On the Green Renaissance video: No Somewhere Else

Deep gratitude goes out to Mike and Warren, as well as the rest of the Green Renaissance team, for putting together such a professional video – or rather, another professional video, seeing as the team has created several dozen excellent videos, each of which is an artwork in itself. Thank you.

First – and I must address this first because I hear that several people have commented on my error – I am now well aware that the Counting Crows reference should be to Joni Mitchell. Quite simply, I am not a fan of Joni Mitchell’s music, though I do acknowledge and respect her contribution to the history of good music. Counting Crows, however, is a band I listened to extensively in my teenage years, so there we have it.

I would also like to provide some contextual information that, I hope, justifies what I consider to be a less-than-polished interview from me on the day of filming. The night before Mike and Warren arrived to do the filming and the interview, Emma and I had broken the news to our friends whose land we live on that we would be leaving. I need not reveal the details, and rather say more generally that complications surrounded the breaking of the news. After trying for a few weeks to find the right time to tell them, a pizza evening arose – Emma and I make great Pizzas – and we decided to break the news at the end of the evening. That happened to be at around 11pm, after too much pizza and wine, and it was quite an emotionally trying time for me – another story, perhaps. Mike and Warren showed up at 6am the following day, after I had hardly slept due to indigestion and over-stimulation, and after Emma and I awoke before 5am to do some tidying. The actual interview was at around 11 am, long after three cups of coffee, and I think I was caffeine-crashing at that point too.

So I thought that the interview went terribly – I am quite sure that, objectively, it did go terribly. The editing team, however, did excellently to identify a theme, and then construct a mostly-coherent articulation of that theme. In a nutshell, that theme is that there is no ‘somewhere else’. I really wish I had said there is no such thing as ‘away’, as the authors of Cradle to Cradle point out, far more eloquently than I do. Of course, there is such a thing as somewhere else: I was obviously trying to emphasise the important notion that we live in a closed system, and that each part of the system is inseparably connected to every other part of it. When a person poops into a toilet and flushes their faeces ‘away’, it has gone from somewhere to somewhere – the organic matter is still in the system of which the pooper is a part. The pooper may call the place it goes ‘somewhere else’, but doing so would raise the issue of the arbitrary ‘borders’ that human beings impose onto places that are otherwise intimately interconnected.

To simplify, one could think of the saying, which I see is attributed to Davie Bader (though I associate the first clause of it with Ram Das), “Be here now, be somewhere else later.” Obviously, when you get to the ‘somewhere else’, it becomes ‘here’. Emphasis here is placed on the relativity of time and place: when you are in one place in the present, it is ‘here’, and the place you are going to be ‘later’ is ‘somewhere else’, but when ‘later’ becomes ‘now’, the ‘somewhere else’ becomes ‘here’. And so it it with flushing your poop ‘away’. Got it? Good!

I have also been told (I am not ‘on facebook’ or other social media because, it must be said, I choose to spend what would otherwise be social-media-time doing manual tasks such as making compost) that some comments pertain to some people’s opinions about not being able to take certain matters into their own hands, matters such as what they do with their poop. Emma has read some of the comments on facebook and she says that some people from the United Kingdom say that they simply cannot conduct similar composting activities because where they live they have no such options.

Let me state unambiguously that I am not suggesting even for a moment that anyone should or should not do anything. Poop your fertility ‘away’ by all means. And feel free to claim that you cannot do anything about it. Go ahead. I also used to believe that taking certain matters into my own hands was not an option. I made statements about not having options. Fine. Then gradually I changed things. The video, I hope, is about what I do now – what Emma and I do, though I do not speak for Emma – and if people wish to justify what they cannot do in comparison to what I do, then please remember that you are choosing to make comparisons and offer justifications when I am asking for neither of those reactions. I am long past trying to get anyone to change the way they think or behave – go ahead, think and do what you like. But do not for one moment pretend that what you do and what you think do not have an impact on the world around you, a world you are intimately interconnected with, a world in which your poop is deposited in one way or another. I acknowledge that I do state in the interview that I am frustrated when I see people flushing their fertility away – again, this is a comment about me, not about you. Again, go ahead and flush fertility away – but please, remember that this action will have an impact on the world of which you are a part, just as every one of your actions will have.

Let me also say that if you have watched the video and taken from it a sense that I am suggesting that you too should now go and create and use a compost toilet system, then you are imposing this message into the equation. As I have said, I am not suggesting that you should or should not do anything. I tried rather to emphasise the theme of interconnection, and my apologies if I did so in a manner you do not find particularly palatable. If, however, the theme of interconnection resonated with you, and you feel like you should do or should not do something (which would be an interpretation you have created), then let me point out that the use of a compost toilet could be seen as an example of taking matters into one’s own hands and implementing a system built due to the awareness of interconnectivity. There are many other examples of things that people can do, and I’ll leave this to you as an area to look into.

Finally, I have also been told that some comments in response to the video are from people who think that Emma and I can do what we do because we are lucky enough to live like we do. Let me state that luck has nothing to do with it. To be able to do what we do first required that we figure out what to do, which we did after many years of working in fairly orthodox work environments. While in these orthodox work environments, what-not-to-do became clear to us, and the imperative to live differently arose. We then took a leap of faith to go and try experiment with an alternative lifestyle, without knowing if it would work or not. The experiment is on-going, and it does require constant physical and mental input, which I find all deeply satisfying largely because the experiment is in the spirit of interconnectivity, but certainly luck is completely irrelevant when talking about what we do. I have much more to say about the experiment, because whether or not it has been successful depends on the different contexts from which judgements about success can be made. I will leave such an evaluative process for a different post.