less strident, still committed

Posted by on Nov 22, 2010

Long-time readers of this blog and its predecessor may have noticed that I used to blog more about ecology and sustainability than I have for the last while. There are a number of reasons for this.

1. I started blogging about the same time as I started my “community supported music” initiative, patterned after the “community supported agriculture” (CSA) movement. When this first began, I found that it took a long time to explain to people what this was all about, what was (is) the philosophy behind it, etc. It seemed that very few people had ever heard of this stuff before. In fact, that was a significant part of why I began blogging in the first place – I wanted to have an accessible online “library” where I reflected on these things, and to which I could direct people with whom I am in conversation. (You can find these writings under the “community supported music” and “sustainability and music” categories in my former blog.)

By now it seems that this “CSA” concept/philosophy/approach has become far more common, familiar, and (dare I say it?) mainstream. Whereas before it took me a while to explain it, by now all I have to do is reference the CSA concept and most people immediately know what I’m talking about. I now see articles on this in very mainstream publications all the time. And there are more and more people doing exactly what I’ve been doing – not only participating as members of CSAs (which are multiplying all over the place), but adapting the concept to all kinds of other ventures – community supported fishing, community supported restaurants, community supported theatre, community supported art, etc., etc., etc.

This is, I think, a wonderful development, and it’s great to see. It has also meant that while what I’m doing is still somewhat unique, it no longer seems nearly so strange or weird or in need of in-depth-and-constant explanation.

2. A second and closely related reason why I’ve not been blogging about ecological/sustainability issues as much lately is simply that, in the past few years, it feels like these concerns/observations/analyses have gone from being kind of “way out there” to becoming, to a significant degree, very mainstream and commonly articulated-and-argued, if not universally accepted. When folks like Gwynn Dyer (hardly someone who people would write off as an environmental fanatic) are doing detailed and widely-read analysis of the geopolitics of climate change, it seems clear that voices articulating the need for major change from “business as usual” no longer sound like wacko “voices in the wilderness” and are resonating loudly in much more mainstream circles. Again, this strikes me as a very good thing.

3. Perhaps the biggest reason why my blogging about these matters has dropped off lately has to do with my own personal circumstances, and those of my family. It was easier for me to feel like I’m doing something unique and innovative and worth blogging about… well… when I felt like I was doing something unique and innovative and worth blogging about. It was easier for me to decry and bemoan the state of affairs of “the mainstream music business,” and to speak loudly about “alternative business models for the arts” when I was able to do this from the standpoint of only expecting and needing a part-time income from my musical work.

When our family circumstances changed two and a half years ago, and my music income became the primary family income rather than the supplementary income, I have found myself increasingly relying more on more on some of the practices that I had been loudly critiquing. Specifically, I had been working hard trying to develop an “alternative business model” for my music ministry that did not rely so much on extended travel (with its associated carbon emissions and other environmental costs). And as we faced increasing economic challenges, I found myself touring more and more – still by rail, on extended tours, whenever possible, but also doing more air travel than I had ever hoped/planned/done before.

And as time goes on, the “alternative business model” that I have been trying to develop has not taken quite the shape I had hoped. My “community supported music” initiative – while still going strong, and healthy in many ways – has not (yet?) grown to become as significant a piece of the economic puzzle as I had hoped it would by this point. And I have found myself relying more and more – rather than less and less – on travel and public performance as the economic “engine” that drives the income side of the balance sheet.

4. In short, I am (and we as a family are) finding that we are not at the place we had hoped to be by this point, in terms of the kinds of intentional steps to living a more ecologically sustainable lifestyle. While I have rejoiced and am encouraged to see more and more people making significant strides toward greater sustainability, I have felt disappointed that a number of the steps that I had hoped we would be taking by now have not been happening, and I find myself increasingly uncertain if some of them will ever happen.

This does not discount the small-but-still-(I tell myself)-significant steps that we have continued to take… our involvement with our community garden, growing and preserving and cooking with more locally grown food, being careful about car use, and so on. But these remain tiny steps, and some of the “bigger” hopes and dreams we’ve had seem to remain tentative or “on hold.”

And certainly, in the face of the kinds of very significant and dramatic steps that are needed, I have not felt that I am in any position to be trumpeting sustainability on my blog.

Still committed? Yes, absolutely. But less strident for sure.