[originally written 12/07]
This posting is actually from an email that a friend of mine sent to me and my response to him. David Brosch is an energy audit expert with a small company in the suburbs of DC called Green Home/Blue Sky: Holistic House Audit.
(Oh, if you want to reach David for an energy audit, his # is: cell-240-888-1225. And no, he did not pay me for this plug. ;~)
I will give you a call preceding my next visit to B-town…
I find it ironic that while I really want to be green and do a business that can have a positive effect I seldom spend time considering the bigger picture and instead deal with the day to day things like measuring doors and windows for energy ratings, driving many hours in traffic, and dealing with numerous other mundane things that don’t account for much. I try to convince a lady to use CFLs who does not like the quality of light and another who does not like the concept of setback thermostats. I have to figure out how to charge for blown insulation so I don’t lose money, and how much time to spend in homes with auditing clients so I am not wasting my time which also has a value.
I feel like I am tinkering or fiddling while Rome burns.
Wish it were possible to say to people that the prime reason I am in their homes is because of climate change and that their decisions to do energy upgrades in their homes should be based as much upon our current environmental crisis as their family financial situation.
Progress and change often seems dismally slow. Individual action constitutes a drop in the proverbial ocean. Can we really have any impact?
Enviro-Healers, Take Heart…
I’ve been mulling over your email for several days now…thinking how best to respond to you from my humble place of being a gardener most of the year and writer the rest of it – these days.
First of all, I can understand deeply your frustration and wavering hope that any of your efforts are going to make any kind of impact, given the global dynamics of climate change and other negative environmental trends in process now. We live in very ‘interesting’ times and looking for hope while faced with ongoing headlines of Greenland’s ice caps melting and plummeting polar bear populations etc, is a tough proposition.
But I encourage you to take heart in your work and the longer-term impacts of what you are doing. We never know what seeds we plant in going out to hit the streets and educate others on the need to be more energy efficient (and environmentally sensitive across the board). If your clients are solely concerned about saving money with rising energy costs – I encourage you to just go with that angle then to capture their attention and commitment. Don’t worry about needing to educate them on the larger environmental picture. Some people don’t want the bigger picture, they only want the bottom-line reasons to change. And if you try to foist the bigger picture on them, then you’ll be proselytizing and we know how few people relish receiving the missionary approach. So long as they make the changes… that’s the important thing.
If you have clients who pay for you to come and advise them and then they don’t make the adjustments with more efficient lightbulbs or tucking more insulation into a corner of the basement, then so be it. You can know that you’ve done all that you could in that consult and walk away. Remember, you’re planting seeds. Not all seeds germinate at the same rate and in the same places. You’ve done your part…Let them cogitate on your counsel and make their choices in their own time. They will probably eventually come around to making the changes given the ever-higher utility rates – unless they’re quite weathy.
Maybe at some point when your business is feeling really solid, you can gift your clients with a copy of An Inconvenient Truth to thank them for their business. That way, you’re inviting them to wake up more and share it with their friends while gifting them with appreciation for their interest in your professional work. This type of more subtle “missionary” effort would probably be great. ;~)
It’s interesting. You mentioned how you feel that you are getting caught up in the various details of measuring doors and windows and other mundane tasks that don’t seem to account for much – as you put it. It made me think of the expression: “God is in the details.” But in this case: “Being Green is in the details.” For all of us, it’s the minutiae of figuring out all the various little corners and crannies of sustainability that need more tightening and shifting that will help us evolve incrementally to that vision of a greener, healthier future.
At present, within your field of energy auditing and retrofits, the best that can be done with the heating and cooling infrastructure is to learn ways to use as little energy as possible while we encourage our elected officials and utility companies to make the larger shifts to renewable energy sources. If the greater majority of us have made the changes in our homes and offices to use less energy, then this will facilitate the potential for these greener sources of energy and heat to meet our demands as they get phased in.
Bill McDonogh, the reknowned green architect and speaker, talks about the need for a redesign of how we live and work and build our physical environment, along with source our energy. He uses the analogy of realizing that you’re going in the wrong direction on the highway. You know that simply decelerating is not going to get you to your destination. You’ve got to turn around. He points out that our current energy efficiency efforts are all ways to decelerate when we need to frankly be going in a different direction. He raises an interesting analogy, but I think there is a better one. In actuality we need to change vehicles and, in doing that, be headed in that better direction. But changing vehicles can’t happen overnight. Consequently it’s the process of making the transition of being more energy efficient while simultaneously creating the greener energy systems that is critical right now.
I have a quote taped to the mirror in my hallway from that amazing spiritual teacher, Gandhi. It goes: “Whatever you do may seem insignificant but it is most important that you do it.” I look at this quote countless times a day (especially when I’m working at home) and really try to imprint it in my psyche. Some days I can believe it more than others. Life is like that. Just as the ocean is only made up of drops of water and each drop counts, no matter how insignificantly small it is, each one of our positive green actions is a drop, some just larger than others. They do add up.
The amazing thing is that there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of people all over the world working for a healthier, more positive planet. Paul Hawkins has just come out with a book in 2007 called Blessed Unrest which speaks to the decentralized movement of groups all over the planet that are working on environmental and social justice issues to help the planet and ourselves heal. It’s quite phenomenal the amount of energy and brilliance that is behind all of these change agents and their groups.
But those of us who are going it alone, in our small, independent companies and solo non-profit efforts can feel like we’re the only ones doing the work in our isolation. Yet, the reality is that there is a vast global network of people tapping each other’s intelligence, resourcefulness and resources to move us all forward. It’s akin to the underground mycorrhizal root system of a mushroom that grows underground slowly and persistently to appear enmasse above ground one day. The companies that make the compact fluorescents that you recommend to your clients are part of your network, along with the other companies that make products that you encourage people to purchase. I’m part of your network and you are part of mine. In truth, we are a huge collective web of support to help all of us move forward and keep the momentum.
Sure, we don’t know what the future holds. All we can do in the moment is know that we’re making the effort to help us create a more positive future. We don’t know what is enough to help us reach the seemingly untenable future that is healthier, more balanced and ecologically restorative. The planet is so complex and we still don’t understand so many of its systems. I was with some friends today and they shared with me that some scientists theorize that we have identified only five million or so of the thirty to fifty million species on the planet. Even if we could identify all of these species, it would be a quantum leap to then understand how these species interact with each other synergistically. There is so much that we don’t know about our planet, not to mention the rest of the universe.
But the very fact that so many of us are trying to make the planet a better place is really hopeful. We can go to bed at night knowing that we’ve put our personal energy into this greater service and feel good about this. This is important – to feel good about it, to celebrate our work.
I’ve been thinking recently about the personal energy that we put into our efforts and the way that it makes us feel. There has been so much research on the impact of our thoughts on phenomena around us. The Japanese research, Masaru Emoto, woke so many people up, including me, with his photos of frozen water crystals from water exposed to various pictures and words such as wisdom, Satan or gratitude. The water crystal shapes revealed that each of the words or photos carries a subtle energy that the water picked up. The more positive the word or beautiful a photo, the more stunning and balanced the frozen crystal was. What I’ve gathered from Emoto’s work and other readings is that we are each individually and thus collectively sending out a resonance or “song” to our planet, and the universe beyond, sourced from our emotional states and responses to our life challenges. It’s all energy. With this in mind, I’ve decided that I want to contribute positive energy to the “song”, as best as I can.
So I’m focusing on having fun with whatever I do these days. When I’m doing my professional gardening work, I love sitting on my butt on the ground and getting my hands dirty. And I’m having a blast with my writing this winter. I’ve learned to let go of expectations that I’m going to influence everyone I run across into being environmentally conscious consumers, or that they will run out and buy my first book. I can’t get all of my gardening clients to stop buying chemicals such as Round-Up. But I can at least decide to use something else that’s organic if I’m the one doing the actual spraying on their property. But I’ve chosen to not carry the burden home with me that I could not educate them that week. I just let it go – drop the expectation. I don’t want that emotional baggage weighing me down and affecting my energy level.
Sure there are days when I get bogged down and feel heavy about the news about suicide bombers, environmental destruction or something going on in my personal life, but I’ve found ways to lift my mood again. Feeling gratitude about my friends, gifts, the biodiesel coop that I’m active with, a flower that’s just bloomed – all of these are examples of things that make me remember how amazing it is that I’m alive and able to even consider helping the planet heal. How very cool it is that I can suck air, oxygen from some plant not too far away from me, and think and move my limbs and go out and plant a flower, or tap my fingers into a keyboard to convey some ideas to a friend. I’m trying to celebrate this miracle every day, as best as I can.
This is probably easier for me since I’m not down in the trenches working in the most horrendous eco-disasters or air-tight claustrophobic offices lobbying against the conservative corporate forces in DC. I am outside working in beautiful spots and my house overlooks a large forest on a quiet street. I’m not hammered by the worst of the negative, energy draining scenarios. I’m blessed in this way. And yet, there are people in those places who still somehow maintain an upbeat perspective. They’re trying and giving their all in doing it.
So, in getting back to one of your metaphors, maybe Rome is burning a little in some corners. But Earth is more than Rome and she has the most powerful innate capacity to heal and heal, and heal some more, and evolve in the process too. I truly believe Earth is calling us to evolve now, and many of us in our incredible worldwide web (I mean that literally and figuratively) of green folks are hearing this call and honoring it. It’s really exciting. Not everyone has gotten on board yet, but that’s okay. We’ll lead the way and let the laggards drag their feet. We’re having fun leading the way and discovering these new approaches and the poor laggards will never know the joy we’re feeling.
I really believe that all of us doing this work to help the world be a greener, healthier place – we’re all healers. We doing our own small part to help people wake up and shift our greater economic system and culture to a better way, a more sustainable way. The key thing is that each one of us is working in a positive direction towards sustainability and that’s the important reality, no matter how small it may seem our efforts are.
And, as all good healers will want to remember, especially enviro-healers, if you get burned out and lost sight of the fun in your work, then take some time out to heal yourself. Healer, heal thyself, as the expression goes. Go to those pockets of wildness that you surely have in your region where you go to recharge – and just soak in them. Look at me…I’ve chosen to spend the bulk of my working time in the warmer months working outside in stunning gardens. I must need a great deal of healing! But I encourage you to let the healing energy of Earth Mother kindle your passion and joy in healing her, so that the song that you’re putting out is also part of a collective hopeful song.
So, Dave… I encourage you to take heart and just have fun with the details. You’re not alone with your despair and hopes. Many of us are supporting you. You can celebrate the amazing work that you’re doing and the courage it took to break away from your Baltimore City job… and have fun with it. And if every client doesn’t get it right away… then consider your consulting work scattering wildflower seeds around their house and walk away… chances are good that most of the seeds you’ve put out there will germinate eventually anyway. ;~)
All the best,