Thursday, February 26, 2009

Giving up carbon for lent


I was talking to Jenni Boles, who writes the My Web of Life blog, yesterday and she mentioned that she's planning to give up carbon for Lent. What an interesting idea. Today, her blog begins with suggestions to reduce carbon emissions from transportation.

My first question was "How do you go carbon-free that quickly?" Anyone who's tried to make these massive lifestyle changes knows that to do them completely takes an immense amount of preparation and research. Just check out everything Stephen and Rebekah Hren did to get their house carbon-free, or what James MacKinnon and Alisa Smith did to switch to a purely localvore diet.

The strive for the absolute is a noble experiment, but rarely provides a practical solution for the broader population. It's sort of like space exploration: We won't all be flying space shuttles anytime soon, but we will make use of some of the technology.

With that in mind, the lenten carbon fast is probably a good experiment for many families. Lent, after all, is not a total fast for 40 days. It certainly isn't in modern North America. But in Christian tradition, it is a time for sacrifice. Being kinder to the environment shouldn't be a sacrifice, one might argue, but consider the analogy a little further. The concept of sacrifice during Lent exists as part of prayer and reflection, all in search of enlightenment. The goal is to gain something through that sacrifice.

Since the holy time may be related to food shortages in earlier times, it makes sense to sacrifice something that the community needs you to give up today. Food is plentiful year-round now, so giving up fossil fuels is a much more relevant sacrifice. It will actually require you to change your lifestyle a bit, will require you to think about fuel and resource consumption, and will certainly increase your knowledge about your own carbon footprint and what it will take to significantly reduce it. In that way, you will achieve enlightenment. Perhaps not spiritual enlightenment, but really, isn't enlightenment that will benefit all of society at least as useful?

So, I wish Jenni and her family all the best with this and encourage people to give it a try. And to check out the My Web of Life blog for ideas on how to make the carbon fast work.

1 comment:

Jenni @ My Web of Life said...

Thanks for the tip of the hat, Craig!

I want to clarify that the focus of the carbon fast is to stretch yourself to do more than you normally would. Everyone striving to make sustainable choices is at a different place on the path. Someone who is fairly new to green living could begin with something as simple as walking to work on a day that they would normally drive. Someone else may already be accomplishing 12 of the items on the list. Could they stretch themselves to give up a bit more through the Lenten season? Possibly. This is where a bit of introspection and possibly prayer can come to play. I think it also helps people to make tough choices when they know that there is an end in sight. They don't have to 'sacrifice' forever.
The bonus is that possibly after the 40 days, they may realize that being a bit greener wasn't such a sacrifice after all.