Monday, October 22, 2007


This weekend, I nearly suffocated in Ecotheism and the Gospel of Sustainability. Thursday night, I and two or three hundred people sat in the Zeiterion Theater to hear Robert F. Kenndy Jr. tell us that evil corporations will continue to be evil as long as nice dopey people continue to watch crappy news. It was the opening salvo of "The Environmental Conference of the Year." Bioneers By The Bay.
I really don't want to be ungrateful. I mean, the speakers I saw entertained and informed. But how many times can you reinvent "social conscience and environmental concern"? As I sat in an auditorium that was split between guilty privileged people and entitled college students portraying the marginalized ethnic-types they sought to save, I wondered how these things go in other venues. The SouthCoast is a land of enthusiastic composters and recyclers. A land of disadvantaged folks who believe they are well-off because they have CD players. A land of people who ignore both. A land of people who cannot understand, see, or admit to either the poverty or the wealth around them.
A weekend like this makes me wonder if the Bioneers are even aware of this. The Bioneers are successful people who like to distance themselves from problems by incessantly chattering about them, subscribing to The Solution of the Week, and sponsoring weekends like this where they can buy Naomi Wolf books and then go vote to keep the TIFs and corporate welfare and phony war. Sure, the Youth Initiative were young people of color from Connecticutt and Lowell, but they were treated as entertainment and presented themselves as such. Did the New Bedford ones not work out? The speakers continually denied that the Green/Eco/Land Conservation/Nature Movement goes back a century or two. "It's all our idea right now," they seemed to be saying, "and don't you feel good about you?"
I wish I could show you one of the 7,473,984 programs they left by the free-trade organic coffee and vegan muffin table. They insisted you should use the program you get "for all three days and share it with other attendees." And then they told you to make sure to use the recycling bins and make the event as "Earth friendly as possible." Apparently, Bioneers need to be reminded to recycle.
It was funny to hear the clever socio-anthropo-eco-hero businessman fumble his way around the dilemma of "Of course we could buy ecologically-safe paper cups, but the plastic-coated are cheaper for our customers." You wanna be heroic? Tell your customers to use their own ceramic mugs. I'll bet there are ceramicists who need the work. I didn't buy his book, even though his main selling point was, "It's got places you'll never get to go." I was appalled to hear people say things like, "Women haven't been involved in ecological discussions," and "This new generation is the first to take up the green challenge." I dunno. A woman was my science teacher in fifth grade several decades ago, She got the whole middle school to do a river and field cleanup. This was back in these days:

I miss the honest, sparse and spartan life onboardship. My Beloved and I are both boaters and, living together on land, understand the importance of managing resources, recycling, and lording it over sloppy messy and wasteful people. I especially excel at that one.
Tucked atop one of my nautical shelves is a three-piece place setting made by my friend
Amy, who’s more well-known for her lyrical chair statuettes. Plate, bowl, cup. All a pale jade that reminds me of land, grass, and trees when I'm at sea. On land, the set puts me in mind of the color of the sea in warmer latitudes. Which is good when the temperature in this port is 9ยบ.
Conservation is essential at sea. A small galley usually has room for few mugs, but they serve as bowls as well as a service for your daily ration of rum or coffee or tea. If you have a bowl, it can serve the above purposes, as well as hold the stew or the salad or the sandwich. And that plate can be a flat surface for the boat owner to sign your check, or mark your sea-time, or … You get the idea. One object, many uses. That’s what that set means to me. It’s a photo album, a memoir, and a place setting.
The best power source is wind. Period. I could power off and fly sail to save diesel, but not the other way around. And sustainable. As long as I know how to tack. I can set up photovoltaics. I can run on veggie oil. I can row, pole, or warp. There's a reason why they call a quick wet-soap-rinse a "Navy shower." You don't throw things overboard; you could hurt marine life and you might just need it later. It's not a different planet, just a damper one.

Here on The Beach, you get lazy, wasteful, and cowardly. The corner shop that sells gas, beer, lightbulbs, socks. The big box store with prices so low you can't pass up the deal on something you don't need. The UPS truck with the package from the online HotSauce-of-the-Month Club. Other people handle the maintenance. And most lubbers think it's supposed to be this way. That we've evolved.
Diane Wilson is a personal hero. The shrimper who went on a hunger strike to stop Formosa Plastics from completely screwing her community and her livelihood. I got to meet her and hear her speak this weekend. Her book, An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, And the Fight for Seadrift, Texas , is inspiring and a damned good read. Whether you're a guilty rich person or not. She continues to stand up for what she believes. She showed me the worth of this silly back-slapping-Gaia-worship-barefoot-hug fest.

Maybe she can explain why you should talk to a sailor about sustainability.

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