Saving the world…… (one clothespin at a time)

A few years ago, Michael Pollan wrote a piece for the NY Times Magazine called “Why Bother?”  Pollan noted that with all of the problems in the world, any one person’s behavior makes little difference – so why bother recycling, gardening, walking instead of driving, changing an incandescent lightbulb to a compact florescent – you get the picture).


I was inspired by this article to write up some ideas that I often share in my Sustainable Living class at UMass about “why I bother” (to bike, raise chickens, invest in solar hot water, garden, and yes – use solar power to dry our clothes).  The article is here.

The story begins by talking about our current situation, which I present as “a perfect storm” of global problems.

The story continues by examining what could possibly motivate us to change the way we live.  For me it is an expanded sense of “self interest” which recognizes that I am “a part of – rather than apart from nature.”

Finally, I conclude by suggesting that simple actions, the ones we can all do on a daily basis, need to obey “Mother Nature’s Rules” if we are to be sustainable.  They are:

  1. Rely as much as possible on current solar income

  2. Cycle everything possible (waste=food)

  3. Enhance biological diversity (it makes 1 & 2 work)

I share this essay in class and it often results in lots of feedback (some of it full of praise – and some of it pretty angry and cynical).  I appreciate it all and continue to ask us to think about the question “why bother?”


Perhaps you will share this essay with friends and ask the same question – and maybe then share your thoughts below?

In any case, thank you for reading this far……..


2 thoughts on “Saving the world…… (one clothespin at a time)”

  1. Thanks John. I really like your three “Mother Nature’s Rules”. They’re simple, yet profound. I might suggest a 4th, “Evolve!” It’s kind of assumed in #3, but rather subtly. I suppose one could survive with #s 1-3, but I think evolution is more “why we are here”, from both a historical and future perspective.
    – Daniel

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