Monday, April 25, 2011
On Living Locally and Seeking Continuity
We could go on forever debating the "moral" and "social responsibility" implications of living locally vs globally. On the one hand, those who lead lifestyles that rely on air travel are doing a great deal of damage to the environment. On the other hand, one could argue that some international jobs are "important" in their contribution to society, and the scale of this contribution outweighs the degree of environmental damage. But the trouble with these arguments, is that they inevitably lead us to a slippery slope. Who determines what's important? Who has the right to pass that judgment on others, and using what criteria? Are UN workers "good," but fashion reporters "evil"? Is it "wrong to endanger the environment" by traveling to Shanghai just for fun, or is that outweighed by the positive effect of experiencing another culture, growing more tolerant and open-minded as a result? Impossible to say, without imposing our subjective sense of logic on others' sovereignty, which is not something I wish to do.
As we lose our sense of "continuous living," our notions of contact grow increasingly abstract - and not just contact with other people, but contact with our surroundings. I remember a post by Dottie at Let's Go Ride a Bike some time ago, where she describes the lifestyle of her family in the North Carolina suburbs as "traveling from pod to pod." The home is a pod. The workplace is another pod. The restaurant, also a pod. And because of the vast, highway-navigated distances between each, there is no clear sense of what happens in between; it is kind of a dead space, almost a virtual space. I found this imagery to be both frightening and relatable - a reflection of my own anxieties about what our lifestyles are doing to the way we connect with the physical world.