business for my basic needs. Additionally, the nomadic life of the RV enthusiast doesn’t afford one the ability to grow/raise their own food, have a family, or achieve any permanent solution. I began to waiver in my commitment. Quite frankly, I felt I had worked too hard to save my money to simply drop most of it at one time, for a plan with so many fundamental shortcomings in relation to my larger goals.

I had given some thought to communes, but had never really looked into it. I, like so many others, had the typical “hippie” stereotype in my head; free-love potheads who just don’t want to do much of anything. Way to gushy and weak of a stance, in my opinion. I had never heard of or seen any legitimate sustainable communities in the United States.

When I first came across Dancing Rabbit’s website, the name almost caused me to dismiss them entirely, as it contained an aire of “hippie-happy-go-lucky”. But I was determined to chase any lead I could, so I powered through my initial “ugh” factor and read on. It didn’t take very long to see that the community was established, it was growing, and it was committed to sustainable living practices AND outreach to other communities. The biographies of their members displayed a wide range of education an experience, much of it very extensive.

So, here I am. I have packed my bags, and I’m going to find out if this is the place it appears to be. If things go well, I’ll be applying to become a resident, and then a member. My experience level is pretty much non- existent; I have never gardened, never lived in a small community. But I do know a thing or two about living with few material possessions, as I lived out of little more than a couple of suitcases for about 8 years with the military. I do know how to get the job done, no matter what that job may be. I’m creative, passionate, and determined to live a life that doesn’t unnecessarily destroy the lives of others; human or otherwise. I am determined to sever my support of, and dependence on, the unethical political and economic systems that will inevitably leads us to more war, less available resources, and a potentially unlivable climate.

Perhaps that will be enough to get my foot in the door. Perhaps not. Either way, to never take the chance in the first place would be a terribly memory to live with. The alternative would be silent submission, becoming a willful accomplice to the rampant destruction of our environment, and subsequently ourselves. I’ve heard it said that we must BE the change we want to see in the world. This is my attempt. Let’s see how this plays out.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading. The next three weeks will be very revealing, and I look forward to sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly!! Hope it’s mostly good, haha!

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7 thoughts on “The First Step

  1. Good for you good luck. I know your smart and wont drink ant kool aid . I and my father look foward to hearing of your adventures .

  2. I knew you were smart and all but damn man….. You ever think about writing a book or something? If not you should journal your experiences & perhaps one day put it all together in a manuscript to be published. You are a very eloquent writer…….

  3. As you know, I enjoy our talks and can’t wait to hear your journey. But I never realized your journalism skills, Clear and short descriptions and ideas, A fluid journey through your growth, and the decision making process of how you reached this point in life, I knew I wanted to hear from you, but now I know that your installments are going to be more enjoyable than a regular –
    ” HI John, doing fine , Bye!!”

    My thoughts are with you and can’t wait to hear from you again!!!!!

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