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A guilty liberal finally snaps...
March 22, 2007 9:33 AM   Subscribe

No Impact Man - "For one year, my wife, my 2-year-old daughter, my dog and I, while living in the middle of New York City, are attempting to live without making any net impact on the environment. In other words, no trash, no carbon emissions, no toxins in the water, no elevators, no subway, no products in packaging, no plastics, no air conditioning, no TV, no toilets…"
posted by dobbs (103 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
no shit?
posted by Floydd at 9:39 AM on March 22, 2007 [5 favorites]


Am I the only one struck by the unseemliness of announcing all of this? They act like they're the only ones ever to have had any such idea. It's so...narcissistic.

More than a billion people live on a lot less - and no Chloe boots for them - and you don't hear them shouting about it. Mostly because, well, you can't.

These people kind of sicken me, to tell the truth.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:41 AM on March 22, 2007 [6 favorites]


Good luck with that, shitbird.
posted by basicchannel at 9:41 AM on March 22, 2007


(And even here in the overfed North, there's ample precedent, albeit less self-congratulatory.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:42 AM on March 22, 2007


No TV? Assuming he already owns one, what impact on the environment does not watching TV make?
posted by unixrat at 9:43 AM on March 22, 2007


Sweet! Now I can double my "impact" on the environment and it all comes out a wash.
posted by Falconetti at 9:43 AM on March 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


Awaiting the response from an innocent conservative.
posted by hal9k at 9:45 AM on March 22, 2007


Don't forget..he's doing it cuz it was the only book concept his agent could sell. Doesn't reduce the interest of what it is, but, there ya have it.
posted by spicynuts at 9:46 AM on March 22, 2007


So he's over-reacting to a problem that could best be solved with moderaton, like most of life's problems? If he betrays just one hint of piety then he'll doing much more damage than he's preventing, it terms of society's somewhat-justified repulsion to these antics.

That's one less flushing toilet for us all to worry about, though.
posted by jon_kill at 9:47 AM on March 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


"No carbon emissions" -- does that mean he's going to stop breathing?
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 9:47 AM on March 22, 2007 [8 favorites]


I think it's a cool idea. How does he blog without making an impact? Does he talk about that somewhere on the site?
posted by OmieWise at 9:49 AM on March 22, 2007


... not a single luxury? It's primitive as can be!
posted by steef at 9:50 AM on March 22, 2007


I see this being easy to fuck up with. I mean, if you go outside at night and are technically using the city light, aren't you guilty of being a reason for some emissions? I'm definitely impressed that he and his family are cutting down, and it's something more people need to do (nevermind I'm on the internet right now); but it just seems like completely cutting down is going to be impossible. Any time you do anything in a city, you're going to be guilty of consuming more than your fair share of something.

But, by all means, compost that shite! I just don't see it being hugely beneficial until a lot of people are doing this, and until a lot of people decide that maybe the lights in buildings should all be turned off at night when no one's there anyway. Baby steps though, I guess?
posted by taursir at 9:52 AM on March 22, 2007


Am I the only one struck by the unseemliness of announcing all of this?

Funny. The tone of his blog is incredibly friendly and approachable. Who's shouting about it besides everyone saying how dumb this is?

Are you saying that the consequences of disposable consumer goods and personal waste are not something that deserve to be examined in the media? Or are you saying that it's sanctimonious for him to walk the walk? Because I guarantee that if he "shouted" about all this but didn't personally change his own habits, you'd be struck by the unseemliness of that instead.

Honestly I'm impressed by this guy. He seems thoughtful instead of outraged, which is more or less the first step in tackling any big issue effectively.
posted by hermitosis at 9:52 AM on March 22, 2007 [6 favorites]


I agree. He's obviously thought through this Thoreau'ly.
posted by hal9k at 9:57 AM on March 22, 2007 [7 favorites]


taursir, living in a high-density urban core is actually far more ecologically sound than any other choice that does not involve actual renunication.

There was a great article in the New Yorker 'bout a year ago that reframed standard-issue Manhattan apartment life in eco-utopian terms. It was sort of a revelation how progressive it sounded, and how hard you'd have to try to achieve a similarly low impact in just about any other context.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:58 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


There's certainly some amount of narcissism involved in any blogging (including MeFi, ahem), but what the heck is a dude supposed to do if he wants to spread the word and inspire others? Humility is nice, but it will never penetrate the mass media celeb worship haze.

Knee-jerk criticism, at least with regards to my own instinct to mock, is probably due to latent feelings that, as an individual, I'm not doing enough. God forbid anyone is ever passionate about anything in this world and tries to share that passion with others.
posted by Skwirl at 10:01 AM on March 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


Hermitosis is right. This guy seems thoughtful, highly readable, and far from doctrinaire.

His story should be interesting, and it looks like he's going to give a lot of tips on how those of us who have more than zero impact can reduce what we're doing.

I think that might be an issue that gets a lot more visibility in the near future. This guy and his blog are one good way to keep tabs on it.
posted by ibmcginty at 10:01 AM on March 22, 2007


In my more wild eyed college days while ranting about the evils of city life and the moral, ecological, and general superiority of rural living, I had a girlfriend basically point out how full of shit I was. Done reasonably well cities are vastly better for the environment than any New Settler Eco Homestead Back To the Land deal I've seen yet.

That was an eye opener.

That said, I find the notion of living a truly "zero impact" life to be woefully ignorant of the realities of ecology and basic thermodynamics. Living creatures are slow burning fires, and we cannot exist without impacting the environment. We have some choices within that, but let's be realistic.
posted by freebird at 10:05 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't know if I'd go so far as to call this self-congratulatory, but it is gimmicky as all hell, and I've got to wonder about the efficacy of gimmicks, given that the scope of the problem seems to compel broad-based solutions. This dude's basically turned his lifestyle into a unicycle-on-a-highwire act. Saying, basically, "Check out this crazy shit. Now doesn't that make you rethink your trip to Costco?"

But I wonder: the people passing under the highwire below, they might all look up, and some might cheer, and maybe some of the biggest fans might even say, "Well, if this dude can do it on a unicycle, maybe I'll switch to the free-range chicken." But for the vast majority of people who'd rather not make big changes if they don't have to, are maybe thinking they should drive a little less, starting to worry a bit about the headlines, even in the face of the counterspin - do those people look up and say, "Well, if that's what it takes, you can cram it with walnuts, you sideshow freak"?

Consider No Impact Man's (sort of overwrought) attack on carbon offsets:

Donating a little money to plant a tree does not remove the carbon dioxide mainlined into the stratosphere by airplane engines

True enough, I guess. On the other hand, you not getting on the flight doesn't cancel it. It just means some standby passenger gets a spot or someone got a good last-minute deal on Expedia that day or whatever. When you draw the loop of responsibility that tightly around you, isn't it arrogant to think you're changing anything besides yourself?

I'm not saying this guy's off-base, exactly. I genuinely wonder whether this kind of hyper-personalized responsibility is effective. I lean increasingly, however, toward the notion that badgering people to change their lifestyles out of shame hit its diminishing-returns phase awhile back.

As a counterargument, I give you this former Proctor & Gamble rebranding whiz's take. Maybe restart the discussion here, rather than with more and more vivid descriptions of the plumage on the alleged shitbird in the link?
posted by gompa at 10:05 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Lifestyleism places the onus on us as consumers rather than the larger political and economic context. And it's a book project. So not madly impressed, but good luck to them.
posted by Abiezer at 10:06 AM on March 22, 2007


I'd probably agree with you-all, but for what we learn in the NYT piece: that this was a concept the guy ginned up as a book pitch.

That if all goes well, it will result in many, may books being printed and shipped; that there will be a multi-city author tour; that for all the asperities and stringencies the couple are undoubtedly experiencing at the moment, they will be redeemed in spectacle.

What can I say? It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:08 AM on March 22, 2007


You know how you can tell when someone is defensive about something? When someone else tries it and they immediately point out how omgimpossible it's going to be.

The point of something like this isn't the succeeding. It's the trying and what you learn along the way. If he figures out/popularizes some good techniques, then great. If he doesn't maybe someone else (or his kid) will be inspired to try again, also great.
posted by DU at 10:08 AM on March 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


"These people kind of sicken me, to tell the truth."

I agree with you. And I have the feeling that the Amish will just look at him and giggle too. He's doing the "Hey, look at me, I'm in New York, I'm a liberal, and woohoo I have a BLOG!" thing.

I have the feeling that Hollywood is involved here somehow. I mean, he seems to have racked up quite a bit of press coverage in a very little time for doing something that if you think about it, really isn't all that interesting.

Ah. There is.... they're looking for investors to make a movie.
posted by drstein at 10:08 AM on March 22, 2007


I'd suggest it borders on humanly impossible to read about efforts like this and not at least briefly consider the environmental impact of the ordinary things you do during the course of the day. No matter how much you don't want to, no matter how hostile you are to the idea.

Sure, they're not doing anything really new, but they are drawing additional attention to the realities of the world we've made for ourselves and how we perpetuate the seeming necessity of it in everything we do. (There's a JFK quote I could put here, but I'll resist.) I don't see a downside. No matter how you look at it, they're not hurting you at all, and if you feel injured by it, that's certainly your problem.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:11 AM on March 22, 2007


Man, Metafilter at its best: snark, snark, snark.

Does anyone here actually do anything constructive with themselves, or do you just like to tear down what other people try to do?

Funny.
posted by tgrundke at 10:12 AM on March 22, 2007 [5 favorites]


The NYTimes article made me want to punch this dude, but his blog is actually pretty good. It was actually more of the bits about his partner- specifically the boots (ergh)- but, again, she's not the driving ideological force here- she's just along for the ride.
Sure, give it a try. Here's a question- would the energy and water waste needed for one of those high-tech Japanese bidet toilets that cleanses you be more harmful than toilet paper? Because I could get behind that. Or on top of it.
posted by 235w103 at 10:12 AM on March 22, 2007


All issues of his potential insincerity or off-basedness aside, did anyone else notice that he seems to be saying that he and his wife don't have sex (check the About My Family page)? Why does that strike me as being so odd?
posted by hollisimo at 10:13 AM on March 22, 2007


adamgreenfield: More than a billion people live on a lot less - and no Chloe boots for them - and you don't hear them shouting about it. Mostly because, well, you can't.

These people kind of sicken me, to tell the truth.


A more charitable interpretation of this guy's intent in the publicity is to drum up awareness - perhaps to show that if he can manage to live in the middle of NYC with no net impact, then all NYC/other major city residents should be able to lessen their own impact. He's not doing this to show off or make fun of third world country inhabitants.

On preview: seconding George_Spiggott
posted by taliaferro at 10:14 AM on March 22, 2007


From the Times article: Getting people to read a blog on their 50-watt L.C.D. monitors and buy a bound volume of postconsumer paper and show the filmed doc in a heated/air-conditioned movie theater, etc., sounds like nonimpact man is leading to a lot of impact.

Kind of what I was thinking, too. He should sell the book online as a PDF, so that at least no more paper needs to used than is necessary.
posted by amro at 10:16 AM on March 22, 2007


No TV? Assuming he already owns one, what impact on the environment does not watching TV make?

Number of hours per day that TV is on in an average U.S. home: 6 hours, 47 minutes

Typical electrical rating of TV in the US: Varies, lets say 100W typically.

Thus that's around 0.675kWh/day or 246.375kWh/year.

US Carbon emissions/kWh: 1.55 pounds CO2/kWh so not using the TV will save 1.55 x 246.375 kWh = 381 pounds of CO2 annually.
posted by biffa at 10:19 AM on March 22, 2007


Does anyone here actually do anything constructive with themselves, or do you just like to tear down what other people try to do?
My problem is that I think it is actually not constructive to focus over-much on individual lifestyles. It can also lead to the erroneous belief that changing consumption patterns amongst a wealthy few in the first world will be enough. As consumers, we of course do have some agency in the market, but unless we address these issues as citizens, voters and political actors all we'll get is green branding.
posted by Abiezer at 10:20 AM on March 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Obviously, if you want to publicize a message about zero-impact living (which is a good thing), you will use resources. Is this a contradiction? Yes, but it's inevitable. Furthermore, it is possible to make money AND have a positive impact (or at least hopeful expectations of a positive impact) with regards to environmental or social issues.

(hollismo - perhaps they are on birth control. I don't think he's implying abstinence)
posted by taliaferro at 10:28 AM on March 22, 2007


I'd probably agree with you-all, but for what we learn in the NYT piece: that this was a concept the guy ginned up as a book pitch.

Hey, it worked for the Super Size Me guy. He actually built something of a career on it (assuming a career lasts an average of 18 months nowadays).
posted by psmealey at 10:28 AM on March 22, 2007


did anyone else notice that he seems to be saying that he and his wife don't have sex (check the About My Family page)? Why does that strike me as being so odd?

Children are carbon emissions.
posted by srboisvert at 10:29 AM on March 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Does he say somewhere on his site where, exactly, his family is shitting and pissing? What are they doing with all that human waste if they're not using toilets?
posted by antifuse at 10:31 AM on March 22, 2007


OK, you know what, on consideration, you're right.

My negative feelings about this couple and their experiment were entirely generated by the content of the NYT piece - which, in this light, reads like a fairly subtle hatchet job. Basically, I failed to let the guy speak for himself. He's not responsible for what spin the NYT puts on his words and actions.

So I take back much of what I said above. While I agree with Abiezer that large-scale action is more important, I also agree with those of you who have expressed various versions of the option that such action is more likely to happen in a content of raised awareness, and that No Impact is one way of raising same.
posted by adamgreenfield at 10:31 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


When I was young, and lived on a farm, we had a calf that was born without an anus.

No shit.
posted by LordSludge at 10:32 AM on March 22, 2007 [5 favorites]


OmieWise: How does he blog without making an impact?

He purchases Typepad offsets.
posted by brundlefly at 10:32 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


He's obviously thought through this Thoreau'ly.

Thoreau went home every day to his mom's place for lunch, and to pick up his clean laundry.

Maybe someone will give these folks a hand-cranked computer. A USED one, of course. Admirable to want to conserve. Grandstanding for a book deal.. eh. Nice is good, but nice people rip you off sometimes.
posted by reflecked at 10:35 AM on March 22, 2007


No Impact Man sez:
But to cause no net impact is impossible to do merely by restricting consumption and waste output. Just participating in society makes us responsible for the negative environmental impacts of society’s functioning, even if our personal lifestyle does no harm.
Exactly. I couldn't have said it better myself. The consumer-capitalist system itself causes environmental damage. The problem is structural.

This guy's heart is certainly in the right place but I don't think his project will have much of an impact. The same system that's killing the oceans and ripping apart the Amazon will turn his work into a toothless piece of commodified dissent. People will buy the book, watch the movie, feel really self-righteous afterward but they won't go on to do anything more than that. Nothing substantial will change.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:36 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one struck by the unseemliness of announcing all of this? They act like they're the only ones ever to have had any such idea. It's so...narcissistic.

That was my exact reaction to Walden, actually.
posted by rxrfrx at 10:37 AM on March 22, 2007


SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!

He's not doing this to show off or make fun of third world country inhabitants.

No, he's doing it for a book deal.

I live a rather zero impact life. In fact, compared to many suburbanites, I live a spare and very eco-friendly life. In fact, I probably am pretty damn environmentally sound. And my skin is brown! I absorb more solar radiation rather than reflecting it back into the earth's atmosphere. someone should write a book about that!

If he really wants to change how people live, he'd actually do something that actually impacts people lives - start a seminar, design new product packaging that requires less, run programs at the local projects to teach poor families how to live better with less - but he's not. He's writing a book and a blog that is gonna be popular with those already in the choir.
posted by Stynxno at 10:38 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I predict that this experiment will have no impact on my preconceptions.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:40 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


But from another, deeper perspective: we shouldn't involve outselves in lines of development where the ultimate victory condition is emulating dead people. There's no appeal in that. It's bad for us. That kind of inherent mournfulness is just not a good way to be human. We're not footprint-generating organisms whose presence on the planet is inherently toxic and hurtful. We need better handprints, not lighter footprints. We need better stuff, not less stuff. We need to think it through and take effective action, not curl up in a corner stricken with guilt and breathe shallowly.

Bruce Sterling

posted by zabuni at 10:40 AM on March 22, 2007 [5 favorites]


"And my skin is brown! I absorb more solar radiation rather than reflecting it back into the earth's atmosphere"

So that's why you're so hot-blooded.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:42 AM on March 22, 2007


The most surprising thing about this is the idea that you can get a book deal based on an idea for womething you haven't actually done yet. Stupid me, I thought that in order to get a book deal, you had to, you know, write a book first.
posted by Pastabagel at 10:44 AM on March 22, 2007


Donating a little money to plant a tree does not remove the carbon dioxide mainlined into the stratosphere by airplane engines

Well, he's wrong. It does remove some of the carbon dioxide. Maybe not all of the CO2, but if every passenger on every flight did it, then it probably would remove all the CO2 put out by the plane.

The point is it is actually possible to remove CO2 from the air.

And let me guess, this guy's using a solar powered webserver?
posted by delmoi at 10:47 AM on March 22, 2007


And my skin is brown! I absorb more solar radiation rather than reflecting it back into the earth's atmosphere. someone should write a book about that!

Nuh-uh! You're contributing to global warming because rather than reflecting sunlight back into space you're absorbing it and reradiating it as heat.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:47 AM on March 22, 2007


did anyone else notice that he seems to be saying that he and his wife don't have sex (check the About My Family page)? Why does that strike me as being so odd?

In the old days, when Christian monasterys first got started the monks would compete in terms of who could lead the most deprived life. finally they had to put a minimum cap on ascetic living because it became like a competition, like a form of vanity.

This guy is being really irrational in any way other then trying to sell a book. It's a gimic, and won't do much to actually help the cause of living sustainably.
posted by delmoi at 10:58 AM on March 22, 2007


The most surprising thing about this is the idea that you can get a book deal based on an idea for womething you haven't actually done yet. Stupid me, I thought that in order to get a book deal, you had to, you know, write a book first.

FYI, this is standard operating procedure, especially for commercial nonfiction. You put together a proposal, maybe a sample chapter or a couple of mag articles (depending on your track record), you get a deal, an advance to cover at least some of your research expenses and/or subsistence during the writing process - only part of the "advance" is actually paid to you before the book's done, by the way, usually a third of it - then you write.

Bit of snark overreach there, I'd say.

posted by gompa at 10:58 AM on March 22, 2007


If he really wants to change how people live, he'd actually do something that actually impacts people lives [...]

This sort of thinking is known as "better is the enemy of good." Because there is a better thing that could be done, no-one may do this good thing.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:03 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's true that this man's heart seems to be in the right place...I guess...and that he's trying to raise awareness, but the problem is that all methods of raising awareness of environmental problems are not the same, and I think this is and has been a major, major block for environmentalism. Whatever your opinion of this guy's motives, you have to admit that for most people his methods are a bit extreme. The people who are inclined to emulate him are likely already in agreement with him about the environment. The people who need convincing are likely to automatically shut this out as just more tree-hugging hippy bullshit. Not that they're right to do this, but the environmental movement is fighting against the massive inertia of people's comfort. People will naturally look for ways to dismiss messages that make them sacrifice, which is why crazy stunts to increase environmental awareness backfire. They just get people already in agreement to cheer and people who aren't to dismiss the message.
I think the most effective messages are the ones that are pitched at the concerns of the average consumer, of which "saving the Earth" doesn't rate very highly. So, for instance, telling people to use their appliances less because electricity use leads to carbon emission will get a "who cares, whatever" reaction. Telling them that they can save money on their electric bill, on the other hand, will probably get more people to sit up.
The nature of the message is as important as the message if you're trying to sell something. Gimmicky stunts will get ignored by people who aren't already inclined to agree regardless of how inherently sound the message.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:10 AM on March 22, 2007


No, he's doing it for a book deal.

You're almost there but you haven't quite got it. He convinced his wife to do this — and he's imposing it on his 2-year-old daughter — to get himself a book deal.
posted by cribcage at 11:11 AM on March 22, 2007


The "About the Family" page is really creepy.

"Who, me? Yeah, I already deprive my family in all kinds of ways. No toilet should be a cinch."
posted by jon_kill at 11:13 AM on March 22, 2007


It strikes me as odd I think because he seems to be implying that he and his wife chose to have a child and a dog in their little apartment knowing that it would mean they couldn't have sex. That doesn't seem related to whatever notions he has of being "off the grid" so much as the whole tired "family is more important than the self" adage.

It's sacrifice, but in a way that I think most married couples with kids understand.
posted by hollisimo at 11:17 AM on March 22, 2007


When I first told my wife about me becoming No Moral Impact Man, she was understandably concerned but at the same time undoubtedly supportive. If I only knew then how my experiment would try her vast reserves of patience, I might have suggested something different, like, I don’t know, trying to leave no ecological footprint or voting or something. Anyways, I picked No Moral Footprint Man because it turns out people actually already do those things and have book deals about them. My agent liked the moral footprint idea mainly because it sounded cheap and far more interesting than my walking on my hands for a month idea.

To become No Moral Impact Man (NMIM for short), I had to reassess pretty much everything I understood about myself, my behavior, and most importantly, my faith. I was brought up in the sort of Good Catholic Family that you can only get out of old mill or industrial towns in the North East. I went to Catholic school (public education in Lewiston, ME sucked) and even minored in theology at St. Anselm’s. I had a good relationship with God and felt pretty confidant that He had a pretty good opinion of me.

To be NMIM, this had to change and quick! I figured that I had been a good person for the past thirty-odd years of my life, not counting my infancy when I pretty much wasn’t responsible for anything but the minor evils I left in my diaper for Mom to wipe up. Then, I knocked off my childhood pre-Confirmation, as that’s when I really and truly let Jesus into my heart and joined the Church. That left 19 years of righteous living. In that time, I volunteered with the homeless, donated money to charity, and Boy Scouted many an old lady across the street. I had a lot to make up for.

My first step was to make sure I did no further good, or at least balance out any good with bad. This was pretty hard for me as I’m a genuinely nice person. I hold doors for people, give quarters to bums, and let my neighbors borrow yard tools whenever they need them. These simple kindnesses are so ingrained in me that I couldn’t just stop doing them. This lead to a program of stepping on people’s feet as I held the door, depositing a wad of spit on the bum’s face as I pressed a quarter into his palm, and one harrowing night where I poured weed-killer all over Bob Hansen’s rose bushes.

That took care of the little stuff. The bigger stuff, like going to Church, loving my wife, or being honest was a lot trickier to balance out than I thought. I mean, I couldn’t stop doing either, even though each act made me more and more a moral person. It wasn’t until I was on my way home late one night that I came on the answer to all my problems balancing out my moral deeds: Hookers. Lots and lots of hookers. They gave me everything I needed! I could spend an equal amount of time with a hooker as I did in Church, cheat on my wife, and then lie about it to my heart’s content! It was great! As an added side-benefit, as I continued to get down, my Church attendance got up to a level where they made me a deacon!


My present behavior accounted for I turned to my past deeds. I made a list of every kindly, unselfish act that I had done. I planned to go down the list one-by-one to make up for each one, but when I pitched the idea to my agent, he told me about a TV show where a guy was doing something like that already. Even though I didn’t care about copyright infringement, my agent was pretty squirrelly about getting sued by NBC, so we scrapped that idea. I thought about upping my weekly hooker allotment, but there’s only so much time in the day, you know? No, I needed something big, much bigger than randomly slapping my wife when I said I loved her.

Clearly, to really cancel out all the good I had done in the past, I needed to do a single bad act. Something really nasty. Murder was right out. The only targets I had for killing were the hookers and I needed them! Boy, did I need them. The thought of Lovely’s long legs or Delicious’ hiney just makes me tingly all over and want to hand out programs at the early morning Sunday service, if you know what I mean.

Eventually, I decided I would kidnap somebody. That seemed to make the most sense as it would completely change someone’s life for the worse, thus making up for all the lives I improved, while at the same time devastating a family, countering the family I had helped hold together when Dad got cancer. The Nordingtons down the way on Foster Street seemed like good candidates. They were a pretty happy family, parents and three kids, and their youngest, Billy, was always riding his bike around the neighborhood by himself in the evenings.

He was really, really easy to capture. I just waited by the sidewalk for him to ride by, kicked him off his bike, then stuffed him into the Rubbermaid bin I used for raking leaves. Then I tied the bin shut and threw it in the back of my SUV. After a quick stop between Lovely’s thighs and fifty bucks to a Salvation Army Santa, Billy and I were set up at my secret lair, which was actually a storage unit in the complex I manage down by Stucky’s. It was pretty spacious and clean except for the places where Billy threw up all over everything. He was pretty upset when I let him out of the bin and I smacked him around and gave him candy until he calmed down.

It was when he looked up at me with those big blue eyes and asked for his Mommy for like the seventeenth time that I got my Really Good Idea. See, I was starting to feel the strain of the NMIM project, both emotionally and fiscally. Hookers and charity are not cheap! Well, except for the actual hooker named Charity who had some sort of scabs all around her crotch, she was actually pretty cheap. Anyhoo, why should I have to bear the burden of both being good AND bad? I mean, if I went carbon neutral or whatever like Al Gore, I only had to buy carbon credits or whatever and foom, I could live however I liked!

So with little Billy, I had a chance to restore my life to its pre-NMIM lifestyle. I could again act righteously provided that Billy would act diabolically. Pretty smart, huh? So I told the kid that he parents were killed by the devil or something and that everyone was out to get him and it was all his fault. I told him that demons were all around him, laughing at him, and that it was up to him to kill them and avenge his parents. Then I smacked him and gave him a Tootsie Roll.

This went on for the next seven years. Billy grew up exactly how I had hoped, all beady eyed and suspicious. Heck, he even started to masturbate to pictures of clowns that he drew in his own feces, which was totally unexpected but really, really nice of him. When he turned sixteen, I drugged his food with some horse tranquillizers, loaded him back into the SUV, and dropped him off in the middle of the Bronx. I figured he could get a good start there at least. Last I heard, the New York Post was going on and on about ‘A Killer In Out Midst!’ or something, so I guess lil Billy’s doing pretty well for himself.

As for me, I got my life back, moral neutrality intact. I never got around to writing my book because, really, I was happy to have things back the way they used to be.

Well, except for the hookers.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:19 AM on March 22, 2007 [13 favorites]


This is daft. No impact? Even the dead have an impact.
posted by A189Nut at 11:23 AM on March 22, 2007


Every time I watch TV I steal a thousand pencils. This way I stay carbon neutral.
posted by vbfg at 11:23 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


The man thinks his shit don't impact.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:24 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


He's a Zero Impact Man,
In his Zero Impact Land,
Making Zero Impact plans
for nobody.
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:26 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Man cannot live by "no" alone.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 11:46 AM on March 22, 2007


I think it's the business about him composting his waste that bothers me the most.

We (western city dwellers) are all a lot healthier than people were 150 years ago. Most of us think that modern medicine is responsible for that, but in fact the two biggest modern advances that have decreased plagues and increased life expectancy were the development of modern sewage and water supply systems and modern garbage collection services. Human wastes and human garbage that accumulated in cities indirectly caused huge health problems. The garbage supported rats and their disease-bearing fleas; the human wastes were infection vectors whereby many serious diseases (e.g. cholera) were spread around.

London in the 19th century suffered several major cholera epidemics, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths. At the time no one really knew how cholera spread, but it was eventually worked out that it was through drinking water contaminated by human wastes. And one of the greatest and most effective public works projects of our time was the creation of the London sewer system, which ended the cholera threat permanently.

So getting back to the guy featured in the OP, his new and wonderful idea is to turn back the clock, to keep his human wastes and his garbage in his back yard. If everyone in New York did this, the rats and the plagues would return.

Of course, I guess the return of Cholera epidemics would be OK because killing off the hordes of humans is a Good Thing for Mother Gaia. I guess.

(Oh, and this just in passing: "give me money or this tree dies.")
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:48 AM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Human Waste Composting for the New York Executive on the Run (so to speak)
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:59 AM on March 22, 2007


robocop is bleeding,
No matter what happens in this thread, your post has made it far more wonderful than anyone could have imagined. Thank you.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:59 AM on March 22, 2007


OK, so... is robocop is bleeding lying?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:07 PM on March 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm warning you!
posted by Mister_A at 12:14 PM on March 22, 2007


...without making any net impact on the environment
I imagine that the net impact on the emotional well-being of his daughter will be quite substantial.
posted by sswiller at 12:16 PM on March 22, 2007


I heard this guy on NPR this morning. And, coincidentally, there was also an article in today's NY Times.
While his year of living ephemerally sounds like it comes from the David Blaine playbook of self-promotion, I'm happy for any attempt at raising environmental awareness / activism.
Though, appearing on NPR, NYT, and now MeFi may just be preaching to the choir.
On second thought, string him up for child abuse.
/me searches for pitchfork.
posted by bodega at 12:20 PM on March 22, 2007


Why? It isn't so bad to live without all the mods cons. Especially just for a year.
posted by OmieWise at 12:20 PM on March 22, 2007


That was to sswiller.
posted by OmieWise at 12:21 PM on March 22, 2007


We'll need to ask Billy that, IRFH.
posted by bonehead at 12:22 PM on March 22, 2007


I imagine that the net impact on the emotional well-being of his daughter will be quite substantial.

Why would you think this would be hard on his daughter? Kids that age don't have much in the way of preconceived notions of what's "normal" in terms of consumption. That's why they spend hours playing with the box the toy comes in instead of the toy. Do you think that raising kids well equals loading them up with as much material stuff as you can?
posted by 912 Greens at 12:24 PM on March 22, 2007


You know what else has no impact? Nothing. You do the math.
posted by jonmc at 12:31 PM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know what has nothing? Math. You do the impact.
posted by NoMich at 12:38 PM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


You know what has math? Impact. You do the nothing.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:40 PM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


You do the nothing.

That's the new nihilist dance craze, right? I don't think it'll catch on.
posted by jonmc at 12:49 PM on March 22, 2007


D'oh, now I lost the game.
posted by Mister_A at 12:51 PM on March 22, 2007


You know what else has no impact? Hitler.

Wait...
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:51 PM on March 22, 2007


Hitler had a huge impact. he ruined a perfectly good mustache.
posted by jonmc at 12:55 PM on March 22, 2007


I don't know if I'd go so far as to call this self-congratulatory, but it is gimmicky as all hell, and I've got to wonder about the efficacy of gimmicks, given that the scope of the problem seems to compel broad-based solutions. This dude's basically turned his lifestyle into a unicycle-on-a-highwire act. Saying, basically, "Check out this crazy shit. Now doesn't that make you rethink your trip to Costco?"

Seriously. No spices in his food? No accepting gifts (which, p.s., is so incredibly rude)? I'm all for doing things to save the world, but what's the point of going crazy? Oh, right, the book deal.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:03 PM on March 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Most of us think that modern medicine is responsible for that, but in fact the two biggest modern advances that have decreased plagues and increased life expectancy were the development of modern sewage and water supply systems and modern garbage collection services.

Plus they found out what jonmc had been using to stir the glue at the envelope factory.
posted by biffa at 1:08 PM on March 22, 2007


The garbage supported rats and their disease-bearing fleas; the human wastes were infection vectors whereby many serious diseases (e.g. cholera) were spread around.

Not disputing this- however, the increase in polio cases in the early 20th century have been tied to better sanitation- since people were not exposed to the virus at a young age, they had no immunity to the more debilitating paralytic form that most frequently affected adolescents and adults.

I imagine that the net impact on the emotional well-being of his daughter will be quite substantial.

Why? Plenty of kids live without all the amenities many Americans take for granted without being emotionally impacted.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:09 PM on March 22, 2007


Humanure Handbook explains how composting human waste is done safely. The guy's been doing it for decades, though of course not in NYC. I couldn't find on the guy's blog about his composting set-up.

jon_kill: So he's over-reacting to a problem that could best be solved with moderaton, like most of life's problems
and
Abiezer: Lifestyleism places the onus on us as consumers rather than the larger political and economic context

These problems cannot be solved with moderation, even though willingness to moderate is a good thing as it bespeaks willingness to make bigger changes. Even city dwellers can start with a worm composting bin on their balcony or possibly storage area, though I've seen them concealed in furniture (?) also.

One of the blog's comments asks: have you heard of ethical man, the BBC reporter who has done something rather similar to this concept?

Robocopisbleeding, would that be you, then?
posted by Listener at 1:30 PM on March 22, 2007


Compost in the apt. Summer in NYC with no a/c. I hope that their self-regard is higher than their discomfort.
posted by Danf at 1:57 PM on March 22, 2007


These problems cannot be solved with moderation, even though willingness to moderate is a good thing as it bespeaks willingness to make bigger changes. Even city dwellers can start with a worm composting bin on their balcony or possibly storage area, though I've seen them concealed in furniture (?) also.

Right, Listener. That is, in my opinion, a moderated response. Converting your entire roof to worm composting wouldn't be.
posted by jon_kill at 2:03 PM on March 22, 2007


I've seen dry earth toilet designs for use in rural development that are good and safe too, listener.
I'm not a moderate on this myself - I would like to see a fundamental change in our economic and social relationships that would include living sustainably as a society.
My lifestyle would probably be pretty low impact, partly because I do make similar conscious choices to our guy but largely because I'm poor by Western standards. And that's it really. I would imagine that much if not most of the world's population could actually consume more energy and have more things and we could still have a sustainable economy if we linked the solutions to the problems of inequity and injustice. My priority is to re-energise political movements to reign in the prevailing brand of casino capitalism, which for me is the real culprit. The entrenched vested interests that do the worst damage could adapt to a consumer movement in the West and still be fucking things up royally I fear, whilst selling us organics from sub-Saharan plantations.
I understand that one current historical view posits an industrious revolution rather than an industrial revolution as the origins of our modern global economy, but that didn't happen in a power vacuum, and it's only an reordering of power relationships that will ultimately succeed for me.
I do buy all the green stuff myself though, and consciously lived a life where I never needed to drive. Probably doesn't offset my annual flight home.
posted by Abiezer at 2:10 PM on March 22, 2007


eek. reign in should be "rein in." An 'orrible grievous error.
posted by Abiezer at 2:20 PM on March 22, 2007


If it saves my family a little bit of cash then, I'm all for it, as long as it doesn't lower my perceived comfort level. I flat-out refuse to compost the waste from my 16 leg, 2 tail, family!
That guy is essentially camping in New York. I like to camp, but he appears to be roughing it and although I can rough it, I would not expect my wife or my two spoiled kids to rough it for longer that a week. Also, is he really “no-impact-man?” Methinks he’s more like a big mouthed, low impact man.
posted by winks007 at 2:35 PM on March 22, 2007


The article gompa linked to is quite interesting. I'm wondering if anyone else read it. What would it take to make sustainability a sexy, fun, appealing concept to the market?

For me, I always thought stuff like composting, reusing, and generally doing things efficiently was cool, even if other people thought it was nerdy Also doing things in natural cycles feels good. At one level there is a should, but at a deeper level it's neat-o and just better quality. Local and organic food tastes better. That's why top chefs demand it. It's traditional. It's real. And compost -- yeah, it seems composting stuff makes you healthier. You're exposed to beneficial microbes. Anecdotally for myself, that seems very true, and then there's the business about people who work in cow barns have lower rates of asthma. After all, that's how the original cowpox vaccine was discovered. Nature is an evil bitch, but in many ways, she is the best teacher.
posted by Listener at 2:55 PM on March 22, 2007


Following the non-violent, non-injurious principles of ahimsa, some followers of Jainism believe so strongly in the value of all life that they wear masks and sweep the ground in front of them to avoid inhaling or crushing insects.

Although it's now a symbol of hate and death to Western eyes, to Jainists the swastika represents rebirth and spiritual liberation.
posted by cenoxo at 3:58 PM on March 22, 2007


Sweet! Now I can double my "impact" on the environment and it all comes out a wash.
posted by Falconetti at 12:43 PM on March 22 [4 favorites +]
[!]


I'm coating wild pheasants in oil as we speak.
posted by jikel_morten at 4:19 PM on March 22, 2007


would be OK because killing off the hordes of humans is a Good Thing for Mother Gaia. I guess.

no, not necessarily hordes, just some of them.
posted by matteo at 4:26 PM on March 22, 2007


When this guy's done having no impact, I'm totally gonna crash the party. It'll be, like, "IMPACT BLOWOUT '09;" they'll have a coal-powered disco ball bigger than the sun, the sound system will be powerful enough to kill birds that fly too close to the speakers, and every cocktail will have seven little umbrellas in it!
posted by breezeway at 5:04 PM on March 22, 2007


Dammit, this thread gave me an earwig! (Warning: YouTube classic tone-deaf rendition, courtesy of Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor)
posted by rob511 at 5:40 PM on March 22, 2007


I propose the name of metafilter be changed to metasnark. You know, because we snark, and then we snark about snark.
posted by tehloki at 5:42 PM on March 22, 2007


(Please ignore my meta-metasnark)
posted by tehloki at 5:42 PM on March 22, 2007


From the NYT story: "They always want to give Isabella the paper cup with the straw, and we have to send it back," Mr. Beavan said. "We always say, ‘We’re trying not to make any trash."

Then not wanting to use a disposable cup and straw is something they should mention when they sit down at the table. By the time it gets to the table, it's already trash created for them. It's not like the server is going to take it to another table or rinse it out and re-use it.

And what's with not buying olive oil or vinegar? Is there some huge evil there I don't know about?

I don't think there's any way to live is society and be "no impact" ... low impact, yes, but no impact at all? He's making an impact, lower than most, but an impact all the same.
posted by Orb at 6:09 PM on March 22, 2007


Orb, olive oil and balsamic vinegar are I think not grown within 250 miles of NYC, so they are at the very least trucked a long way, although I think probably shipped across the ocean. You're right about the paper cup. How sanctimonious. Also, he doesn't WATCH tv, but he's going to fly around and participate in a bunch of tv shows. Sigh. Well, it might do some good, who knows.
posted by Listener at 6:50 PM on March 22, 2007


(sung to the Beatles, "Nowhere Man")

He's a No Impact man
Lives in midtown Manhattan
Bloggin' 'bout his new life plan
For ecology

Al Gore changed his point of view
Won't buy anything that's new
Knows not where he's going to poo
Or pee
posted by fandango_matt at 8:06 PM on March 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


If he really wanted to be "no impact" - maybe he should toss himself in the ocean and become fish-food. No mess, no waste, no energy wasted, blah blah.

What a stupid idea.
posted by davidmsc at 8:41 PM on March 22, 2007


It drove me crazy when they sent the paper cup BACK in the restaurant. ARGH. Explaining "We're not trying to create any trash" does no good because that cup will ALREADY be throw away! Giving it back does nothing different than throwing it away yourself at the end of the meal!

I get a lot of people who actually ask me for this in the café where I work - I hand them a paper cup and they say "Oh, can I have a mug? It's so much better for the environment." Gee, that's swell, but you should have asked BEFORE I made the drink, because this tree's already dead now.

Sheesh.

This whole thing just rubs me the wrong way - and I'm usually the dirtiest hippie in a room. Why do they use some appliances and not others? Why are the fluorescent lightbulbs ok? Why do they have a GODDAMNED HOUSEKEEPER? Seriously, if you're trying to lower your carbon impact and you're willing to live without TOILET PAPER, clean your own fucking house, doods.

I do not know a single crazy hippie who went off the grid who employed someone else to clean their hovel. It feeds into the classist capitalism that is oppressing the masses, man!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:17 PM on March 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm sure everything incongruous about this plan can be rationalized away pretty easily, considering the entire thing is basically a token gesture.
posted by tehloki at 1:30 AM on March 23, 2007


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