Monday, May 30, 2011

The Interdependence of Choice

While interdependence, from my perspective, is based on respect, mutuality and self leadership, it is fundamentally about choice. In interdependence I choose to involve myself in life and I choose to manifest my creativity rather than following the dictates of default living. Said another way, it is about attitude and taking leadership over my thoughts, feelings and behaviours so that my choices, however unique, mundane or significant, are based on healthy care of self and community. Even if economic, physical or social constraints make it impossible to choose when and where to live, work or play; each and every moment in life requires a response and it is up to me in how I answer. How do I choose to approach the work I must do; how do I relate to those I must deal with; and how do I decide what manner in which I will view life today?

Choice, however, has yet another side. I was in Abbotsford the other day with what I thought was an easy choice: I needed some feminine protection, and I am not talking pepper spray. Desperation made me enter the nearest store. My senses went on alert — it was the Real Canadian Superstore, that monolith of monstrous choice where aisle upon aisle holds every conceivable wish to suffice a hunger, cure a craving, tame a tangle and mask the scent of millions. I immediately got physically (and existentially) lost. Thankfully, I was not alone. My sister, a seasoned suburban traveller was with me and, understanding the cues and mores of local culture steered me in the right direction. We strove past reams of Purex Soft and even softer Scotties Little Softies; snaked through towers of Cheerios and Lucky Charms and shivered our way through the frozen realms of Rocky Road and Delissio Pizza. Finally, slightly exhausted from maneuvering around carts laden with specially blessed products by Kraft and Sara Lee, we arrived at our destination: Feminine Hygiene. I stood transfixed, slightly in awe and touched with not a little fear. The choice seemed to exponentially grow before my eyes.

Pearl, compak pearl, flushable cardboard and plastic applicators, regular, unscented, scented (!); multipacks ,colourful packs, and packs to hide in your purse; regular, super and supermax; and combinations thereof. And that was just the Tampax brand. My sister grabbed a coupon from the shelf, “here,” she said, “a dollar off!” My budgetary mind clicked in, yes, where? A pack of 40 is $8.99 but the coupon is only good with a pack of 12 at $4.99. Let’s see, $4.99 less a $1 is … but that means I still pay more than if I buy the pack of 40, wait, there’s a pack of 54 for $7.99, yes! No! They are not organic, go for the pack of10 for $6.99 … don’t toss your principles: spend more; buy less.

I stood there verging on panic as ethics tangled with need. The blue packages blurred into one massive landfill of used protection as my mind reeled in facts I hated to acknowledge: “In the United States alone,” according to The Chic Ecologist “an estimated 12 billion pads and 7 billion tampons are disposed of annually. Each of those tampons and pads has an environmental impact of the waste of not only the product itself, but the packaging, plastic or cardboard applicators, as well as the less visible costs of transportation and production.” Then there are the dioxins produced by chlorine bleaching and rayon production (an added artificial fibre to increase absorbency) and, lest we forget, the marine devastation from flushing any of them down the toilet.

I slowly started backing away until yet another reality stepped, or should I say seeped in. Principles would have to wait. I grabbed the package in my sister’s outstretched hand, re-traversed the long canyons of undesired consumption, threw the money at the cashier and raced down the long hallway towards the restroom. I sat on the throne and sighed deeply. Relief, I was protected.

For those of you interested in another choice, one that bypasses plastic or cardboard applicators, and even organic and conventional cotton/rayon blends, check out menstrual cups (Keepers), or washable pads such as Luna. None of them are as convenient as tampons or have as pretty packaging but I am glad to say, do much less environmental damage.

The bottom line? Choice comes with responsibility and interdependence is about responsible choice.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sustainable Interdependence

I am an avowed environmentalist. I work towards decreasing my carbon footprint: I eat organic and recycle; I reuse and reduce; travel by bus and have lowered my water consumption. However, in a recent article by George Monbiot, I discovered that I am also lost.

Monbiot is a fervent sustainability activist. He wrote the highly acclaimed, Heat: How to stop the planet from burning (2006) and is a regular contributor to the Guardian Weekly. He is, in short, highly credible; highly respected. Monbiot writes: “The battle among environmentalists over how or whether our future energy is supplied is a cipher for something much bigger: who we are, who we want to be, how we want society to evolve. … We choose our technology — or absence of technology —according to a set of deep beliefs: beliefs that in some cases remain unexamined.” (Guardian Weekly,13.05.11).

He goes on to say that whatever future energy source we choose there will still be “greenhouse gases, other forms of destruction and human deaths and injuries.” For example, in abolishing nuclear energy, one then has to choose between fossil fuels or renewable resources. Neither is problem free. Seemingly earth friendly renewables still need infrastructure: hydro-electric dams are built of massive amounts of concrete and destroy natural habitat; windmills are made of steel and fiberglass; and solar panel manufacturing requires the use of toxic chemicals including arsenic, cadmium telluride, hexafluoroethane, lead, and polyvinyl fluoride. It aint easy being green.

And what if we become modern day luddites, return to the land and say no to cars, tractors, cell phones, computers, and electricity? Will we renege on steel shovels? Wood houses? Polyester clothes? All pose problems. Cob houses are an excellent housing alternative but then you still need to decide on light and cooking sources. Everything manufactured (or taken from the earth) has a by-product resulting in varying degrees of environmental damage. Organic cotton fields are thirsty crops in a world where water supply is limited; bio-fuels reduce land needed for food crops and recycling options are not always environmentally sound. And, finally, it is not just one person who must lower their carbon footprint… it is everybody. How do we work with exponential population growth?

Monbiot writes: “All of us in the environmental movement, in other words, are lost. None of us yet has a convincing account of how humanity can get out of this mess. I hope that by laying out the problem I can encourage us to address it more logically, to abandon magical thinking and to recognize the contradictions we confront.”

Okay, I admit it, I am lost. While on the one hand I am cleaning up my own back yard I don’t always look at the big picture. What I like about Monbiot’s view is that he is asking us to take an interdependent perspective on sustainability and, by extension, human rights, health care; life in general. I have to examine my own interdependent philosophy as closely as Monbiot does his.

Mahatma Ghandi said: "Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being. Without interrelation with society he cannot realize his oneness with the universe or suppress his egotism."

My needs (and desires) do not always reflect the global community’s and, indeed, the needs of the vast majority: clean water, adequate food and health are, for the most part, taken for granted by me. How can I respect myself, my community, and the environment plus strive for mutuality when I also want a car and an Apple ipad? (Read more on abusive working conditions at Apple’s Chinese manufacturing partners).

As with George Monbiot I hope we can open discussion in this blog on how to “abandon magical thinking and to recognize the contradictions” while living interdependently.

Meanwhile, I am off to bake bread … my own bit of magic making that belies the contradiction that two vastly different substances, flour and water, can work together towards excellent results.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A New Blog; A New Beginning

Welcome to my newest blog!

I’ve been on-line since November 2009 when I began the Creative Codependence Blog. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring codependence or, what Charles Whitfield calls, the “human condition” but I needed a new perspective. So, 87 articles later, I start again. This time I come at it from the opposite of codependence — interdependence.

Interdependence, like codependence, is multi-faceted. While both define intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics they can also describe how the world spins: government, industry, schools and other institutions can also manifest these behaviours. Interestingly though, when comparing the two, it can be sometimes difficult to identify what dynamic is at play. Many codependent realtionships, whether corporate or personal, appear to run smooth, eliciting fewer challenges than their more interdependently run entities.

Isn’t interdependence supposed to be the bed of roses?

The reason behind this deceptive ease is that interdependence is challenging. As opposed to codependence, interdependence demands that we stand up and take notice. Moreover, it is not always the easiest route, nor always the pretty one: conflicts are faced; compromises made; egos are questioned. It requires conscious awareness and, therefore, a creative response to life that is built on a foundation of respect, mutuality and self leadership. Codependence, on the other hand, is an unconscious reaction to life — a default way of living usually learned from a young age. Hidden and unresolved conflicts tend to direct the show with the actors on stage being just that, actors doing their best to be seen and heard with whatever it takes.

With this new blog I will explore what it means to live interdependently. What challenges do we face when we turn our focus towards conscious awareness? Is compromise always necessary in interdependence and what does a creative response to life actually mean? And how do you respect another who is disrespectful or abusive? From this viewpoint we’ll look at the environment, climate change, politics, and current events; consumerism, fair trade and educational philosophies; internal and external relationships, sports, art and spirituality. In fact, the field is open.

I welcome your thoughts, comments, questions and answers. We are entering exciting times. Let’s talk. As Victor Frankl wrote: “We [need] to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life …”

My next blog will address some of the challenges we face when looking at the environment from an interdependent eye.