No Impact Man's family learned a few things that are lasting and will remain with them. My favorite amongst these is that they discovered that living without electricity (and consequently air conditioning in the summer) led them to living an outdoor life. They enjoyed this greatly and discovered more of the city they live in. These kinds of things you cant anticipate, they're gifts that come with the exploration. One of the gifts I enjoy from our journey is the freedom from trend. My psyche continues to exhale as I get less and less able to name the actors that adorn the covers of news stand magazines. What's in fashion becomes increasingly ridiculous to me. When I bump into a very trendy person I can not believe how genuinely funny they appear. I admit, they also appear imprisoned. Now I don't want to imply I that I have even an ounce of judgement towards the trendy, it's just a game I'm happy to no longer be part of.
The most important realization I had about the film was that No Impact Man and his family's query was not empowering to them. They lived in a consumer's mindset, the mind set of lack in which one must always choose, "I can buy/have this OR that." Their experiment is a pledge of renunciation in which they give things up and see if they can suffer through their losses.
This pledge led them to give up things that maybe they should not have. As Mikey pointed out, it's silly to quit riding the subway because it's running on electric that's not generated from clean sources. On the contrary it's wise to use public transport if it's already been built and exists in the infrastructure. No Impact Man's experiment ignored context. And context is everything.
Renouncing leads to yes and no thinking whereas a commitment to creative problem solving with a clear intention such as "i'll make the best choice that I can given the situation" leads to discovery, innovation and newness. When we arrived here in NM and we were seeking low impact building materials we might have chosen straw bale. Lots of people here advocate it. But we did not pick the dial up answer. Instead we asked questions based on our actual situation. We observed that straw bale came hundreds of miles from Colorado and thus had a carbon footprint that was greater than that of the use of reused paper from our local recycling center to make paper crete. Even with the cement paper crete uses. Our town had abundant paper at the recycling center 1/4 mile away from our home and at the time they did not recycle it. They collected it and shipped it to landfills elsewhere.
I do applaud efforts to learn about how to live in new and less harmful ways. But as Einstein said, "The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them" and "The world we have created today as a result of our thinking thus far has problems which cannot be solved by thinking the way we thought when we created them," . . . our way of thinking must now become less dualistic and less limited. A view of the world as lacking is harming us. We can no longer view ourselves as limited and mechanistic. This lacking and mechanistic view, evident from education through the structure of the work force has contorted life into a bazaar machine of parts with no whole.
We can in fact shift to a view of ourselves and our planet as unlimited, unbounded and creative. From this position we can solve problems in new ways and quite likely our solutions will reflect our mind set while in the making. Renunciation surely has it's place. It gives us power over what has a hold over us. But the greatest thing is to discover that knowledge and responsibility are the truly valuable things. They come when we become problem solvers and makers of great things rather than consumers limited by the choice of buying one thing that sucks over another that sucks a little more or less.