Navigating personal choices as if it matters

We cut down a tree yesterday.  A big maple.  She was beautiful, standing guard on our southeastern slope.  Her crown gave morning shade to our new raised bed, and so her culling was necessary for that food to grow and thrive.  I am hoping that her sacrifice means that her older sister, providing afternoon shade to the bed, can stay.

I felt a profound sense of loss as the moment of felling approached.  I visited her, thanked her, cried for her. (Yes, I hugged her.  I’ve been hugging trees since my second-grade teacher introduced me to the practice and I highly recommend it.)

She cooperated. She fell with a graceful swish and thud in the direction she was guided.  And then she was gone, opening up a swath of sky.

I felt her loss dearly.

We have felled many trees on this land.  Some have become the floors on our second floor.  Others have become the heat that warms us in the winter.  Still others have returned to soil to nurture the next generation of growth.

In a time when we need every tree sequestering as much carbon as each can hold, it seems wrong somehow to take them down.  Yet to put in the orchard we hope may provide sustenance in leaner times to come, we need to fell many more.

Navigating the unnavigable

Since awaken to the unfolding tragedy of climate crisis, we’ve been revisiting the choices we make in the way we live our lives. Perseverating over them.

But it’s fraught.

Will the actions of one family make any difference?

No. Not really. And also yes.

Eating less meat, conserving water, shunning the plastic-coated world whenever possible. Buying local food, used clothing and goods, and going without. Driving a Prius. These things are less than drops in the bucket.

And alone, they lead to complacency.

The system we live in is toxic; it’s inherent in the design. The entire global-capitalism-colonizer machine needs to cease to function in the way it’s designed precisely to function, immediately, for there to be any hope of averting catastrophe.

So will our small gestures of reconsideration, relinquishment, and reverence stop the collapse?

No. Not a chance. I do not believe that hope for salvation, for averting disaster, lies within these mundane choices.

And yet

It still matters.

How could we not do the things within our power? Will this not give us some small sense of agency and a chance to live our values? How could we not try?  Isn’t not-trying the same thing as laying down and waiting for the end?

So in some way, yes, it does make a difference.  It makes a difference to us.

And for right now, that needs to be enough.

The actions of many

These choices do matter in a very real way for me and my family.  For my friends who feel powerless and paralyzed.  Overwhelmed by the scale of the problem.

The matter for right now.  What can I do right now?  Something.  Just do something.

And collectively, maybe, perhaps, they may have a local impact.  Maybe. It’s worth a shot.

Telling the truth

Collective action matters too.  I went to a presentation by Extinction Rebellion Vermont last week. (More on that another time.) Civil disobedience is a path, a direction for action.  I will put energy into that movement, and I will bring my friends (are you in?).

Right now, though, I think the most important choices we can are to live within our values every chance we can, and to give ourselves grace when we can’t fight the machine.

And we need to stay awake, and to share the truth with everyone who will listen.

Our future depends on it

Are you in?  Will you join me?

One comment

  1. We are doing the same here. We are moving to Underhill on the backside of Mt. Mansfield surrounded by State land. The community is very active in climate change adaptations for the community, to make it easier to get off the grid. We are very lucky to live here. We are doing so much more than any other state to prepare for the coming changes to our environment secondary to climate change. Your family is doing the right thing. If every Vermont family participates, we may be able to preserve our neck of the woods for our children. I look forward to the day that we all live off the grid and become a part of the natural world and not it’s destroyer.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s