My Favorite Post Week: The Theory of Anyway

Sharon May 27th, 2008

Not going to be much new posted here until Sunday, when blessedly, the book push ends.   But I thought this would be a good chance to repost some of my favorite pieces for readers who haven’t seen them before.  This one might be my all-time favorite, because Pat’s idea is so wonderful and she was generous enough to share it with me.  Be sure to read her terrific piece on the same subject here: #2007/01/theory-of-anyway.html#links


My friend Pat Meadows, a very, very smart woman, has a wonderful idea she calls “The Theory of Anyway.” What it entails is this – she argues that 95% of what is needed to resolve the coming crisis in energy depletion, or climate change, or whatever is what we should do anyway, and when in doubt about how to change, we should change our lives to reflect what we should be doing “Anyway.” Living more simply, more frugally, using less, leaving reserves for others, reconnecting with our food and our community, these are things we should be doing because they are the right thing to do on many levels. That they also have the potential to save our lives is merely a side benefit (a big one, though).

This is, I think, a deeply powerful way of thinking because it is a deeply moral way of thinking – we would like to think of ourselves as moral people, but we tend to think of moral questions as the obvious ones “should I steal or pay?” “Should I hit or talk?” But the real and most essential moral questions of our lives are the questions we rarely ask of the things we do every day, “Should I eat this?” “Where should I live and how?” “What should I wear?” “How should I keep warm/cool?” We think of these questions as foregone conclusions – I should keep warm X way because that’s the kind of furnace I have, or I should eat this because that’s what’s in the grocery store. Pat’s Theory of Anyway turns this around, and points out that what we do, the way we live, must pass ethical muster first – we must always ask the question “Is this contributing to the repair of the world, or its destruction.”

So if you told me that tomorrow, peak oil had been resolved, I’d still keep gardening, hanging my laundry, cutting back and trying to find a way to make do with less. Because even if we found enough oil to power our society for a thousand years, there would still be climate change, and it would be *wrong* of me to choose my own convenience over the security and safety of my children and other people’s children. And if you told me tomorrow that we’d fixed climate change, that we could power our lives forever with renewables, I would still keep gardening and living frugally. Because our agriculture is premised on depleted soil and aquifers, and we’re facing a future in which many people don’t have enough food and water if we keep eating this way. To allow that to happen would be a betrayal of what I believe is right. And if you told me that we’d fixed that problem too, that we were no longer depleting our aquifers and expanding the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, I’d still keep gardening and telling others to do the same, because our reliance on food from other nations, and our economy impoverishes and starves millions, even billions of poor people and creates massive economic inequities that do tremendous harm. And if you told me that globalization was over, and that we were going to create a just economic system, and we’d fixed all the other problems, and that I didn’t have to worry anymore, would I then stop gardening?

No. Because the nurture of my piece of land would still be the right thing to do. Doing things with no more waste than is absolutely necessary would still be the right thing to do. The creation of a fertile, sustainable, lasting place of beauty would still be my right work in the world. I would still be a Jew, obligated by G-d to Tikkun Olam, to “the repair of the world.” I would still be obligated to live in way that prevented wildlife from being run to extinction and poisons contaminating the earth. I would still be obligated to make the most of what I have and reduce my needs so they represent a fair share of what the earth has to offer. I would still be obligated to treat poor people as my siblings, and you do not live comfortably when your siblings suffer or have less. I am obligated to live rightly, in part because of what living rightly gives me – integrity, honor, joy, a better relationship with my diety of choice, peace.

There are people out there who are prepared to step forward and give up their cars, start growing their own food, stop consuming so much and stop burning fossil fuels…just as soon as peak oil, or climate change, or government rationing, or some external force makes them. But that, I believe is the wrong way to think about this. We can’t wait for others to tell us, or the disaster to befall us. We have to do now, do today, do with all our hearts, the things we should have been doing “Anyway” all along.



18 Responses to “My Favorite Post Week: The Theory of Anyway”

  1. AnnaMarie says:

    This falls into line with my mantra lately. Folks are constantly asking me how I am cutting down so much on things and how it feels to sell/give away more than 1/2 of my belongings. What is my secret?

    It’s actually very simple.

    Want Less.

    Funny how this doesn’t actually go over very well with most folks.

  2. cb says:

    My friend got a George Foreman grill one Christmas. I got a refrigerator magnet that said “Less is More”. He offered to trade. I declined.

  3. KJMClark says:

    Matthew 19:24 “Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

    It’s amazing how many Christians refuse to believe the word of Jesus himself.

    I always had to laugh about the whole “What would Jesus drive?” saying. Jesus would walk, or ride a donkey, or a bus, or maybe a cheap old bicycle. Jesus wouldn’t drive any car.

  4. That’s a really great post. Thank you so much for re-posting it.

    Marian Van Eyk McCain

  5. Nita says:

    Excellent post! We put the same template to every decision on our farm. More people need to ask, ” Even if we can, should we?”
    I live in an area of abundant rainfall, but I practice dryland gardening, just like the homesteader and farmers in our area before me did. Why, because it is the right thing to do. Who knows, it may get drier and then I will have those skills. Who knows if irrigation supplies would even be available in the future and spending money on stocking up on these things now would prevent me from striving to perfect my skills, not to mention using up more resources in the manufacturing of unnecessary goods.
    Thanks again for re-posting.

  6. [...] We’re “making do” with what we have.  I can do better, I am trying to do better.  I have confidence that the skills I am using are teaching my kids skills that will be necessary in coming times. [...]

  7. Susan says:

    Perfect explanation of why, why now, why then. Hope it’s all right to reference this post on my blog too.

  8. [...] good common sense, and falls into what Sharon Astyk has written about under the name of “The Theory of Anyway“, which is to say: the things we should be doing anyway, whether or not there are crises [...]

  9. [...] good common sense, and falls into what Sharon Astyk has written about under the name of “The Theory of Anyway“, which is to say: the things we should be doing anyway, whether or not there are crises [...]

  10. [...] SHARON ASTYK The Chatelaine’s Keys Thanks to Dave [...]

  11. dress says:

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  12. Luvenia Fago says:

    you can use LOREAL

  13. ghost says:

    The key to life:

    (Fear and commitment) without fear there is no commitment without commitment there is a perfect ness thus became America!

    December 21 2012 the planets will alien; it will be the end of the roman Maya calendar.
    Time as we know it will no longer existed there will be no December 22
    So time as Newton said will become irrelevant.

    June 21_23 because of the fact because of the roman and Maya calendar
    It’s off by 3 days or 3 hours, 3 minutes or three seconds
    But don’t know witch one ghost estimates the time to be 2:23 am 06/21/2012
    Venues will move between the earth and the moon.
    This intern will cause a polarity change in our magnetic structure around the earth so south will become north and north will be come south.

    For four hours the earth will wobble as venues past the moon we regain our normal gravitational pull; thus causing
    The South Pole to become cold
    And the north will become hot
    This happens once every 1.5 million years
    Once venous has made its pass we will go back to normal gravitational pull this will cause the ocean and seas of our earth will become displaced.
    Volcanoes will become active and earth will rebalance itself by replacing minerals deposits where minerals deposits were taken and displaced;
    And we will have a rebirth of the planet.
    Along with a new calendar by a person the last of the living, at least the population will decline by 60%.
    November we average 18 earth quake a week and sometimes 18 a day
    In the Ozark Mountains But yet small but still registers
    1 registering at 6. Displace a 1/8 of china
    (Killed 400, 50,000 people) and displaced 1/8 of Chinas minerals oars
    And that’s double (250, 000,) the amount did sanomie in the Indian Ocean just six months prier
    And displaced a quarter of the ocean fronts minerals oars
    Which takes?
    us back to El Nino (in 2003_2004) scientist in frantically warned us that because of the jets stream moving upward from the south causing the warm jet stream in the south to move inland these events would come within four to five years (witch happened 5 year exactly prier) now in 2012 what has describe in this paper
    And yet we still don’t listen to the warning; our famous quoits from our eurapean forefather that had 5000 years to perfect.
    Which brings me back to my theory of life?
    Fear and commitment is thee answer to a perfect society.

    El Niño is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, as opposed to La Niña, which characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific. El Niño is an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe.
    (3.7 million years the polarity of the earth changes due to thee aliment of our planets)

    (Now we have to take religion into effect: I had a vision that when Christ was Crucified that pilot did not let it be seen by the public because seeing a murder would have cause an instant uprising. In my vision I saw Christ being lifted up on the cross as five temple priest extracted blood from the wounds of Christ into a vase made out of the center of the rock that was rolled down from the quarries this now contained the flesh of Christ thus causing him to be earthly bonded living his soul in purgatory between heaven and hell the formula that ghost used to figure out what day venous would begin to pass between the moon and earth 06/21/20012 22:33 came out to be also the coming of Christ to retrieve his Blood bound by the temple Priest he will have 33 hours to do so are Satan will be allowed to release his black Angles)

    by ghost

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  15. [...] The Chatelaine’s Keys » My Favorite Post Week: The Theory of Anyway “The Theory of Anyway.” What it entails is this – she argues that 95% of what is needed to resolve the coming crisis in energy depletion, or climate change, or whatever is what we should do anyway, and when in doubt about how to change, we should change our lives to reflect what we should be doing “Anyway.” [...]

  16. ghost says:

    we need to bond together even when there are no crisis we have become too individualized

  17. SherryGreens says:

    This is absolutely beautiful, and has rung such a cord with me. You are so so right. It will always be the right thing to do, no matter what. Thank you for your wise words, I think I just might spread them around. The logic undeniable.

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