The Grass is (Not) Always Greener…

It's really not THIS bad...
It’s really not THIS bad…

The rain came back today. Not surprising since I live in Seattle. However, according to the locals summer came a whole month early this year. June gloom is the way of the Pacific Northwest, but not this year. June was gorgeous, and July was downright toasty (by Seattle standard). In fact, no rain fell at all. For the whole month.

This shouldn’t phase me in the slightest. I’m from Las Vegas, where (as a friend pointed out earlier) a drop of rain causes all TV news crews to declare an extreme weather emergency. This isn’t as far fetched as it sounds. Vegas soil is not very absorbent so a tiny bit of rain is usually enough to cause a flash flood, with cars floating their way down to the Las Vegas Wash.

Ahh... a nice clear Seattle day.
Ahh… a nice clear Seattle day.

In Seattle, prolonged lack of rain makes people uneasy. As if mother nature is getting ready to pull something crazy. The reason this place is called the Emerald City is because the rain keeps everything green. It drizzles for 10 months out of the year. It’s peaceful and relaxing and helps us sustain our coffee consumption.

Not that the sunny skies have been unwelcome. We usually treat warm sunny weather like a unicorn. A rare mythical beast that must be worshipped and adored. Schools will have “sun days” instead of snow days, and it is not uncommon for people to call out from work to enjoy solar activity. But a whole month… nobody wants a unicorn to hang out that long. Rainbow crap piles everything, not to mention the horn just knocking stuff over.

Poop happens.
Poop happens.

Then there’s my garden. In Spring, it was awesome. We planted things, they grew. We thought we had magic seeds the way they took off. Some good soil, a raised bed, a little NW rain… instant garden veggies! And we never had to water. Mother nature took care of it all. I’ll  be honest, it made us lazy.

Then July came and mother nature said “Enough of this, I’m going on vacation. Water your own garden.” Heather and I used our rain barrels until they ran dry. Then we started watering from the hose. Everything just keeps on drinking! They are like water zombies; their ravenous thirst will never be sated!

Public water?!?! Socialism!!!!
Public water?!?! Socialism!!!!

We weren’t prepared for this. We hadn’t set up any drip irrigation or water lines. Our rain barrels were horribly inadequate. We believed wholeheartedly in nature providing for us. It’s a good thing we live in a city; if we were subsistence farmers we would have starved to death. Well played nature… well played.

This brings up the issues of water as a human right. Access to water is a worldwide concern. Communities in the desert southwest fight over water. Global climate change causes horrible drought conditions in which affects food supplies that impact the poor the most. Water is by far the most precious commodity the earth has (along with clean air) and I take it for granted.

Mr. Water says "Do it!"
Mr. Water says “Do it!”

Heather and I have been trying to steward our water more efficiently. She’s much better at it than I am. She captures gray water, only takes a shower every other day, and set up our rain barrel system. We made the decision to take out all of our grass and replace it with garden beds and native plant life. I just try to run the faucet less. But I’m learning.

Since moving to Seattle, I’ve experienced more rain than I’ve ever had before. As a result I respect it now more than I ever have. I suppose the grass is always greener, especially when you have enough water to keep it that way.

What choice(s) do I have?

Yes, it sometimes feels like this…

I am an American consumer. I have no little choice in the matter. There are extreme options for living off the grid, but I live in a big city (Seattle).  Therefore, I must do as the Seattlites do. I try to make intelligent, conscientious consumer choices: buying second hand, buying local, buying independent. However, these choices are difficult at best. Many supposedly healthy, organic, responsible brands are owned and operated by large multi-national corporations who have more compassion for the bottom line than for environmental or human health.

It’s like that scene in the Shining… but on everything…

This really frustrates me. Due to my choices (mostly, a car and electronics) I have at least 36 slaves working for me. I fully acknowledge the things I buy are tainted. It’s because I demand cheap goods that will satisfy me immediately. It’s because I don’t grow my own food or make my own clothing. It’s also because tainted goods are the only choices corporations and companies offer me. Or I could remove myself completely from the consumer loop and become a recluse.

Ideas anyone? Bueller… Bueller…?

The thought isn’t so bad, except I really like movies, cheeseburgers, beer, video games, refrigeration, modern medicine, owning a car, and the interwebs. Modern life in the United States can be awesome, amazing, and wonderful!

There has to be a better way.  Few things in life are this black and white. Change has to come from both sides–manufacturer and consumer. I must demand my goods be slave free and ethically sound. I have to accept that these goods will eventually cost more. Corporations must wake up and realize human beings have an inherent dignity and the Earth can’t be raped until there is nothing left. If I can have fair trade coffee and conflict free diamonds, why can’t I have blood free electronics and transparent labeling?

These are your only choices… forever…

Google and some other companies are on the right track. There are alternatives for those of us who can afford them. But I worry about are people who can’t afford (or access) these choices. Millions of people can ONLY shop at WalMart and eat at McDonalds. Economics dictate their food and goods. Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and the little hipster organic shop on the corner don’t exist in their neighborhoods and are too expensive for their budgets. In a country that prides itself on freedom and choice, millions of people have no alternative but depend on goods bound to human slavery and environmental atrocities.

Power to the people!

So what is an American consumer to do?  Start with consumer choices. Nothing will be 100% guilt free, but I have been buying better. Heather and I have scaled back how MUCH we buy in lieu of the QUALITY in what we buy. When we can, we frequent farmers markets. We walk to work. We don’t own a TV. We cook our own food. We buy clothes second hand. We make choices to go without, rather than participate in.

We also gear our investments in portfolios and organizations which work towards just environmental, economic, and employment practices. These investments may not have better returns, but the ethic is more important. Also, I speak up on corporate social media pages and participate in local and national government… I demand policies and laws that take the environment and human rights into account.

Trust this guy.

Gandhi’s words will forever be true: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Change is difficult and comes at a sacrifice; it means discomfort, delay of reward, or just saying no. But I believe it’s worth all this and more to achieve as much of a slave free and environmentally sustainable world as we can get. It is happiness and health for the long run.