A Year of Living Sustainably

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Colin Beavan and his family tried for a year to have no environmental impact on the world. He talks about his new book, No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009), and the about documentary on his experiment in sustainable living that opens Friday at the Angelika Film Center in Manhattan.


Colin Beavan

Comments [11]


I saw the documentary last night and found the whole doc very interesting. I'm not an advocate, liberal, conservative BUT I do believe that community, health, family and friends are so important. The film doesn't believe in soundbites and neither do I.

Sep. 09 2009 04:42 PM
kai from NJ-NYC

To think that "everyone [in the world] will cut back" is laughable and misleading. People already do what they want, when they can. Non sequiturs like turning off the AC make no sense: the vast majority of people that die from heat strokes DO NOT CHOOSE to turn off the AC, they don't have one in the first place. Same goes for "sun cycles."

The only thing that the US (and Europe) can do is to lead by example and develop sustainable systems that allow people to "do what they want" while simultaneously using resources in a more efficient manner (e.g., freshwater in the American SW and SE).

Finally, it's currently necessary for people all over America to "cut back" and the US is forced to readjust its employment and economic patterns. The hand has been forced. And while people say that China, India aren't changing because of the US, they're wrong; the two countries are developing their own domestic consumption base in this poor export climate.

During the rapid development process, as more people rise to the middle class, the more that they want better stewardship of the environment so that there land and waters aren't dumps and cesspools. Then maybe they can enjoy it.

Think of Nixon's Clean Water Act, which of course was a terrible act of big government overreach that helped no one and allowed the government to tell its citizens what to do and will probably lead to the government's placement of microchips in our heads.

Sep. 08 2009 04:33 PM
John from Brooklyn

That last little bombshell from Beavan, to the effect, "Don't eat beef; cattle emit methane, and raising them causes deforestation," is just absurd.

A 30-second Google search reveals that the deforestation problem has to do with industrial beef imported from the Amazon.

So the lesson there is NOT "Don't eat beef." It's: "Don't eat CHEAP FEEDLOT BEEF from BRAZIL."

As with all food-buying and -eating decisions, the issue is responsible sourcing. If you eat domestic grass-fed or grass-fed and -finished beef, you are NOT killing forests.

There IS a methane issue; in fact, grass-fed cattle produce MORE methane than does industrial cattle.

But the emission of greenhouse gases is not the be-all and end-all in the production of beef. And, as people like Michael Pollan have been documenting for a while now, it is but one of a litany of environmental and health problems associated with industrial feedlot beef, in particular.

Saying "Don't eat beef" is like saying "Don't eat fish," just because bad fish farming practices exist. There are good practices, and there are bad practices. We should be supporting the good ones.

And Colin Beavan should stick to what he knows.

Sep. 08 2009 12:58 PM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

Even if everyone in America changes, there will be no change in India, China, Brazil, Nigeria, etc. And what of the sun cycles. LOL. I say this to my liberal friends: "If wishes were horses, beggars would ride." Ben Franklin

Many people here and abroad will suffer if everyone cuts back. LOL on turning off the AC -- in 2003, 52,000 people died in Europe because of a heat a wave. Almost 15,000 seniors died in France alone. In contrast, only about 1,500 people died from Katrina in 2005, though the liberal press in its’ anti-Bush hysteria, stated that it was 10 - 15,000 during their lying and confused coverage.

People should do what they like and need to do. I know that one of Barack Hussein Obama's biggest contributors when he was in Illinois was "dirty coal" so go figure. He received 100s of thousands of dollars from them. He’s such a great “environmentalist.

Sep. 08 2009 12:05 PM
anonymous from manhattan

your guest says that whether No Impact Man is a "stunt" or not is a moot point, because what's really important is the discussion it generates, but that's precisely the point of calling it a "stunt" -- a stunt takes attention OFF the issue at hand on puts it ON to the stuntman. At the very least the project assumes that audiences need some kind of gimmick to draw them into the discussion rather than just launching into the discussion itself.

Sep. 08 2009 12:01 PM
kay from nyc

why is this interview not asking the pertinent questions? why did he do it? what did he learn? what *was* his impact or non-impact? is this all about how beavan's family benefited?

doesn't do anything to change my initial opinion that no impact man found a good way to channel some mildly good personal initiatives into a media stunt.

Sep. 08 2009 11:55 AM
JR from Brooklyn

I'm curious what "No Impact" activities Beavan and his wife have kept, and which they have let go?

Sep. 08 2009 11:54 AM
kai from NJ-NYC

Living sustainably means that economies adjust to become sustainable as well. A rise in human capital output covers a drop in manufacturing output.

Plus, the rise in consumption by China, India, and other developing nations over the coming decades will certainly allow for people (including the poor) to have, keep, and create jobs.

I guess those people that willingly disregard facts and don't understand global processes, like the economy, don't see the whole picture and are afraid of nuance and some forms of reason.

Sep. 08 2009 11:54 AM
SuzanneNYC from Upper West Side

Well, one person changing behavior is not going to make much of a change globally. Perhaps we could develop sustainable communities where less or no environmental impact is the goal and a way of life.

Sep. 08 2009 11:52 AM
Nicole from Washington Heights

I saw the preview for No-Impact man when I went to see The Hurt Locker. I cheered (aloud) in the theater as soon as I heard Brian's voice on the trailer.

Sep. 08 2009 11:44 AM
Calls'em As I Sees'em from Langley, VA

Your living sustainably means that poor people and people of color are losing jobs and are suffering all over the world. Heck of a job Beavan.

Sep. 08 2009 11:38 AM

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