What changes when you realize that your life, and those of people around you, are unsustainable, not just the myriad of consumer decisions we can make, (prius over a F350, reusable vs plastic, etc), but deep down, what really changes?

We just returned from a road trip where we travelled over 2,600km in two and a bit weeks. Although we did this in a Toyota Yaris, it still represents one of the largest single carbon outputs of our lives in recent time. It was a valuable trip for family time, visiting friends, seeings amazing sights, and even getting some work done – but I really can’t see us making too many of these type of trips.

We’ve made many changes in our lifestyle, expectations and decisions over the past couple of years, but I look around and we are essentially just an odd version of most everyone else, at least that’s what it looks like from the outside. On the inside though, our eyes are open to the reality of the environmental, energy and financial mess we are in as a society. We’ve been criticized from all fronts for the decisions we are making – people just don’t care to see that the future we’ve created for ourselves is likely to be very different from that which we’ve been led to believe will exist.

I’m happily a productive member of society at the moment, paying taxes, consuming a modest amount of consumer goods and services and participating in the formal economy in many ways; but with increasing government debt, diminishing levels of service, pension and unemployment benefit fiascos, bailouts, and everything else we are subject to as citizens, the impetus to opt out of parts of productive society will increase, and in fact, by doing so, in many cases, your life will become more sustainable.

Is opting out a possibility?

Published by Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada.

4 replies on “Possibility”

  1. I think it would be a hard thing to opt our of society in general, but if every person or family did what you are doing, Mike, I think that would be a great step toward sustainability.

  2. Hey Mike!

    Don’t ‘beat yourself up’ over these issues … you are doing more than most, and serving as a role model for many.

    It has taken me 50 years to realize that my parents, coming out of the Depression & Post-war Period, were actually on the ‘sustainablity’ band wagon long before the term or concept was much in use.

    As a kid, I was ’embarrased’ to be the only kid in town who’s family had a vegetable garden instead of a lawn, compost heap instead of Garbae ‘cans’, ‘cold cellar’ (what’s a cold cellar) … and working in the ‘garden’ on Saturdays instead of “playing with the neighbours” … last folks to have a TV set (B & W) …canning … home-made clothes or ‘hand-me-downs’ … turning off un-used lights.

    Then, it was all in the name of ‘economy’ and ‘penny pinching’ for the Family. Today we see that it is also about sustainability for the Community and the Planet.

    You are on the right track … don’t give up … might as well be ‘slightly ahead of your time ‘ … while there is time left!

    Well done!

    Raymond Koehler

    619 – 9th Avenue,
    Castlegar, BC V1N 1M5


  3. I’m currently reading a book that makes a tough sell on opting out as one of the only sane responses to where we are headed. Thanks for your comments, they help frame my thoughts.

  4. Yo Mike!

    I received this quote by email this morning and thought of your ‘dilemma’.

    “We must be the change we want to see in the world.” — Gandhi


    Raymond Koehler
    619 – 9th Avenue,
    Castlegar, BC V1N 1M5

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