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Will we all become no impact people?

No Impact Man


This examiner recently viewed the 2009 documentary called No Impact Man released in 2010 and now out on DVD. She came away from the film with some excellent ideas to save money and resources, but also some critiques of the film. However, after witnessing the current political, environmental and economic scene of our country and the globe, will we all become no impact people?

Are we living in a science fiction film?

Ever get the feeling we are living in a scary science fiction film? The long hot summer and the “fake” foods (see previous article on GMO foods) seem to be reminiscent of Soylent Green. The political climate reminds us of V for Vendetta or even Invasion of the Body Snatchers. We are the real-life characters in this real world not science fiction fantasy land.

While No Impact Man was far from being science fiction, Colin Beavan, the producer of the film and author of the book of the same name, was treated as if he and his family were from some other planet, just because he wanted to reduce his family’s impact on the environment for one year.

Good news for No Impact Man

First, the film was excellent, as it captured both the personal and cultural struggles that Beavan’s family had to face. However, if this took place in rural Arkansas with a poor family instead of in New York City with an upper middle class family, it would be an entirely different kind of film.

Beavan wanted to change the world through his efforts by reducing his family’s consumption for a year beginning in 2006. However, this examiner believes that in the future Americans will not be making zero impact as a matter of choice but as a matter of survival. Many of us will become no impact people.

This examiner applauds Beavan’s success by eliminating trash and only composting and recycling, building more community and enjoying the outdoors by getting rid of the television, eliminating manmade chemicals, reducing fossil fuel usage by not riding in cars, trains, etc., buying locally, and especially reducing consumption altogether.

This included riding bicycles to work and to run errands, taking the stairs instead of the elevator to get up to the tops of skyscrapers, buying only food grown within 250 miles of New York City, not eating out, living six months without electricity in their apartment, and let’s not forget going without any toilet paper!

This writer also applauds his wife, Michelle Conlin, who cut back on her Starbuck’s espressos (drinking sometimes three at a time), riding to work on her foot powered scooter, giving up meat for a year, and she even gave up buying designer clothes for a year. Some of these outfits were costing her upwards of $900.

Critique of No Impact Man

However, Beavan really needed to do more research before he embarked on this heroic journey. He began by stating that he wanted to save trees and the environment. He wanted to rely less on fossil fuels. In the course of a year they embarked on a huge cultural change, besides a lifestyle change. His family’s greatest struggles, according to the film, were eliminating electricity, deciding whether to have another child, and the worm composting bin. (They had one daughter, Isabella, when the film was being produced.)

Did he think about purchasing green “conveniences” prior to the project that did not rely on fossil fuels at all but on the sun? He was given a small photovoltaic panel later in the year long project, which was placed on the rooftop of their apartment building. What about solar lights or a solar refrigeration unit?

Michelle Conlin, Beavan’s wife, believed that by giving up all these conveniences that Beavan should concede in having another child with her. He said he was against it and then the next thing we know Conlin is pregnant. (Sadly, during the film she lost the baby.)

Surprisingly, it seems that many people who live green are blind to the biggest impact our planet faces, resource depletion caused by overpopulation. Did Beavan ever give this any thought? Whatever happened to the Zero Population Growth (ZPG)?

How about the worm compost bin? Did he know that worms need to be kept at 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit and by giving them too much food, or foods they don’t like (crucifers), or fruits, these will attract flies?

What about the thought provoking comment made my Mayer Vishner, who had a vegetable plot at LaGuardia Community Gardens? He asked Beavan whether he had given any thought to his wife’s job with BusinessWeek as a senior writer. He claimed that BusinessWeek was representing mega banks and corporations and were huge participants in our consumptive media-driven culture. This question was never addressed by Beavan in the film.

Things we can do from the film

Meanwhile, Beavan gets kudos for helping out in his community garden and visiting the farms where his family got produce and fresh milk.

Other great ideas came from replacing household chemicals, including those that are environmentally friendly, with borax, baking soda, Dr. Bonner’s oil soap, and vinegar instead.

Get involved in the No Impact Man Project.

Will we become no impact people?

What happens when we have no choice but to be green? What if it is a matter of survival? What happens if the U.S. Congress decides not to increase the debt ceiling? Will we become a banana republic overnight? Will our U.S. dollars be worthless? What if they do pass a deal that cuts into Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid? How will that impact the elderly, disabled, poor and our children’s future? How soon will we need to rely on community? Should we begin now or are we waiting for someone to tell us to “change”?

What if interest rates skyrocket and the U.S. dollar loses value rapidly? What if we can’t afford our debts and continue to lose jobs? What can we cut back? What about the television cable or satellite hookup that can cost over $100 a month? How about not eating out anymore and instead having community potlucks? Milk and other food items are going up in cost. Could we cut back on our meat and dairy consumption? Would it kill us?

Are you willing to pay $5.00 or more for a cup of coffee? Can you give that up? It’s grown far away so are the out of season produce. What about growing a garden in your yard or starting a community garden in a vacant lot in your neighborhood? Will you take up canning and freezing like our grandmothers used to do? Will you produce things that we need and build a local economy?

Can you give up what you “want” and acquire only what you really and truly need? Do you need shelter, food, water, education and clothing?

You can get that by having little to no impact. Check out this examiner’s previous articles and those of the future.

Becoming no impact people will be a struggle for some, but if we stay educated, rely upon each other, and build community we can become no impact people and maybe, just maybe it won’t feel like a scary science fiction film.

Will we become no impact people? Or is that still just science fiction?



As far as Beavan's family is concerned, many positive things came out of their no impact project. Their relationship was stronger because they spent more time together doing things as a family, instead of sitting in front of the television or going out shopping. Conlin improved her health because of her diet and exercise. They had a better appreciation of their community and the outdoors. Especially important is they knew where their food was grown and raised.

It seems not that long ago Americans had this life. What happened?


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