May 13, 2010

Changing the Way We Live

This week, an NPR story reported that a growing number of people are "cutting the cord," choosing to have no landline telephone and no cable TV service.  Also, a small but growing number of mostly young people have never had a landline telephone; perfectly content with the cell phone service they had as teenagers, they see no reason to change.  Today, 25% of households have no landline telephone service.

The story caught my attention because not too long ago, I convinced my wife that we should get rid of our landline.  We hardly ever made calls from it, and when it rang, we hardly ever answered it, because more often than not the incoming calls were sales calls.

(Incidentally, I was not able to convince her that we didn't need cable; we now have the most basic level of cable, which doesn't include much more than we were getting with our rabbit ears and digital converter.)

Nevertheless, the NPR story made me think of other ways people are bucking conventional wisdom and redefining the way we live.

The most noticeable, to me at least, is the growing number of people, even here in L.A. County, who are choosing to live without a car;  people who have decided that the cost and hassle of car ownership just isn't worth it.  These are people who believe life is enriched by not having to deal with issues of ownership, registration, maintenance, parking, fuel costs, and traffic.  They also find it more meaningful and satisfying to know they are helping reduce pollution and our addiction to fossil fuels.

This addiction to fossil fuels has always been costly, much more costly than the posted price at the local gas station.  Most of those costs have been hidden from public view, but in recent weeks, some of them have come into the spotlight.  Catastrophic oil spills and deadly mining tragedies have allowed many to see just how high the costs are.  Some are even beginning to make the connection between their own energy consumption and these terrible events.

Once that connection is made, then one realizes that those who use energy, and especially those who insist that they have an abundant supply of cheap energy, are just as responsible for those deadly tragedies as are the mining and petroleum companies.

Energy companies are, generally speaking, the biggest corporations on earth.  They spend ungodly sums of money convincing the world that cheap energy is our right and that our current lifestyle demands that we have cheap energy.  They work hard to hide the real costs of our energy addiction - global warming, pollution, and deadly accidents and spills - and when those costs come into public awareness, they insist that they are minor anamolies that are insignificant compared to the benefits.

That's the conventional wisdom that we've been taught to believe, and it has led to a way of living that is not good for us, and certainly not good for the earth.  But a new way of living is possible. 

The time is right for a re-imagining of the way we live.  The time is right for a re-imagining of our communities and our society.  We can change the way we live, so that we can be friendlier to our planet, our communities, and ourselves.  Going car-free may not be the answer for everyone, but we can find ways to reduce our addiction to fossil fuels.  As a small but growing number of people are discovering, it is far more meaningful and satisfying than we had imagined.

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