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No Impact Man And Me.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on April 4, 2007

No Impact Man’s Colin Beavan writes in his blog that my dichotomy between “hair-shirt” live lightly on the land environmentalism and cradle-to-cradle, go-go growth sustainability doesn’t hold. They are part of the same movement.

Alas, I disagree. Here’s what I posted on his site:

I’d like to believe that there is no conflict between “hair-shirt” environmentalism and “go-go growth,” cradle-to-cradle sustainability but, alas, I do believe there is a fundamental divide. I’ve talked with Bill McDonough many times and his philosophy is clear—forests grow very fast and very tall. They just don’t pollute because they are organic. They live, die, and get recycled because of their organic chemistry. So Bill argues, let’s change our chemistry and we can have fast economic growth. Living lightly on the land doesn’t give you that growth—but it does give you a wonderful lifestyle.
I’m not picking sides. In fact, I spend as much time as I can out in forests and deserts hunting birds (not killing them, just looking). I’m a hybrid hair-shirt/go-go kind of guy.

Reader Comments


April 4, 2007 3:19 PM

But then you do concede that there's no CONFLICT.

You're right in observing they're not the same, but what you're saying is that the go-go approach is gonna be the real solution and the hair-shirt just a stopgap tactic. You're saying that they fundamentally differ form each other, but that doesn't mean there's a conflict.

And that's exactly what Colin Beavan said.

Bruce Nussbaum

April 4, 2007 4:05 PM

For me personally, there is no conflict. For individuals, I don't see a conflict.

But for economic policy, oh baby, is there a conflict! In the end, I don't think we will have policy on sustainability coming out of Washington that does not allow for growth. It's part of our culture. It's necessary for upward mobility. It's need for profits and taxes. All that.

So, yes, you're right. There's no conflict in terms of how we each choose to live. But there is a mighty battle coming in Washington over sustainability.


April 11, 2007 2:07 AM

Bruce, you are right. The only conflict is the impact on a growing economy. But that conflict is a potential conflagration, because it's between those who care about economic growth and those who don't. And maybe those who don't are on to something.

The "economy" seems only to favor a few, so why do the rest of us get bent out of shape about it? Mankind lived for tens of thousands of years with a global economy that remained static. Only in the past few thousand have we started to care how much "value" we could create.

Economic growth demands winners, and many more losers. It demands hoarding, and it demands waste. It is no way for most people to thrive. No Impact gains my interest because it is truly different, and it calls into question our dedication to financial growth.

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