WORDS: KATE WEINER
IMAGE: NICOLE STANTON
What does it take to truly walk the talk? To really live by your values?
I've been puzzling through this question a lot since moving to Southern California. It's my first time living in a car-centric and politically conservative community and it's forced me to reflect on how I live and how I want to live.
Late last year, I wrote about getting around by bike alone during a succulent summer living in Portland, OR. That experience taught me so much about what it takes to live in greater harmony with my beliefs. My pursuit of a car-light life was sometimes easy and sometimes hard—as is true of life no matter where you are or what you're doing. I tested out strategies for living in a way that nourished me. Because if we want a sustainable future, we have to bring our passion and hunger and healing heart to bear in our own life. We have to work through our environmental despair and toward productive change.
Being surrounded by sprawling parks and urban farms in Portland fed my soul. Living in a city intersected by highways, however, has made my desire to be deep in nature a non-negotiable. Although I've always loved to hike and camp, not having easy access to a car when I lived in Portland meant that roughing it was a luxury. And while I still don't have a car in SoCal, I do have many friends who do. I've found myself taking frequent long car trips to the iron-rich mountain ranges and palm-studded deserts surrounding my not-so-little city. These experiences have affirmed for me that nature is everything: my activist spirit is always reinvigorated after waking up in some sandy campsite, the sky blue and sun bright above me.
But I also feel conflicted about how often I throw my knapsack into the backseat of a friend's dented van. I don't want to sacrifice my love for winding hikes and soaring vistas. Nor do I want to compromise my vision for a car-light life. Traveling by plane only exacerbates the fissures I feel between my values and my actions. I no longer live close to my friends and family. I take vacations. And since launching Loam, I've been incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to host activist sessions and holistic healing workshops throughout the country. Because of this, I travel by plane a couple times a year. I contribute to an incredibly carbon-intensive process. I vacillate between feeling guilty about how often I travel and grateful that I get to see so many different places and connect to so many incredible people.
How do we work through this these fissures? I don't have the answer. I only know that we start to find a solution to bridging our values and our actions when we dig deep into our consciousness. When we really sit with what nourishes us and gravitate toward what revitalizes us.
Most people want to live in a way that is kind to the earth. Because living in a way that is kind to the earth translates to green space in our communities and fresh food in our grocery aisles and stable climate conditions in our region and pure air to breathe in during spring afternoons when you finally catch wind of a bird's song and realize how much you missed their call.
We don't live in a world with the kind of infrastructure that makes it easy for us to live by our values, however. So we have to forge our own. And it's in this spirit of building alternatives that the space opens up for us to better winnow the distance between how we live and how we want to live.
For myself, constructing an alternative vision of the world means embodying hope. I try to be as intentional as I can about living sustainably. A lot of the time, embodying hope manifests in smaller actions. Because I want to see less waste in this world, I live a trash-light life—even though it means I have to plan a little more before I go out. Because I want to support soil regeneration and minimize food waste, I solely shop at the local co-op and farmers' market—even though it means I am spending more of my paycheck on food than many of my peers. Because I want to support local economies, I don't buy from Amazon or big-box stores—even though it's not always the "convenient" option. But I don't think convenience is a viable selling point. I don't think our mainstream conceptualization of "convenience" really means what we think it means:tTreating each other and our environment with kindness is always worth the "inconvenience."
And sometimes, embodying hope means joining forces with 350. It means campaigning for an environmental organization that I care about and working on tedious grants to help get money into the right hands and sitting in on activist strategy sessions in damp basements. It means learning from people who inspire me to live the world I want and who remind me that change is possible.
What it takes to embody hope—to walk the talk, to live by our values—will vary for each of us. What matters is that we are diligent and disciplined in our pursuit of doing better. What matters too, is that we are open to learning, always and forever. There's no one right way. There are multiple paths that are perpetually open, if we only start walking.