Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Importance of Being Visible

Recently, I’ve been thinking about visibility. Jay and I have been debating the idea of buying land and building a homestead, which is something he’d really like to do. I, on the other hand, really like the idea of staying where we are and building a homestead of sorts in our current, “regular” suburban home. Aside from the logistical advantages to staying where we are, such as maintaining relatively short commutes for both of us, staying close to friends and family and the kids’ school , and having a mortgage that can be paid off relatively quickly, I really like the idea of our lifestyle and our choices being visible.

I spent a lot of time as a teenager and young adult trying to fit in and be less visible so its funny that I’m now advocating to increase the visibility of our differences to those around us. Having an edible front yard garden instead of a lawn makes us stand out in our neighborhood. There are many curious glances from passersby and questions from neighbours. Many of them probably don’t give the idea of using lawnspace as a way to grow food a second thought, but maybe someone will walk by and think “hey, perhaps I could do that”.

When they see our kids participating in the gardening, perhaps they’ll see that you can incorporate “work” like gardening with family time. Perhaps they’ll think about the cost savings of growing your own food and the peace of mind that comes with knowing the exact origins of what’s sitting on your plate.

Likewise, with cycling, if people see us choosing to bike instead of driving, they might think “I could never do that” but maybe they’ll choose to bike the 0.5km to the library next time instead of driving like they always do. Maybe they’ll see one of us heading out to get groceries or go to Costco with the bike trailer and realize its possible. I like the idea of people in my car-heavy surburban neighbourhood seeing me go about my daily business by bike instead of by car, wearing normal clothes, on my $99 Canadian Tire bike from 9 years ago. They might think I’m weird, or not efficient, or that my life must be totally different from theirs to allow me to do these things. But maybe they’ll be able to picture themselves walking or taking the bike, even once in awhile, in their own day-to-day activities. And maybe when they start riding, they’ll realize the terrible lack of cycling infrastructure in our town and want to do something about it.

Maybe not.

But to me, putting our choices out there is a way of “being the change you wish to see in the world”. Preaching about sustainable food and alternative transportation will most likely cause eyes to glaze over and people to tune out. Going about our business in front of our friends, family and neighbors, just might result in change, even if its only one person. And if more people see that person doing things a little differently, perhaps we can get a ripple effect going in our typical suburban community.

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