Warning: Post May Contain Language or Ideas That Some May Find Offensive.

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

On Saturday I took notice of how much garbage I generated. It was shocking really. This was from opening packages of food, and going and picking up a few items that were needed around the apartment.

This is from just two people. Just imagine the amount of garbage that is generated by a city. It is actually unimaginable. Oh we may see documentaries about it. The mountains of trash that take up hundreds of acres, but we don’t really get it. We can’t.

This is not a post about garbage. It is just some thoughts that I have about stuff in general.

The truth is we don’t care. We don’t care about garbage or recycling or making the planet better. We just don’t. We might say we do. All that most of us care about is our own little piece of the earth and of course ourselves.

Even the most die hard environmentalist would not want a landfill placed “in their own backyard” would they?

The vast majority of us go and buy stuff that is manufactured in other countries by people that are working in terrible conditions for less than a few dollars a day. We know that this is the case but we buy this stuff anyway. We don’t care.

How many people are living from paycheck to paycheck? 60%? 80%?

They complain that they don’t make enough money to pay their expenses and yet they are driving two cars and go out and spend money on junk they do not really need every week.

They believe what the media tells them about just about everything. We are sheep. Head down, just following along with what everyone else does. Even though what everyone else is doing has them in dire straights, screw it, I’ll do it too.

I have read that in the next few years televisions will have cameras that will be able to view(spy) on you even when the set is not turned on. Interesting. And we just go on about our business and accept this. We do not even blink an eye.

How many of us have passed a homeless person who is asking for a little bit of change so they can get a bite to eat?

“Not my problem.”

Me, me, me. I, I ,I. That is all we really care about. I wonder if the worst thing that could have happened in the evolution of our species was that we somehow became self-aware?

All we care about is ourselves.

What other species knowingly inflicts the pain and suffering on members of its own species the way humans do?

What other species knowingly destroys its habitat the way humans do?

Have you ever complained about your relationship with your partner? A lot of people do. Most of the guys I work with have nothing good to say about their partners. Or women in general. But if their wives or girlfriends left them they would cry and bitch and complain about it. I just sit there and take it all in. These guys must think that they are perfect. Flawless. Infallible.

How many of us are living a lie? We are in a life that is unfulfilling. Working in a job that we probably dislike(or even hate) that just barely allows us to pay our bills and meet our commitments. Why is that? We are conditioned to do this I guess. We were sold on the idea that this is the way it has to be. Everyone does it. Go to school, maybe go to college, get a job, buy a house, maybe have children, and then die.

I work with a guy who rented an apartment with his wife and kids for his whole career. Things were good. He knew what his rent would be. If something went wrong he called the landlord and it got fixed. He had money to go on a trip every year.

And then a few years back, in his 40’s, he bought into the idea that he should buy a house.

He has regretted his decision ever since. Property taxes, the cost of maintaining, utilities, etc.. They have not gone on a trip since they bought a house. Never enough money to do what needs to be done.

Another of my coworkers is 25 and he and his soon to be wife cannot wait to buy a house. They have it in their heads that they can “afford” a 200,000$ dollar house as their first place!. I am trying to explain to him that maybe they could start smaller and maybe upgrade in a few years but he insists that this is what they want. Sigh.

And yet another good friend has this philosophy on buying a house:

You should actually buy MORE house than you can afford. You will always make the mortgage payment so it is like a forced savings or investment plan. Well just this weekend he emailed me saying that things were really tight financially and that they were thinking about downsizing to a more affordable place.

Even my parents, who bought a house in the 1970’s and paid it off in 15 years, are pro renting. They think about all the money they spent in upgrades and maintenance over the years and just shake their heads.

Just another example of how we just blindly accept that this is what we are supposed to do in life. If you think differently you are considered an outcast.

And I am not much different. I buy shit I don’t really need at times. I drive a car when I could walk.

For some reason people are pretty screwed up. Is it our own fault or our own doing in a lot of cases?

Yup, probably.

I know that this post is all over the place. Sorry about that.

These are just the ramblings of a dim witted bald man.

But I would love to know your thoughts on what I have written. I would love to think that I am not totally alone on some of this.

Your turn…

“Live Simply”

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


27 thoughts on “You Can’t Handle The Truth

  1. I’ve always been conscious of and had a problem with the amount of waste that’s created from everyday life. For example, packaging of a most of grocery items. Even I, as someone who makes the effort to keep waste to a minimum, am still not satisfied with the rubbish I throw out, even if I reuse and recycle most of it.

    How much more the waste of the average person times many millions over many years? It’s staggering. And it’s disturbing what it’s doing to our planet, where we life and to other animals who we are supposedly higher than and who are at the mercy of our actions. The death and destruction humans are causing is brutal.

    I am also aware of working conditions in the underdeveloped countries where almost all of our conveniences come from and make a point of not buying ridiculously cheap items. My principle is to pay more for quality so that it will last longer, be reliable and due to it’s ‘value’ will be better looked after.

    Those who are smart are not just going along with it because it’s the done thing, but finding ways to be better than that. Doing this improves one’s quality of life in every sense. The way we live and the amount we take is not viable or sustainable and it wont be long until the Western world has to change.

    On a side point, personally I find excess and wastefulness vulgar, especially when it comes to food. It’s very ugly when so many people are literally starving. And the worst part is, there’s enough to go around but we have more than we need.

    But yes, humans can be very self-serving and if they can’t see it then it’s not happening. Is the pace of modern life breeding out compassion and empathy? In my mind, being grateful and living simply make for an elegant and rich life.

    1. People just do not realize the living conditions of a lot of people. Like you say, so many people are starving and we throw away millions of pounds of food each year. The amount of waste is indeed staggering and sickening.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

      1. It’s good to know there are others who are holding themselves accountable for their own actions and are thinking of their fellow man.

        And it’s nice to see others have been thinking about these issues in the same way that I am.

        Thank you for your post, I’ve been enjoying your blog.

        PS. A reduce and recycle tip I have is to keep all the packaging (bubble wrap, boxes, tissue paper etc.) from when you buy things online. I just keep them together in a drawer.

        It has been years since I’ve bought that stuff and I’ve saved a lot of money. Why throw out what you’ve paid for only to pay for more when you need it?

      2. Yes there are some people that at least think about these issues. How much I personally do about them is another matter.

        I really just want a tiny house. Live on my own somewhere and try to make less of an impact.

        Thanks for your tip on the saving of packaging.

        Any other tips people have would be appreciated.

      3. Thank you…. I got the tip about the wax paper bags from my MIL. She actually canceled her garbage service because she refused to throw anything away, and whatever she did throw away, she drove it to a commercial dumpster. I don’t agree with what she did, but she was extreme… plus she was a hoarder. Currently she lives with her daughter so she’s not doing that anymore.

        Another thing I do with plastic bags is I save them for use as packing materials when sending packages and also for putting away christmas decorations. They are light weight but great for moulding around delicate items for storage.

      4. Yes, I believe so. They both did grow up in the depression… Also, My MIL accomplished a LOT with very little…. and paid CASH… to put her five kids through college, first homes… I still can’t believe it… Simply CANT do anything like this today

  2. My thoughts on your post is that it’s not really “all over the place”… My mantra has been all my life is, “People are sheep.” I can’t stand it. I have the rep in my family of being the “weird” one because I have unconventional ideas. I am in my fifties and we are renting. We are three, and I also do have the itch that I/we “need” a house. Yes, it’s nice to have something of your own, a backyard my son can play in, a finished basement and total freedom to do what I want with my own place. We simply canNOT buy a house, however, and I can’t shake the feeling that it’s for the best…. except our thermostat does not work and the landlord is insisting that it does and I’ve been freezing this whole winter in NJ…. but still, I’m not really upset about not owning a home…. that’s the word, “home”. We try to minimize our garbage by reusing components of packages, making my feel like I’m getting more out of them… Like, oooo, this is a good one, I have not bought waxed paper in years because I save all the waxed bags of cereal, cookies, whatever, and I shake out all the crumbs, fold the bags and then pen them up to make a sheet. I also use them to collect food scraps and keep it in the freezer until garbage day. Unfortunately, we live in the city and cannot compost. Regarding recycling, again, our ability to recycle plastic is severely restricted because our city only recycles plastics numbered 1-3. I reuse plastic cups until they are almost unusable, then have to toss them in the trash. I feel better, but really, it’s still getting dumped.

    Oh, from the mouths of babes. Just yesterday, we were in Bed Bath and Beyond. I love that kind of store, but it’s a mine field of “what we need” and “what we want”… My son who is nine years old is telling me, “ooh we NEED this, we NEED that.” I found myself lecturing him on the difference between what we need and what we want. I said, “yeah, I love and want everything in this store, but do I NEED it? No.” It also reminded me of George Carlin from back in the seventies. He was a stand up comic and he had a bit about “Stuff”. Don’t know if you are old enough to remember him, but he talks about how stuff grows and how we need bigger and bigger containers to keep our “stuff”, like a house is just a container for our stuff.

    So yeah, I like a good tangent, myself. I fell out of reading your blog so I’ll be going back to catch up.

    1. I love Carlin.

      “Why is it that my shit is stuff, and your stuff is shit?”

      I could certainly do a lot more to reduce the amount of waste I generate.

      I read an article about recycling a while back that it has actually cost millions of dollars in government subsidies to keep the facilities open.

      This is just to keep us believing that we are making some kind of difference.

      I am not saying that a person cannot buy a house and make it work. But people who manage to do it are certainly in the minority.

      Thanks for your insight. Always great comments from you:)

  3. There is absolutely nothing offensive about this post. The only type of person who could be offended would be one so set in maintaining their destructive ways that they refuse to see it for what it is.

    You are correct, and in a way… you made me feel very guilty. This weekend we bought a lot of crap we didn’t need (which we don’t do often). We do genuinely try to limit our waste (including food waste) however… I wont lie… we aren’t a family who recycles. Why? Because it’s a pain in the butt to keep it all bagged on the back porch then drive forever to take it to the recycle center. We are selfish… and I will admit it. For that reason though we don’t buy cans, we try not to buy anything with Styrofoam, and are working on making our home a HOMESTEAD. Less waste comes when you grow your own food. So far it does seem to help. .

    We also just bought a home and we are living paycheck to paycheck where before we had a nice life. We could go out when we wanted, take trips when we wanted. However this is also on one income. When my husband can find work hopefully this will change. Of course, then we have daycare to pay for and less time together with a family. I don’t regret buying our house because in a rental I wouldn’t be able to have my garden, the woods in the back, or the chickens that I keep for fresh eggs and meat, and soon to be the rabbits for meat and fur. However in the beginning, this is definitely not cost effective. We don’t have TV or cable. Partially because we don’t want the advertising. We use cheap “prepaid” cells because, they are cheap. We do have 2 cars. However only drive one unless there is an emergency.

    We keep our thermostat to 65, we try to conserve energy where we can.

    Face it. We are PROGRAMMED to be a wasteful generation. A lot of people were raised on convenience foods (I was raised on a homestead and still find myself grabbing for convenience foods because of working 50 hour weeks). We don’t complain that our entire EXISTENCE is reliant on a corporation. Our most basic needs can not be met without paying someone else to provide it to us. We ALLOW this. It’s not an excuse, it’s sad, and it’s scary.

    1. You are one of the few who has bought a home with the intention of making it WORK FOR YOU. This makes sense.

      A lot of people use the argument of “a house is an investment”. Well an investment is something that MAKES you money. I don’t know of too many people whose homes are making them money.

      Good on you for homesteading. It is a conscious decision to try and better your life this way. It is hard to do at times I am sure but you are better for it. This is the way a lot of our grandparents were raised and somehow we lost our way.Programmed by advertisers and the media in most cases.

      Thanks so much for your comment and insight.

      1. AS someone who works in the mortgage industry, I can tell you first hand, this doesn’t work. The market is not stable. I’ve seen a lot of investors go bankrupt. You MAY be able to make it work if you REALLY make sure you are living within your means. Lenders tend to try to move you into a house that meets your pretax income and do not tell you the amount that you will spend in taxes/insurance.

        Homesteading is difficult, but once you get a taste of a freshly ripened tomato straight from the vine (not ripened on a truck on the way to a store), it’s all worth it 🙂

  4. I have owned homes for the past 20 years or so and I made a lot of money when I sold my first house and bought my current house. Our goal is to have our mortgage paid off before we retire. That way we will need less savings to live on when we do retire.
    Being mortgage free is freedom to me.
    We recycle almost everything, except cat food cans! Even in the winter I trudge out to the back yard where we compost 90% of our garbage. It makes nice soil.
    I also got rid of all of the grass in my front yard and now it is plantings with pine bark, Unlike wood chips, bark was designed not to rot.
    We also went solar last year.
    I’m trying to do my part.

  5. I had been in rented accommodation until about four years ago but felt I needed a home where no one but me could come in without a warrant. The final straw was when the landlord sent workmen in without telling me and I came home to find dirty footprints all over my bed. Class!

    Depends what your motivations are for buying a house – to have the security and freedom I now do, I’m happy to pay the mortgage (which is less than my rent). But is it an investment? No, it’s my home.

    Re reusing packaging, I keep containers (eg ice cream tubs) for storage, freezing meals and such like. I am fortunate in being close to a farm where I can get most of my food without packaging (I tend to cook from scratch) or packaged in paper (flour, butter).

      1. My local farm is organic, so the food is definitely healthier. I would say that buying raw ingredients from a farm shop is infinitely cheaper than shopping at a supermarket. While some things might be cheaper at the latter outlet it is much easier to overspend there and plenty of other food is more expensive.

      2. Definitely – just been to one as my daughter wanted some yoghurt. At farm it comes in a paper tub but it has to be plastic in ‘normal’ shops.
        Farm not open at half seven in the evening – lack of planning is another reason for overconsumption of rubbish, I think 😦

  6. Loved the article. It seems that too many people buy more house than they need to hold more stuff than they need to impress the friends that they need. I would replace need in each of these statements as wants. All of our needs can be met much more simply if we are honest with ourselves and stopped caring what everyone else thinks. Trying to keep up with our neighbours is a losing proposition, someone will always lose and often it is everyone. Housing prices are rising faster than wages or rents and here in Canada a house is not so much of a tax break as in the US. Our mortgage payments are not tax deductible so you only win when you sell, then you are right back on the treadmill again. If we take more of our cues from the family values of the 50’s and 60’s and live within our means, there were no credit cards then that allowed you to carry a balance, we would soon learn to define want and need as what they really are and how different they should be. Impulse control might return and we could then start to redefine ourselves by what we do instead of by what we own.
    There are a few farmers markets in our area and a few farms that we can buy from, the food is tastier and hopefully much healthier. I once read that everyone should know the first name of the person who produces your food, than you have a connection that benefits all in the community. We grow some of our own and buy what we can’t grow and we try to grow the size of the garden each year as we learn what we want to have and what we need to grow on our area. There is no greater feeling than going to the garden and seeing what is ripe and letting that determine what you are having for supper. Following the seasons allows us to reconnect with the land.
    Keep up the good articles, enjoy reading them.

  7. Hello from the UK! Really enjoyed your post. I think the deliberate ignorance is three-fold: (1) too many governments follow the stupid economic theory that unrestrained & endless growth is not only a good thing, but to be encouraged, ignoring all the negative pressures this places on people & finite resources; (2) Where economies are heavily dependent on rampant consumerism (e.g. the US & UK), the powerful retail industry do their utmost to bombard us with advertising that seeks to brainwash us into thinking that as long as I buy product X, my life will be one step closer to perfection (total hogwash of course!) Yet as long as we own TV sets, we are implicitly allowing ourselves & our kids to be fed these lies; (3) there is no genuine ‘independent’ media – TV corporations, newspapers, even online news channels – they all have agendas. Some are more balanced than others, but ultimately, their goal is to MAKE NEWS PAY – even if that means skewing facts, ignoring overwhelming evidence (e.g. as in the case with global warming), or only reporting sensational ‘stories’. Truths hurt. It’s hard to accept the fact that we are part of the most destructive species this planet has ever seen, but without some humility & the recognition of this, we cannot empower communities (and it HAS to be a community supported effort to work) to make simple but effective changes that can go a long way. Why is recycling not already made as convenient & easy as possible in every single village, town or city? This should be a major priority for those in power: INCENTIVISE environmentally-healthy behaviours across all sectors (especially industry, the greatest polluters). What we need are better leaders with a long term vision who can push for positive change. In the meantime, even in the midst of our modern, anxious, debt-ridden lives, individuals can do their bit: STOP SHOPPING & fuelling this wasteful economic cycle (I challenge you not to buy anything other than food & absolute essentials for a year – you’d be amazed at the amount of rubbish you’re NO LONGER spending hard-earned money on); do not bring into your home what you will not use more than once; reject all those useless ‘free gifts’ that you are given at company fairs/promotions unless you have a very good use for them; wherever possible, re-use/re-purpose, recycle. And be generous: if you have items you don’t need/use, give them away! We are not powerless. Sometimes, it’s the little changes that can make all the difference!

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