Having a pine tree deodorizer hanging from the rearview mirror in a Queens taxi near the midtown tunnel in rush hour is an action rooted somewhere between supreme optimism and a giant screw you to reality. You would do better to tape it to your face or wear it as a necklace.
On one of the most nauseating taxi rides I’ve ever taken to JFK I realized that not all little things really matter. At least not in a good way. Buying a pine tree car deodorizer in a forest of olfactory unpleasantness may sound like you’re going out of your way to create jobs and improve your little neck of the woods, but you’re really just buying another toxic piece of junk that’s headed to some Queens landfill. Oh yeah, and it was a blue pine tree. You know, just like those peppermint blue pine trees we see in nature.
As we were weaving in an out of traffic without the aid of the customary turn signal I realized that most people really have a desire to make things better, despite their circumstances, despite the odds. The warning honks of other cars created a continual reminder that we’re all in this together, and that what each of us does will truly effect the others.
Most people want to live better, but they don’t always know how or have the time to learn.
As I thought back on the mountains of trash bags lining the residential streets near Times Square, and driving past innumerable altars of excess that line the city I remembered that even here is a thriving transitional culture. Here in Gotham itself has been the inspiration for models of new economy, systems of sharing, and vertical patio horticulture. Here is where a two acre urban food garden called Brooklyn Grange sits atop a building in Queens.
I wondered how much time this man had in between his long driving shifts breathing exhaust to think about “sustainability issues” while he drives people like me to the airport. Here in the heart of the Big Apple, the city that converted Colin Beavan, I wondered how everyone else could transition to a lower-impact lifestyle. Not everyone is living a life based on a new book idea. Not everyone can afford to be so reflective, so experimental. Some people are just trying to get by. That doesn’t mean they don’t want or deserve clean air, safe water, and healthy food as much as I do. Many of them got here after leaving situations that make them thankful just to be alive.
One of the 3 pillars in the philosophy developing around sustainable culture is about caring for others. I usually think it’s a good goal just to get my own life in some kind of order, but really that’s not enough. If it’s morally wrong to live a lifestyle of excess in material wealth that thrives off others having less, then it’s also wrong to think this way in the sustainable green economy. Yes I’ve worked very hard to be able to afford organic produce for my family, but I need to find every way to share. It’s not enough to just live better. If I don’t choose to connect with and help others, I’m really missing the bigger picture. The way they live touches my life too.
I know what I know about “sustainability” largely because someone else took the time to learn it and teach me, through a blog, a book, or in person. I only know how to make Kombucha because my son volunteered for a road trip to another state to help someone build a fence, and on the way there someone else taught him how to make Kombucha. Then he taught me. Before that I only knew how to buy Kombucha at the store. Now we have a symbiotic relationship where I make it and he drinks it, but he helps with plenty of other things and it’s All Good.
How can I help someone today who’s caught up in a life that is not their own? What can I do in my little circle to share what I’ve learned? How can I take all these little changes that have bettered my life, and help to better someone else’s? The little things we do should matter. The way we spend our time is important. The world we live in is the world we’ve chosen so far to build. Let’s start choosing better.
Let’s choose to help others who may have no other option today than to hang a pine scented car freshener in a Taxi in the heart of the city, and let’s start seeing the forest for the little pine scented trees.