Colin Beavan, author of "No Impact Man" speaks at the University of Northern Colorado
Author challenges student to recognize impact, lowering consumption
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 19, 2012 01:10
This year’s common read author stopped by the University Center Tuesday to discuss his book and the realization that a life of consumerism can lead to unfulfillment.
As the author of “No Impact Man,” Colin Beavan — who wrote about his year of attempting to leave as little of an environmental effect on the world as possible — brought with him a passion for environmental change and insisted political parties be left out.
“This is not a liberal or conservative thing to say,” Beavan said. “I’m not interested in those divisions.”
He was inspired for his endeavor after realizing his frustration toward the world for not taking the environment seriously. He believed it didn’t accomplish anything — instead he decided to take that anger and direct it toward something he had the power to change: himself.
“I’m not trying to get you to be like me,” Beavan said. “My hope is that you’ll be you — more like you.”
His talk revolved less around his book but rather focused on the idea that consumption does not make us happy. Beavan stressed the disappointment one feels in a consumer culture and the fact that reducing one’s impact does not have to be a grand sacrifice that makes one miserable. He suggests that it can actually bring about greater happiness. He even cracked a joke about how society has probably made enough progress on the cell phone.
“I’m not saying I’m anti-progress,” he said. “I’m saying maybe we should think about what progress actually is.”
Students and faculty alike were taken back by Beavan’s unique approach, focusing more on people than polar bears.
“I liked that he doesn’t pressure it on you,” said Aksana Lavinnetskaya, a freshman pre-med major. “He wants you to do your thing — like just do your thing, and you will make an impact.”
Tom Smith, the assistant vice president for undergraduate studies explained why “No Impact Man” was picked for the common read this year.
“We had a committee of faculty and staff nominations from all across the campus evaluate this book,” Smith said. “We thought that it would be something students would find readable and approachable and would impact across a lot of different disciplines across the university. I took away from it that choices like (creating less of an impact) aren’t just about the earth or the environment. They impact a whole web of human relationships. I was really impressed by the human side of the whole issue.”
Beavan stressed, more importantly than saving the world, for people to be themselves and to go down a path that would make them happy, noting that often people’s unnecessary consumerism leads to them feeling disappointed and unfulfilled. He used the analogy of a party to suggest that if one is not truly enjoying that wasteful behavior, then it is not worth it.