No Impact Man: doing one small thing isn’t good enough

By Missy Katner

Lumen Assistant Editor

It never fails that the first ques­tion best-selling author of “No Im­pact Man,” Colin Beavan, always is asked is “What did you use instead of toilet paper?” For one year, he made an effort to impact the envi­ronment as little as possible and au­diences are fascinated to know the details. Even the extremely personal details. Beavan refused to answer the question, only saying, “Two-thirds of the world doesn’t use toilet paper. There are alternatives.”

Beavan visited UW-La Crosse on Oct. 5 and presented to a sold-out hall of about 500 people.

In 2008, Beavan took the alterna­tive to the extreme. He and his Man­hattan-based family conducted a year-long experiment aimed at mak­ing no net impact on the environ­ment. This meant taking the stairs, no eating at restaurants, no driving, no electricity, minimal non-degrad­able garbage, etc. His book and documentary based on his project, are both titled “No Impact Man.”

There is no doubt of the popu­larity of his book. The all-or-nothing idea behind “No Impact Man” im­mediately caught fire in the media.

According to the documentary, there is also a large amount of nega­tivity and doubt surrounding his project. Many see it as a gimmick with the sole purpose of profiting on environmental hysteria. Others say that he is undermining the entire green movement. Beavan received emails from other environmentalists who claimed, “It’s people like you who make us look bad.”

In his presentation at UW-La Crosse, Beavan said, “I wanted to write about something that would attract national attention to our en­vironmental crisis.” He intended to write a best-seller, Beavan added.

In his opinion, we have to ask ourselves if our way of life is worth destroying the planet. Before the no impact project, Beavan recalled, “I was pointing my finger, and so an­gry. Then, I got home and saw that I left both air conditioners on all day. I finally realized I was part of the problem.”

Beavan expressed it is more ben­eficial to accept that you probably can’t change the country, but you might be able to change yourself. The most important question peo­ple ask him is “What can I do?”

The author stressed that he doesn’t want everyone to go to the extremes that he did. However, he regrets telling an audience on Good Morn­ing America that if we each do one thing, it will make a difference.

“I don’t think we’ll bokay if we do one little thing,” Beavan ex­plained.

Too him, it is too late to just screw in an energy-saving light bulb and call it good. We’re still dependent on fossil fuels, cutting down forests to make paper towels, and our land­fills are just that—filled. We should be striving for so much more, he said. Beavan believes as a society, we are capable of living with mini­mal detriment to the earth.

There are so many things we can do to help, Beavan asked, why just stop at one. Ride your bike or walk to work. Talk to your family instead of watch TV. Buy locally.

Not everyone is willing to listen to his message. The author said there are some people who will never seek out common ground. But he also added that if we really want some­one to listen, then we should try lis­tening. “Approach people with love and compassion rather than fear and anger,” he suggested.

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