Sunday, October 29, 2006

Sunday Scribblings: Bedtime Stories

I decided that it was time to face facts and go on a diet. I've decided this before, but I seem to be sticking to it this time. So far I've lost nearly 5 kilograms (11 pounds), and I feel prepared to keep on with a healthier way of eating and exercising for a year if that's what it takes to get to where I want to be. I've made the same decision before, but I've deluded myself. If I "cut back", I thought, I'll lose weight. If I don't buy that chocolate bar, I can still have dessert. I can have biscuits with my morning tea, if I don't nibble while I'm getting dinner. It didn't work. If I ate one, it was too tempting to have two, and the weight loss was so slow that it bored me. The truth is less palatable but in some ways easier. It's not a matter of "cutting back" a little, big changes are needed.

Lately I've been seeing the same sort of story in relation to another area. It's a comforting story, suitable for bedtime, because it won't disturb our sleep too much. It's about global warming. If we all cut back a little, it's suggested, we can do our bit to save the planet. Plan to do all your errands in one trip and save one car journey a week. Walk a few blocks if your journey is short. Put on an extra jersey before you turn the heating up. I can't help feeling this is going to be as successful as my earlier attempts at dieting. "Cutting back" just isn't enough. After all, petrol is expensive. I do all these things anyway, to save money. Whenever we have a winter where electricity is short, because our hydro lakes are at low levels, the same tired suggestions are trotted out - keep the lids on the pots when they are boiling, insulate your hot water cylinder, turn off the lights when you leave the room - and I think "don't they know we do all that already?"

The problem is self-interest. At least when I change my diet, I know that I will see the benefit of giving up chocolate. I give up chocolate (and other sweet, fatty foods) and I get thinner - even if everyone around me is still eating these things and still overweight. But what are the big changes I can make to prevent global warming? I could give up my car completely. Using public transport would cost me an extra hour or two in travel a day, and I would save little money (I know, I've calculated it). I could give up overseas travel. Others around me flit off for a weekend in Australia here and there - shopping in Sydney, or sun on the Gold Coast. I've looked forward all my life to one big trip to the UK, and it looks as if it will finally happen. I could refuse to go, but it won't change the number of flights the airlines make, if I'm the only one who makes the decision. I could sacrifice hugely for no overall benefit. I'm only likely to make changes in one of two circumstances: firstly, if I really believe that enough other people are making the same changes, and secondly (and more importantly) if I can see a short-term benefit for myself. If petrol was expensive enough, and public transport convenient enough, I might give up my car, for instance, to save money.

But it's not, so for the moment I do little. And I try and believe those comforting bedtime stories - to believe that when I walk a few blocks, or combine several errands in one trip, I really do make enough of a difference.

More Sunday Scribblings here

12 comments:

srp said...

Here from Michele.

Congratulations on the diet success! It is really hard to cut back when you have people in your face offering more, over and over. Sometimes don't you just want to take that muffin they want you to eat and stuff it in their face? ;)

paris parfait said...

Great points! But we have to take the small steps when it comes to saving energy to try to compensate for those who don't care about the environment. And I refuse to give up my (typically) one overseas flight per year. I take public transportation most of the time and choose trains, rather than planes whenever possible.

Carmi said...

I admire your courage in making the changes that need to be made - both in your own life, and in the planet's.

My wife decided this year that it was time to get into shape. She's lost over 36 pounds so far, and has no plans to stop. Like she says, it's changed her life. Not only does she look wonderful, but she feels wonderful as well - and that's what matters most to me.

We help the planet by minimizing driving the energy use. I cycle to work for the 9 months of the year that it's feasible to do so. The other 3 months, I walk to the office after we drop the kids off at school.

Little things, of course. But they add up.

Mardougrrl said...

There are so many things in my life like this...things that require LARGE changes, but it feels too overwhelming. Great points...both about dieting and about global warming. I do try to take public transport whenever possible, but I have to admit that it's because I am scared of driving. Still, it has one benefit, at least.

Star said...

I must agree with you that in my family, we are already doing the many little things suggested to save for auto use and heating. It helps the environment and our own personal finances. Perhaps the real changes that need to be made are by those whose pocketbooks are larger than ours and, therefore, do not see economic need for change.

Congrats on your weight loss success. Now if I could become motivated as well...

Deb R said...

Very thought-provoking post, Catherine. You raise a lot of good points.

And congrats on your weight loss. Yay you!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I think it's great that you got your weight down and that you "get" it's by doing the big things! I know this, but I'm not doing it, though I have over the years, many many times...And you are right, BIG changes must happen in that area for me to lose any weight. The environment is so much more difficult, but I believe any small things we all do WILL make a difference there...but, we ALL do have to do something for their to be an appreciable difference...!

I'm here from Michele's this early A.M. with the time change here in L.A., I just gained an hour! Hooray!

Kim said...

Great post! I know what you mean about the weight loss. I started going to the gym a few months ago. I have always been pretty inactive, but I am Addicted now! I'm glad that you are feeling good about it!

revmerrill said...

Catherine, I'm feeling pretty lazy so I'll comment on sevral posts at once. Thank you for the quote about change vs. difference. I'll have to ponder that one along with the observation about the kiln. Connecting diet with global warming and with the lies we tell ourselves ... brilliant. I think the global warming problem will only be solved when the big polluters get on board. Whether I change my thermostat by a degree or two makes some difference, but my electric provider has much more impact. Thanks for sharing.

yak attack said...

Thank you so much for speaking up about global warming. Even though some things are small changes, they do add up. I began changing my diet several months ago, and have lost 31 pounds. Some times the changes are slow, and at other times the weight just seems to fall off. Keep it up! One step at a time!!!

January said...

Small changes do make a difference. And I think attitude is a part of it. Good for you for speaking on global warming and your commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

cloudscome said...

I agree, it seems discouraging to think my little changes won't do the whole job. Are you familiar with the tipping point theory? Malcom Gladwell wrote a book that describes social change as being like a virus. At first it is tiny, but then for some reason it explodes and takes over. I think our changing energy use and habits needs to be like that... before too late! My trying to use less electric to save money might influence others to do the same, and that might have an economic impact on the suppliers.... what kind of car you drive and how often might influence your neighbors or someone who is a mover and shaker. I also think blogging about global warming is a powerful tool. The more talk, the more interest, the more people might band together and make a big difference. So thanks for posting about it!