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Coming Home

5/8/2006 12:00:00 AM


I’m flying home from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a charming city that’s home to the infamous Three Mile Island. Those iconic billowing reactors are the last thing I saw before take-off; they loom ominously next door to the airport.

I came to give the keynote address at the Conference for Wellness Through Natural Living, a speech I agonized over all week. When I signed on for this gig about a year ago, I suggested “Simple Steps to Living Wisely,” offering people easy things they could do in their homes (like change their light bulbs to compact fluorescents and lower their thermostats) that could save the planet. Giving that speech should have been a slam dunk, requiring little or no preparation; I’d already given it several times.

But there’s nothing like knowing you have to stand up in front of a couple hundred people and try to say something meaningful to get you thinking about where you really stand on things. First of all, I’ve been drudgingly doing the things on that “simple steps” list for years—mostly out of guilt. Rather than making me feel empowered, these little “simple things” actually make me feel kind of isolated and alone. More importantly, they’re just not fun. Lowering the thermostat and hanging my laundry outside to dry aren’t activities that get me out of bed in the morning. And I was sick to death of trying to make people think they were.

Secondly, I just finished reading The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery (a book I highly recommend), and it got me all worked up about the serious mess we’ve created with global warming. Then I pulled out my big fat file of news articles on climate change, and I was finished. I couldn’t give that speech anymore. There was no way I could say, with any authenticity, that switching to compact fluorescents will make a damn bit of difference in saving our planet.

Oh, I got strident, as I amassed everything I knew about global warming and the dire consequences it holds for us. I got angry, when I read that the United States reported a 1.7 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions, accompanied by a statement from EPA administrator Stephen Johnson saying, “The Bush administration has an unparalleled financial, international and domestic commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.” I got on my doom and gloom soapbox and armed myself with stats and figures about oceans rising and glaciers melting and how many pounds of CO2 we need to eliminate if we’re going to survive the next century.

I went to bed Friday night with that fire-and-brimstone speech in my head, and I woke up Saturday morning uninspired. That speech wasn’t what I’m about, either, and it’s certainly not what Natural Home is about. We started Natural Home to show people that living lightly on the planet is an inspiring and exceptional way to live. We’re all about attracting people to the fold by demonstrating the serenity of simplifying, the wholesomeness of eating good, local food and the nurturing quality of homes built with natural, sustainable materials. So at the last minute, I cut and ran. I gave a speech about living well and living lightly that wasn’t anywhere near as polished as that other one would have been. It rambled some, and I didn’t say everything I wish I’d said. But it felt right. It felt real.

And speaking of cutting and running—well, here’s a pretty big announcement. All of my speech agonizing came on the heels of a topsy-turvy week in which my company decided to return to our roots (so to speak) and yank the “& Garden” from our name. Starting with the July/August issue, we will go back to the simple, straightforward—and just good—name Natural Home. That feels right and real, too. More on that one next week.

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