Sunday, January 26, 2014

No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet

"... and let it begin with me." - Sy Miller and Jill Jackson
What does it really take to live eco-effectively?  For one year, Colin Beavan swore off plastic and toxins, turned off his electricity, went organic, became a bicycle nut, and tried to save the planet from environmental catastrophe while dragging his young daughter and his Prada-wearing wife along for the ride. Together they attempted to make zero impact on the environment while living right in the heart of Manhattan, and this is the sensational, funny, and consciousness-raising story of how they did it. With No Impact Man, Beavan found that no-impact living is worthwhile--and richer, fuller, and more satisfying in the bargain.
I first met Colin Beavan in social circles on the Upper East side of Manhattan with other authors. His book Fingerprints: The Origins of Crime Detection and the Murder Case that Launched Forensic Science had just come out and I realized that I was in the midst of someone who was going to make some serious waves on the larger literary scene.

I really enjoyed reading No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process. In the book, Beavan chronicles his yearlong effort to leave as little impact on the environment as possible.
Realizing that he had erred in thinking that condemning other people's misdeeds somehow made [him] virtuous, he makes a stab at genuine (and radical) virtue: forgoing toilet paper and electricity, relinquishing motorized transportation, becoming a locavore and volunteering with environmental organizations, writes Publisher's Weekly. Beavan captures his own shortcomings with candor and wit and offers surprising revelations: lower resource use won't fill the empty spaces in my life, but it is just possible that a world in which we already suffer so much loss could be made a little bit better if husbands were kinder to their wives. While few readers will be tempted to go to Beavan's extremes, most will mull over his thought-provoking reflections and hopefully reconsider their own lifestyles.
I really enjoyed reading this book. I love environmental research, and with so many great books available on the environment, global warming, and sustainability; a work really has to grab me to be memorable. Beavan's if not me then who? perspective is a great example of stepping outside one's comfort zone.  The author does his part to seek solutions.

The book also has multiple, useful, underlying themes. One of my favorites comes through as the author shows -- how changing our way of life to one that does not impact the earth -- has an equally positive impact on our personal relationships. Tremendous value and benefits arise when lifestyles are no longer focused on consumption.

Admirably, Beaven admits his shortcomings while remaining committed to do his best throughout the whole project. The message: none of us is perfect, but the act of trying is what makes the biggest impact. This commitment carried over to the production of the book itself. The texts were produced with as little impact as possible.

Arthur Brooks, author of Gross National Happiness, called No Impact Man "a subversive book--not because it preaches a radical environmental agenda, but because it gives the secret to personal rebellion against the bitterness of a man's own compromises.”
I love this book because it shows what can be done when enough desire is in one's heart.
“Far from being a movement of self-denial and stern lectures about having too much fun, the 'no impact' mind-set is actually about increasing fulfillment and happiness by asking us to think about what makes us truly happy and what's really important in our lives.” —Arianna Huffington

If you think you are beaten, you are;
If you think you dare not, you don't.
If you'd like to win, but think you can't
It's almost a cinch you won't.
-Attributed to Author Napoleon Hill; circa 1973

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