The surprises just keep coming.

It started with eating healthy foods. No, it started with recycling. Or was the first step in my green education the term “greenhouse gas” and “CO2 emissions”?

Like many other twentysomethings, I would vernture to say that we’re pretty green-savy. Movements that have been brewing on the back burners and homestead chicken coups for decades seem to have finally made it into the limelight, and now the enviornmentalist, along with every other thinking individual, are sounding the alarm on the damaging effects of hysterical consumerism and irresponsible…well, wastefulness.

But the more I read and soak up, the more this feels like deja vu. Where have I seen this before? In third-world countries around the world, the new modus operandi proclaimed and practiced by the more enlightened individuals here in the US has been the same old same old for centuries.

Yes! We’re so far ahead, we’re behind. Or we’re getting there, fast. Not that this is a bad thing.

So, taking the very subjective experience of growing up in the nearly-post Soviet Russia (read: the 80’s), which, considering basic concepts of statistics, can be that random sample reflecting the trend at large, a most curious picture emerges:

1. Eat healthy, non-pesticide foods. Check. In Russia, most junk food, which was synonymous with liberation from communist rule, came only in the late 80’s and 90’s. Before, your average Sergei and Anastacia consumed copious amounts of potatoes (organically grown, mind you), cabbage, and wild-caught herring.

2. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Check. Private cars were also a luxury that 95% of the population easily did without. And guess what? We used public transportation , rode bikes, and walked places. Most people in the rest of the world still do. And not because it’s eco-hip, but simply because that’s what’s available.

3. Adding on to the greenhouse gas emission reduction point, we have the limited use of energy-guzzling appliances. How about water-heated batteries to warm the home in the winter, and, yes, “natural ventilation” (aka. opening the windows) in the summer. Revolutionary, I know. We hung our clothes on cloth lines, washed them using “natural” soap, and, did you know, used the same soap for body and hair! Ladies and gentlemen, it works.

4. Recycling. I love the idea of reusing your plastic and glass containers, and of taking cloth sacks with you when you do your shopping and farmers market perusing. Incidentally, this same revolutionary technique was used by my grandmother when we’d go get milk at the local farm, two decades ago, or when ladies in their “babushkas” (which, by the way, is wrong, because “babushka” means “grandmother”, and NOT “scarf”…goodness) would go to the store for their cottage cheese and rye bread. And of course, they all shopped locally.

My latest discovery has been “cohousing”. When I first chanced upon the term, I half-expected to read about families moving back into communal apartments, sharing kitchens and bathrooms…The real cohousing is a more advanced rendering of this concept, I have to give them that, but at the heart it’s the same. Although the purpose behind it different.

And this is where the main difference lies between third world “environmentalism” and the green movement in the US and abroad: purpose vs. necessity, deliberation vs. lack of alternatives, environmental consiousness vs. the only affordabile option.

While the Russians, and most people in 3rd world countries, live(ed) the way they do (did) because this is all they have, others seem to opt for a more moderate, economical lifestyle because they realize that it’s actually better, for the Earth, and for them personally.

It’s curious how some families that are involved in the new green movement chose to preserve their own seasonally picked fruits and vegetables for the winter months, while knowing full well that grocery stores will carry the same produce in the wintertime. It is truly inspiring that some folks live with such deliberation, and take such pains to live the “right way” while most of the world lives that way by default and considers it a success when they can finally afford to buy that first car, clothes dryer, or fresh apple in the wintertime.

With that past behind me, and the possibility of simpler, cleaner living before me, the choice is at once easy and hard. I say yes! to responsible consuming, organic produce, living locally and leaving a small ecological footprint. I say yes!, but then, seeing the path that my family has traversed to “get where they are”, the struggles to have a “brighter future”, more financial stability, more comfort in life, a small voice in the back of my mind mocks: “why are you storing all of these plastic containers? Throw away the glass jars! Are you kidding me? Are we back in communist Russia? Pickling mushroom for the bitter winter months???”

But the relatively recent consumerism won’t trump the centuries, millenia of tilling the land and being a wise homemaker. It’s in my genes, and it’s in yours. Perhaps that’s why we’re slowly turning back.

Perhaps, that’s why it feels so good.

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