Category Archives: Minneapolis

Is your stomach too full?

Lately I have spent a good amount of time pondering the ways that social class and environmental action are related. Is it that tackling climate change will consequently help us curb issues of worldwide poverty? Or is it only by fighting poverty that climate issues can begin to level? Whichever of these is the answer (and I know it’s not that cut and dry), I think the facts are clear:
1.    These are two important, interconnected issues.
2.    Any action dedicated toward either cause would be beneficial.

While issues of global climate and the discrepancy between classes can give anyone a headache in a hurry, the two things are surprisingly tied into my and your lives.

This summer, before my more environmentally-friendly adventures begin, I work at environmental catastrophe of a workplace: a members-only golf course/country club in Minneapolis. Although it’s hard to hate a place that’s so beautiful, my working there is similar to Al Gore becoming the spokesperson for Dasani. Or something like that.

Anyway, during my hours there, I constantly notice extreme examples of affluence and, sadly, ignorance. While extensive criticism of it would be hypocritical because I support the place by giving them my time and skills, I have gleaned some interesting perspective from my time there.

While I sit in my lifeguard chair and pretend to judge the members for their ignorance, I find myself coveting the designer clothing, the luxury cars, the accessories, and the seemingly carefree attitudes. Oh, and don’t even get me started on the jewelry!
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But then, I go home, and take a look in my closet and see this and I wonder, why and HOW can I possibly want more? (P.S. this is only HALF of my closet!)

As I began to wrap my mind (again) around my hypocrisy, I came across some interesting insights in some past schoolwork.

In a (*depressing, but) great book my classmates and I read by Mark Hertsgaard last fall, called Earth Odyssey, the author travels the world in order to explore the connectedness between social class and the environment.

One powerful quote still stands out in my mind:

“‘We have a saying in China,’ said one journalist … ‘Is your stomach too full?’ In other words, are you so well off you can afford to complain about nothing?

This phrase is used for Americans … while there are still many [people] who don’t have enough food to eat” (180).

What a valuable perspective to apply to my desires for designer clothing and fancy restaurants! That said, I think this perspective can be applied to a comfortable, yet sustainable, life. I am a strong believer in buying high-quality goods. For example, if a pair of jeans from WalMart cost you $20 and last one year, and a pair of jeans from Macy’s cost you $120 and last you six, you’ve spent the same amount of money per year and used 1/6 of the goods.

While it’s easy to get carried well away from only buying 1 pair of jeans in Macy’s and no one is as guilty of wanting more, and more, and more like me, I think this is an important consideration when shopping (or wanting), even though the ability to drop $120 on jeans is unheard of to many families globally (including the US). My point is that no matter how small, taking the time to actually think about the impacts of mundane activities (like shopping or dining), can give valuable perspective.

But as author George Monbiot calls “the failure of good intentions,” scary statistics always ruin my shopping trips and carefree consumption. Although I constantly look for helpful tips that can be applied to make myself more “green,” I am nonetheless haunted by this:

“A baby born in the United States creates thirteen times as much environmental damage over the course of its life as a baby born in Brazil and thirty-five times as much as an Indian baby… Americans are 5% of the world’s population but consume 26% of the worlds energy.”

So, it is first the American ideology about wants/needs that must change to “less is more” before large-scale environmental change or closing the income gap can follow. Though I believe this to be true, it is hard to imagine this happening because I do take the time to think about my actions and I certainly do not lead a less is more lifestyle! Yikes.

Anyway, this summer I am learning that a PhD isn’t required to brainstorm ways to change this ideology because American ideology includes ME and YOU.

So, while I know those large ideological changes are in a pretty distant future, my personal efforts toward a sustainable lifestyle are not.

It will now be my goal, when I shop and when I want, to broaden my considerations to include the less fortunate and the overly wasteful and try to ask myself where I fit in, where I want to fit in, and sadly, how I contribute to the gap between the two.
I hope you join me!

Sustainability: “living in material comfort and peacefully with each other within the means of nature.”

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Linden Hills Festival

There is no shortage of things to be depressed about when it comes to climate change. Rising sea levels, deforestation, smog… the list goes on.

I have found however, it is much more productive to take a realistic rather than optimistic or pessimistic view on the matter. In fact, people who are overly pessimistic about climate change, while probably able to provide some valuable information, have no place in my book.

Last night I was frustrated while looking online for a good environmental place to volunteer for a couple days this coming week. While the frustration was mostly thanks to my lack of planning ahead, I have now realized (yet again) my narrow-mindedness when it comes to being helpful with climate change.

This morning I woke up to a sunny day in the Linden Hills community of Minneapolis, MN. Looking out my window, I noticed particularly crowded sidewalks and I remembered that today is LH Festival day!

Taking to the streets with my mom, I realized that there are some very smart LH residents who are thinking both realistically and actively about climate change. And more importantly, tying their concerns into local action. Oooh how I wish I could have had a hand in planning this! Today was a valuable lesson for me, yet again, to see how global climate efforts do NOT have to be global at all.

Anyway I was SO pleased to find the community-centered and environmentally focused day!

DSCN0022From a barrage of yard sales, free stuff bins, book swaps, and sidewalk tables, someone was thinking of the most forgotten of the 3 Rs (REUSE) in a big way.

In addition to the sharing and exchanging of goods (or in many cases junk), today’s festival was successful in just getting people out of their houses, talking to each other, and being active. There were carnival activities, snacks, animals, and kid stuff everywhere! I was so happy!

Anyway, last summer I was part of another smart DSCN0024_2effort in LH called Linden Hills Power and Light that worked to establish a community-wide composting initiative and then took on the task of educating the community members and getting the city to sign on board. I was lucky to be around a team of such motivated, organized, and experience leaders. The program has now been successful for almost a year (and is growing) and I was very pleased to see the compost coming back as free planting soil at the festival!

So, today I just have to brag about my own community and learn the lesson that I can help the environment by helping at home. I hope the efforts of some very smart LH residents can inspire people in other communities as well.

Thinking of the 3 Rs,

Jenny

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City Busses

Beeeep. Good Morning.

Beeeep. Thank you.

Beeeep. Good Morning.

On Wednesday morning I took the city bus. For the first time.

As I sat in my seat watching the friendly bus driver greet the regulars as they scanned their cards to get on, I felt so proud of myself for taking the bus.

But, as I thought about it, I realized that it’s quite silly that I have never taken the city bus. It also made me realize that even with how environmentally friendly Minneapolis can be, it is really a very suburban, spread out metro area. I have no excuse now though, because I live right in Minneapolis, instead of the suburbs. In fact, the bus stop is two doors down from my house. (A bus just went past my window as I wrote that sentence.)

Anyway, I am writing tonight to say  a few things:

1. That Wednesday will not be my last time riding the bus.

2. I am planning a trip to Africa that will hopefully be very educational and enlightening, and I am hoping to leave next week. So, that is very often on my mind and I really hope it works out. (I bought a new Nikon camera in preparation!!)

3. I am looking into some cool things to write in this blog. I have high  hopes for this space, although it is currently kind of an overwhelming mystery to me. But I’m sure that will change… right now I’m just looking for a little motivation.

4. I’m hoping to take up running a lot more. Not only are the runners I see in Minneapolis generally in great shape, I feel like they experience such a special bond with the nature of the city. There’s no way to take in the crisp, quietness of Harriet or the Cedar Lake Trail in the morning except by being there!

Anyway, just wanted to make sure you know that I haven’t abandoned this blog already… I’ll be back soon hopefully with some interesting things to say!

Maybe I should hop back on the city bus to find some more motivation. Either way, Stay tuned!!

-J