Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Harnessing the Limitations of Things

Ben Sollee is a cellist/singer-songwriter from Kentucky. Today in his World Café interview he described the “superhuman pace” of his former tour schedule, multiple flights per week across the country.

“I found myself spending a lot more time in-between places than actually in them,” he said. He described the unsettling feeling a lot of frequent flyers have of waking up and not remembering where he was.

After seeing a commercial on Current TV for a cargo bike company called Xtracycle, Sollee decided to slow down his tour schedule by bicycling to his gigs.

His first trip was from Lexington, Kentucky to the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennessee, and he hasn’t looked back since. He described the new connections he is able to make with the communities he passes through on the road. You might argue that he spends even more time “in-between places” than before because of the time it takes to get there under pedal power, but it is really the opposite. When you are pedaling through a town, stopping to get water, or eat, or just say hello, a ‘wherever you go, there you are’ mentality sets in. It’s hard to have that in an airport, squeezed into economy seating, or even on a tour bus.

Sollee is an activist, especially on mountain-top removal, but he was quick to point out that he doesn’t bike to his shows for the environment. “It’s not about being Green… or even sustainable, but rather to use the limitations of the bicycles to slow us down so we could really be in these communities.”

Sollee’s approach is to harness the limitations of the world to serve our needs (and learn how not to be frustrated by the slowness).

I think the way to foster mass appeal for sustainable, “green” living is to push the emotional, psychological, and spiritual benefits of slowing down on the individuals themselves. This may be more effective that trying to get people to care about big abstract consequences of climate change.

What are the ways we can choose slow, low-impact technology alternatives in our daily lives?... Perhaps the first question we should ask ourselves is what aspect of our daily lives do we even want to slow down?

Check out the whole interview and songs here:

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