Diversions :: Division Day/Navigating Sustainability


(Diversions, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, catches up with our favorite artists as they wax on subjects other than recording and performing.)

I started the Diversions feature earlier in the year in an effort to create a forum on AD for artists to discuss topics outside the realms of what we typically read about in interviews, reviews and/or profiles. Today’s entry, courtesy of Division Day’s Kevin Lenhart, is a perfect example.   The band’s sophomore LP, Visitation, is out now via local outfit Dangerbird Records. Division Day kick off their tour tomorrow night, in Los Angeles, at Spaceland.

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Navigating Sustainability:   I’m wary of bringing up the issue of sustainability in conversation.   It is something I have gone to great lengths to educate myself about, and for that reason, I run the risk of sounding like I’m lecturing people whenever the topic is broached (Brief bio: I have done a good deal of reading on sustainable economics, restorative industrial practices, and green urban development. I’ve also attended several green building and design expos, become certified as a LEED green building inspector, and currently work with a national sustainability advocacy group developing a center to help people adopt more ecologically benevolent lifestyles).   I don’t like to get up on a soapbox and decry all the bad that surrounds us.   That does more harm than good; environmentalists already suffer enough contempt, a good deal of it deserving, from people who have had run-ins with arrogant hippies or self-righteous Prius owners (nothing wrong with a Prius, but it isn’t going to save the world, and yippie snobbery is bullshit).

This leads me to my point for this piece: before meaningful progress toward environmental restoration can occur, the people driving the sustainability movement must sort out their public relations dilemma.   At the most fundamental level, we all need to be using less. That means less food, energy, water, which in turn means smaller houses, fewer possessions, no more lawns, way less meat-eating, way less travel, etc.   If one asks “What can I do to reduce my impact on the planet?” they will be answered with a seemingly infinite list of long-enjoyed comforts that they must now voluntarily forswear.   Furthermore, many ecologically sound lifestyle changes end up costing a person more money than they are accustomed to paying (at least initially; energy bill savings and cultural and physical health benefits will accrue over time and generally cancel out the added up-front costs of buying more sustainable appliances, organic food, natural cleaning products and the like, but that immediate sting at the register is a tough hurdle to get over).

Continue reading after the jump…..

So how do you convince people that they must spend more money and give up the things they love to have? This is the question we’ve been discussing at the non-profit in putting together our climate action center.   Ultimately, we decided that what really needs to occur is value change on a large scale.   People will need to decide for themselves that the level of consumption they are used to is too high, and, critically, that it is their responsibility to take steps to reduce their level of impact on the earth.   This is not something we can force on people. The only choice for the drivers of sustainability, therefore, is to present people with information about our current consumption infrastructure in a way that encourages them to come to this decision to take personal responsibility for the health of the planet.

The challenge, then, is what information do we present, and how do we present it?   People obviously hold a wide variety of opinions about the environment and its role in our politics and our economy, so different people will need to hear different things to have it resonate for them.   My impulse has been to remove the topic from it’s fad-ness, which may be doing more to trivialize it than to further it’s cause, and place it in a broader historical context.   Toward this end, I’ve amassed an arsenal of stats.   Sparing you the details, the main points are 1) our current standards of energy use came about way before our culture had any idea of our environmental troubles, and they therefore fail to take into account the damage to the environment that our consumption causes, and 2) our astronomical level of energy use is, in historical terms, an infant; we’ve only been using large amounts of energy since the industrial revolution, and REALLY large amounts of energy since the mid-20th century, as compared to the relatively stable and much lower levels of consumption seen in the centuries of Western civilization that precede us.   Whereas cultural practices acquire value and legitimacy as they pass from one generation to the next (take crop rotation, for example, which incidentally, mainstream agriculture all but ignores) there is no historical precedent for our current level of consumption; if anything, history advises us quite plainly to do the exact opposite of what we are doing, to be moderate in what we take from the land, to respect nature and not attempt to dominate it, to know our place, essentially.

So, now we’re at a point at the non-profit in which we are trying to present information in a variety of manners, and as apolitically as possible.   We’ve got stats on energy use, pictures, graphs, speeches from throughout history, scientific findings, you name it, and we’re currently putting it all together in a way that will show people as accurately as possible where their “stuff” comes from (and by “stuff”, I mean our energy, water, goods, food, transportation, etc), where it ends up, how much of it we all use, and what effect that all has on the planet and on our culture.   People should be able to decide for themselves, we say, and we think if they can trust that we aren’t force-feeding them a hyper-liberal agenda (we aren’t!), then even those who are usually disinclined to care about the environment will be open to take a look at the way things are. Once they do that, anyone can see that we can do much better; the infrastructure behind all that we consume is grossly inefficient, and more than ever we are surrounded by tons of great ideas for how to make it more environmentally and socially beneficial.   From here it follows that more people would feel compelled to do something to stop our degradation of the environment, and that, we hope, would in turn dissolve the adversarial environment of business vs. environmentalists that exists in the policy world, replacing it with intelligent, fruitful debate.   THEN we could actually get something done.   It’s impossible not to sound idealistic when discussing the re-working of an entire nation’s energy and industrial infrastructure, but truly, it is not as far-fetched as it may sound, especially when the need for change is so apparent, and the potential for economic and cultural reward is so great.

That’s my small piece of the pie.   It’s not very conclusive, but that’s the nature of the beast; it’s a big fucking topic.   If anyone is interested, I’m happy to recommend books, events, etc, or to just talk.   Knowledge is power! words/ kevin lenhart
Amazon: Division Day – Visitation

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2 thoughts on “Diversions :: Division Day/Navigating Sustainability

  1. this is a really well thought out piece. personally, i can’t think of a more important issue than figuring out our place in the natural world which we sometimes forget we’re a very small part of. i think it’s pretty important that we all consider that we do have responsibilities as citizens to get involved and support the issues we care about. sitting around hoping and waiting for the folks in washington to take appropriate action is equal to doing nothing. things don’t ever really changes from the top. real change comes from a slow and steady movement of the masses which inevitably causes those in power to adapt to what has become their new “market.”

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