By: Linsley Oaks, LuxEco Living Editorial Assistant
My Nana is very important to me, and with good reason. She has taught me so many valuable lessons with great purpose and honor. One of the greatest lessons she taught me, however, is one which she had no intention of teaching me and likely is not even aware of having imparted. That lesson is: sometimes, enough is not enough.
Nana did everything right. She was as knowledgeable as she could be about nutrition and followed a healthy diet, she stayed in shape, she cultivated her mind with life long learning, she made real human connections with everyone she came in contact with and lived out of love. She did everything she thought she was supposed to do. And yet now, at 83 with two back surgeries behind her, she has been in chronic back pain for over 20 years. She can no longer walk. She is confined to her chair, her wheelchair, her walker, and her bed. Her mind, her organs, her support systems are all healthy and very much alive. But they are being held prisoner by her back and her deteriorating mobility and constant pain medication. She is painfully aware of her limitations every day, but still carries herself with pride and purpose and finds joy in everything she can still do. And she still does everything right- proper nutrition, physical therapy, mental stimulation- even though there is no longer any hope of her back pain receding.
For eons, knowledge has been passed down generation to generation from the elders to the youth; until now. With the exponential rise in scientific and technological knowledge much of the knowledge base you and I consider to be ‘common knowledge’ was not passed down but rather discovered within out life span. In fact, many of the ideas about nutrition and the environment that our grandparents and parents held are now seen as uneducated and false. For example, recycling was not seen as necessary as we used to think of our resources as unlimited. Now, it is common knowledge that recycling is something everyone should do.
Modern Science has taught us a lot about our impact on the environment and its impact on us, and about the need for sustainability. As our numbers continue to increase and our resources decrease, it is a very real lesson that we all need to grab a hold of and use to guide our everyday actions. Currently, I find there to be an overwhelming amount of knowledge one can access about how to live sustainably or be ecologically wise. Much of it can be conflicting and confusing: does recycling actually expend more resources than it re-uses? What products are actually less wasteful of resources, for example paper towels or sponges; paper cups or canteens? We have a lot of work to do on the ‘bottom-line’ answers permeating the common knowledge base in our society. I can feel myself stumbling through the barrage of information that is constantly stimulating my perception as I try my best to do the ‘right’ thing.
People are clearly interested in these issues; many people use their daily purchases to send a message to producers that their dollars will go to those that follow a green business practice. And it is working- organic, eco-friendly, sustainable products are readily available; people are doing great things every day to help the environment and reduce their impact. But as Nana has taught me: sometimes, enough is not enough. Nana’s body was her very own eco-system, and even though she treated it with great care, it still collapsed.
We need to be ready for this reality. No matter how much of the population is willing and able to live sustainably, we need to be ready for the harsh reality that it might not be enough. I find many arguments that eco-activists make seem to miss this possibility. The logic seems to be ‘if everyone would conform to this eco-lifestyle, then the ecological problems we have caused would be solved’. Of course I would love to see a sustainable life style be accessible and implemented by the world population. From individuals to family networks to communities to counties to states to nations. Of course I can see that it would be a supreme good and that many good things would result, and off course I see it as the ‘right‘ or ‘moral‘ or ‘responsible‘ thing to do. My point is doing everything we can know to do might not be enough. Our children and their children’s children will likely look at our eco-practices the same way we look at the food pyramid as a reliable nutrition guide. Enough might not be enough, but that certainly does not mean we stop trying and doing the best we can; and that is the most important lesson of all.