Atlas Shrugged – A Confession at 34,000 Feet
I’m writing this above the Gulf of Mexico, in flight from Cancun, Mexico to my home in Colorado. I’m acutely aware of the contribution I’m making to the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. I’m also a little sad this may be one of the last times I can make a trip like this.
If you’ve been following my adventures producing the GrowthBusters documentary, you might be shocked at the news I jetted off to Mexico to plant my butt on a beach for 5 days. Or — if you haven’t yet learned this lifestyle will soon become extinct — you’re wondering what the hell I’m writing about. Why am I feeling guilty? Why are these fabulous vacations not in my future?
The short answer to the latter is we now know the Earth can’t long support even a few billion people living the kind of “good life” that includes jet-powered, resort-style vacations. The long answer to the former is I was in dire need of a break. I’ve been carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders – hunched at my MacBook for 12-hour days and 7-day weeks trying to fund and finish this film by September, all the while worrying about whether efforts like GrowthBusters will have their intended effect.
I’m not sure which has been taking the greater toll. News accounts evidencing overshoot come more often and are more severe, immediate and worrisome. But my dogged determination to finish this film without the staff it needs has also translated into physical therapy, wrist splints, stretching and ice – all an effort to thwart oncoming carpal tunnel syndrome and untie knots in the muscles of my arms, shoulders and neck. To top it off I was becoming very Type A: multi-tasking when I needed to be more attentive, lacking patience to let others finish a sentence, eating meals at my desk, etc.
One day I realized I was walking around in a permanent hunch – the kind of pose I used to adopt just when tension was high. The work has been so intense my body now thought this was my natural position. I was not giving my body or mind sufficient rest and diversion. I couldn’t remember the last time I took a complete day off. With research for the film stacked high on my nightstand, I hadn’t read a novel in a couple of years.
I can’t help but find it ironic that in my effort to help our modern, frenzied society step off the hamsterwheel we run in service to the culture of growth, I have stepped onto a new hamsterwheel of my own making.
I realized I needed a real break. I needed to take a week and vow not to do any research, write even a paragraph of script or make an edit on the film – not to work at all. With winter just fading I wanted to lie on a beach and vegetate in the hot sun (frozen margaritas, pina coladas, and a little Jimmy Buffet wouldn’t be bad, either). Concerned about my physical and mental state, my saintly girlfriend Ruth found a deal too good to pass up, and out of desperation I still spent money I didn’t have, in order to escape.
I realize I could have and should have found a much lower impact escape. And it would have been equally wonderful. But old habits die hard. I am a product of a system that lives beyond its planetary means, using more than our share of resources. If someone like me, who clearly gets that we are living too large, still does this, I can barely fathom the difficulty we face in getting our modern culture to give up its false gods and get on a sustainable course.
I can only ask my children to forgive me because I am working on getting my sustainable self together. I will try to do better. The good news is I am new, refreshed. Muscles have returned to their original, relaxed position. Mind is sane and sharp and awake. Let’s finish this film and invite the world to join us as we finish our own journeys!
(written Thursday, May 5)
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