Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Home Ecology

One of the more powerful books I have read about ecology is Dune. This may seem strange, as it is set in a completely science-fictional world. However, its setting is a harsh desert world, its protagonist is a young man struggling with prescience, and re-reading it a couple of years ago, I was struck by how one of the central themes of the book is the deep and complicated patterns of consequences that flow from our actions, and how the hubris of thinking drastic change can be made easily generally leads to disaster.

In addition to being the home economist, I am also the home ecologist. I try to be humble before the complicated patterns of coming and going and doing and feeling that define our daily lives, and to think through all the possible consequences of intervention. I seek a certain stasis in the household, where daily routines are routed to erode the build-ups of dishes, toys, papers and leftovers that accumulate on counters, floors, tabletops and the refrigerator, rather than add to the deposits. I observe how the introduction of new ecological forces disrupts the balance, such as when new toys are brought into the house – until they become integrated into the children's regular routine of games and sharing, they produce intense squabbling. And I know that my family members cannot be made to change habits or behavior with threats or appeals to conscience, that I must instead rely on the subtle changes in family routine that I can effect myself.

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