Every person starts their day with a different amount of money, health, and love; but we all start it with exactly the same amount of time. Of course the amount of money, health and love you have will affect what you then do with your time, but no one should complain that they don’t have the time. This is a mantra of mine, and it has particular resonance for me because I’m quite well off for money, health and love so I know I have to take full responsibility for what I do with time.
I’ve been thinking about all this as I’ve neared the end of the Energy Diet – and it’s started to pinch. I’ve done the easy things (local plums rather than imported bananas for dessert, carbon offsetting a recent flight, turning machines off standby…) and as I reviewed my life in the last week I realised there weren’t many more little things I could do.
Though perhaps I can feel good about having changed some of my more wasteful habits, this isn’t really a cause for celebration; in fact I feel rather overwhelmed. Because to exist in a more earth-friendly way I realise I actually need to fundamentally change the way I live. The ways of living that would make me a less wasteful inhabitant of the planet would involve me doing less: the reason I couldn’t think of a single journey I could have replaced with public transport in the last week is that the additional time taken by the bus rather than the taxi is time I can’t afford with my current commitments. And the reason I reached for that rubbishy bag of crisps as a quick blood sugar burst is that I didn’t make time to cook a proper supper. When you feel short on time you do things the wasteful way.
I’m in a privileged position: I don’t have kids or other dependents and most of my activities are as a volunteer with our charity, The Ideas Partnership, so I’m generally not making a financial calculation about how much I do. The commitments I’ve taken on are things I want to do. Are they things I want to do enough to sacrifice my ecosystem for?
It’s not a rhetorical question, because of course there’s a balance. But the epiphany for me this week is that a good environmentalist can’t hurtle around switching off the lights as she passes. A good environmentalist will slow down the hurtling too.
There’s a French saying that ‘if you don’t have time, you’re already dead’. A planet inhabited by people who say they have no time is probably a planet that’s dead too.