Taking the road less traveled

Tone Lanzillo

Several weeks ago, I traveled to Greenville, South Carolina, to see my younger son and partner, and to meet my new grandson. When many of my friends and family members found out that I was taking the bus and different trains for this trip, they asked why I wouldn’t fly.

They couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t want to save time and money, and just take a plane. 

I tried to explain that I was using buses and trains because of the climate crisis and the growing impact of CO2 on our environment. While everyone acknowledged that they had heard about climate change and expressed some concerns about the future of our planet, they tried to convince me that my decision was admirable but wouldn’t change anything.

Since one person can’t make any difference, why don’t I just do what everyone else is doing and enjoy the most convenient and comfortable option for traveling.

When I moved to Duluth in November 2017, I had decided to begin taking the road less traveled. It was time to stop choosing the most convenient and comfortable life and find a more responsible and sustainable approach to living.

Finding a way to live with greater awareness, understanding and appreciation for the planet. It was a way of being more honest with myself and embracing a healthier lifestyle in this climate-change world.

It was the only way that I could live with myself.

In the words of M. Scott Peck, “A life of total dedication to the truth also means a life of willingness to be personally challenged ... The process of constant self-examination and contemplation is essential for ultimate survival.”

In his book "The Road Less Traveled," Peck proposes that life is difficult and is a series of problems. And yet while many of us will do anything to avoid these problems, we must figure out a way to address these problems if we want to maintain our sanity.

The truth is that we are living in and experiencing a climate crisis. It has been well documented that human beings have directly contributed to the rise in CO2 emissions in the atmosphere, more microplastics in the lakes and oceans and deforestation and the loss of various species. Therefore, I remind myself that every decision that I make and every action that I take has an immediate and direct impact upon the environment and climate, no matter how small it may be.

During this climate emergency, I decided that my mental health and emotional survival depended upon examining how I chose to live, especially when I realized that my own personal carbon footprint was 3 to 10 times bigger than most people from around the world.

Also, I wanted to challenge myself to find opportunities to reconnect with the outdoors and our natural environment.  

The road I took began with stepping outside and starting to walk. Deciding to no longer own or drive a car, I would walk or, on occasion, use public transportation in Duluth. And for any trips out of town,it would be the bus or train. 

Other decisions or choices along this road included using cold water to wash clothes, using my backpack when grocery shopping, eating less meat and not using an air conditioner. 

Given that climate change is larger, faster, more complex than we had originally imagined, I wanted to lead a slower, smaller and simpler life. By taking this road, I began to feel more present, grounded and connected. I could not be complicit, indifferent or turn my back on what was taking place all around us.

In his book "Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution," Peter Kalmus talks about taking stock of his daily life and finding ways to change his life that were more aligned with what he knows about climate change.

Kalmus described the three parts of his path to changing: intellectual understanding, practical action and seeing from the heart. It was bringing these three elements together and learning how to live in alignment with the biosphere.

And maybe, most importantly, Kalmus stated that it was to “learn to feel compassion for the Earth as we pass through this ecological crisis.”

In taking this road less traveled, I’m creating the time and space to better understand the truth and facts about climate change as well as taking practical actions with an open heart.

And with each step down this road, I will try to embrace others, the environment and all life forms with a greater sense of compassion.