Applying lessons from sports to sustainability

March 25, 2023 by Joshua
in Stories

On July 21st last year, both the solar panel and power station broke. I don’t know why or how, but cutting-edge technology is prone to fail.

As the next day would complete two months, double my goal and twenty times my expectation, I decided I could declare victory, reconnect the circuit, and plug back in the next day. You can hear me say so in my July 22 podcast episode, 609: Finishing My Off-the-Grid-in-Manhattan Experiment in Month 3. I said after recording, I could say I started my third month, plug back in, cook some lunch, and move on.

Instead, after recording, I noticed I still had some sauerkraut fermenting and enough other summer vegetables to make salads to last me another day. Instead of claiming I started my third month on a technicality since a few minutes is in the next month, I’d make it at least a day into the third month.

I remembered a teammate, Ben, from when I played ultimate Frisbee, one particular time playing defense. He was marking the thrower, which means trying to keep the guy with the disc from throwing it to a teammate. In all my years of watching sport and competition, I’d never seen such passion, tenacity, and giving everything he had to stop that throw, including from professional athletes. He didn’t have to. He could have committed less and it would have been enough. No one on the team would have complained.

I thought, compared to Ben’s effort, making another day unplugged was laughably easy. So I made it another day. All it meant was eating fresh vegetables uncooked. A day later, I realized I could make another day, also laughably easier than Ben’s effort. I thought of Michael Jordan playing in the 1997 playoffs with flu-like symptoms (apparently now reported as food poisoning). My efforts are a joke in comparison, yet people call it extreme. Would they understand that I was making great athletes my role models and how much it improved my life to make them peers, however laughable the comparison? Whom would you rather follow, a great athlete or someone who in polluting hurts others for their comfort and convenience? Well, I did that most of my life and I prefer exploring my potential over capitulation, abdication, and resignation. What they saw as extreme I saw as so far below the bare minimum for athleticism I don’t think I could communicate how unextreme I was.

I just kept making another day, but instead of breaking a sweat, I ate delicious vegetables. (Cue people reflexively saying “not everyone can access fresh vegetables.” No shit, Sherlock. That’s one of the problems these very actions are solving. The worst thing you can do to help people without access is to keep buying doof and takeout, which funds doof companies squeezing out fresh produce.) I just kept learning what making another day, week, or month took and doing it. Next thing I know, the companies sent replacements, I reach the winter solstice, every day becomes easier than the one before, and I realize I’ll make the year.

No, I haven’t solved all the world’s problems myself overnight. I just discovered that living disconnected from the grid can be done in cities, where over four billion people live. Besides the reduction, the resilience means we can shrink the electric grid, lower dependence, increase national security, and a host of other improvements, saving money and helping the needy most.

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