Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Hypocrisy, Ecology and Me.

"Cigarettes and chocolate milk
These are just a couple of my cravings..." -Rufus Wainwright

I love perfume, and my favorite perfume is Tam Dao by Diptyque. It's mostly sandalwood. I love sandalwood, and most of the fragrances I love most have lots of sandalwood.

My friend Tania wrote this in her blog yesterday:

Right, but then take sandalwood. We love sandalwood. Wild about it. For good reason: it smells fantastic. Harvested from the heartwood of trees, real sandalwood oil must be aged to bring out its deepest, most luxurious character. It takes a while for those trees to grow, and overharvesting has become a problem. So there's the irony: We buy sandalwood products for the sexy, sultry, relaxing, ayurvedic, in-touch-with-nature vibe of it all, but if it's natural, we're affecting the ecology, so we're better off using a synthetic, probably, to be nice to the trees.
She also gave me this link about it.
I kind of knew this, but I didn't want to know it. I don't want to give up Tam Dao. I love it so much. I'm kind of a hedonistic glutton. This doesn't really fit with my whole tree-hugging, peace-loving hippie thing does it?

There's a price to be paid for everything, and here in the US, for many of us, that price is paid by somebody else, somewhere else. So we don't have to think about it.

But we do think about it.

I think about it. Even though I try not to. I don't want to. But it's still there, a constant low-level anxiety. All the prices that are being paid elsewhere. And the knowledge that that's not really how things work. Deep inside, we all know that we are going to have to pay the prices ourselves sometime soon. And the debt is growing by the minute. I think most of us feel it, even though we try to push it away.

I think about it when I drink a cup of coffee and know that the birds I enjoy seeing at my birdfeeder may be migrating to Central America, where they are facing
monoculture coffee plantations that don't have shade trees anymore, and use lots of pesticides.

I think about it when I buy clothing and I know that the people who made that clothing are working under very poor conditions, sometimes akin to slavery. And that their countries are pressured into this system by crushing debt and the IMF and the World Bank.

I think about it when I eat chocolate and I know that it might be produced by actual slave labor in Africa.

I think about it when I buy vegetables that come from agribusiness and meat that comes from factory farms.

I think about it when I drive 32 miles to my job and back each day. When I buy gas, knowing that we've hit peak oil production and it's all downhill from here.

I think about it when I turn off the news because I can't stand to hear more about how our troops have tortured people in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay. There is a price, a price, a price....

I think about it and think about it until I feel sick. Then I tell myself I'm "thinking too much" and do something distracting to make myself forget about it.

And now that I've written this, I see that it's not that I "think too much". Really, it's that I
feel too much. It makes me feel overwhelmed. It frightens me. But I don't want to think about it. Because that would mean making a plan to change. I need to think about it. I need to make a plan.

Or maybe I don't feel
enough about it. I feel frightened for myself, for my family and friends, for my son. For my country. But do I feel the pain that my actions inflict on others? Is it empathy, or just more selfishness?

"I weep for you," the Walrus said;
"I deeply sympathize."
With sobs and tears he sorted out
Those of the largest size,
Holding his pocket-handkerchief
Before his streaming eyes...." -Lewis Carroll

The whole idea of biophila is that our innate love of nature will motivate us to change our actions before it's too late. But personally, I see the depths of my own selfishness and it's not pretty.

I'm going to try though. I'm going to make some small changes that might have big impacts in other parts of the world. I'm going to buy fair trade shade grown coffee and chocolate and go to the farmer's market and wear secondhand clothes and not buy sandalwood perfumes anymore.

And drive my car less. I have to find a way to do that.

At least, some of the time. To say I will do all of these things all of the time? I just can't say that yet.

Maybe you can relate?


Blogger Tania said...

Kate, you're great. Of course, there is a little secret to all of this happy hippie conscience stuff: shade-grown, free-trade organic coffee is delicious. Organic meats and vegetables are more nutritious AND delicious. (Of course, they're often much more expensive, since they cost more to produce.) Vintage clothes are cool. And as for sandalwood, I've been using my Tam Dao much less liberally lately, but I have a major weakness for it. I don't know if my weakness and everyone else's weakness will bring an end to sandalwood, but the Indian government is already cracking down on sandalwood poachers and restricting official harvesting, so there's hope. People have started raising different strains of sandalwood in Australia and Hawaii, too (although I've read they don't smell the same). I do think it's good not to beat ourselves up about stuff, but just to be more mindful about the choices we make every day and do our best. I'm glad I know someone like you, who cares about this stuff.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Thanks T. And thanks for motivating me to start writing again. You are a good friend. :-)

12:35 PM  
Blogger mireille said...

Mybe the inevitability of karma ... things fold and unfold within us and without us. I especially appreciate the thought that you can pay now, or you can pay later, but you WILL pay. Because we will. Nobody rides free forever. Weve taken an awful lot from the environnment for an awfully long time. (You can tell I'm riffing on this, can't you?) Maybe the best attitude is one of gratitude -- for everything we've been given, for as long as we've been given it.

And Tania is right. You should be writing. I'm glad you're doing it.

6:00 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

Thank you Micki. I just want to clarify: T never said that I should write, she just inspired me because she got into this whole blogging thing. :-)

6:33 PM  
Blogger mireille said...

Good! Then I get to tell you YOU SHOULD BE WRITING! and you are!

6:56 PM  
Blogger katiedid said...

I have the same problem. But we also buy the fair trade stuff when it's available, or else since we live in OR, we have access to all sorts of wonderful local growers at the markets. (The greatest carrots I have ever eaten in my life I get from Rossi Farms when they're in season, because it's on the way to places I go anyhow so I'm saving gas. And eating the most delicious carrots ever. And I'm not even a "carrot person!")

The one thing I have the hardest time understanding is diamonds. My husband's friends think he's incredibly lucky that he's got an insane wife who refuses to own them. I would feel so ugly wearing them. When I see diamonds, I see the sparkle and shine, and I also see little kids and grandpas with their limbs cut off in Sierra Leone. And then I think of the slave labor, and indentured servitude slave labor those big companies make their profit on. My mother in law thinks I'm crazy to say that I am more beautiful in rhinestones and fakes.

I think what it comes down to is this: you can't stick your flag in every hill. You can't try to win each and every battle, or else you'll spread yourself too thin and lose everything. You just have to be judicious in how and where you make a stand. At least, this is how I see it.

6:52 AM  
Blogger cjblue said...

Kate, I'm really enjoying your blog. It gives me such a great feel for who you are. I think you write beautifully and give us stuff to think about, as well as a reminder to appreciate the world around us - something I forget all too often.

And just in case you were wondering...the Bluejay People love you too.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Tania said...

Yeah, blood diamonds are gross. I wear a diamond, but it's 100 years old, so I hope any blood that was on it has long worn off.

8:50 AM  
Blogger LonesomePolecat said...

"Everything has a price, and the price for life is pain." Sorry I can't remember the source of that quote. Nobody can live an environmentally perfect life, but you can try to live better. It's ironic that us earth-loving hippies are the ones who've bought
sandalwood incense over the years.

9:13 AM  
Blogger AngelaCh1 said...


I can totally relate- but the fact that you are even conscious of all of these things can and do affect the decisions and purchases you make.

I love this blog. :)


4:54 PM  
Blogger Atreau said...

What a beautiful post Kate! All it takes is one voice!

I heard that Canadian diamonds are the best non-blood diamonds on the market. There are also those lab-made diamonds. They aren't simulated, they are lab created.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Urban Chick said...

oooh, i have these dilemmas and they are rooted also in my deep-seated dislike of hypocrisy

so then i come over all puritanical and want to purge all the bad stuff in a oner but i just can't manage it, so i slump back into 'doing as much as i can', maybe adding one new good habit each cycle

i love your blog too (and i eagerly await the apple tree's recovery...and your apple chutney!)

UC xxx

4:49 AM  

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