Keeping the Giraffes Out

by beccaborrelli

Jennifer Mercede

I am terrible about practicing what comes from the pulpit.

I don’t recycle, carry canvas grocery bags or buy local nearly enough. This is a terrible model for kids who watch what I do.

“Do what I say not what I do” is a very ineffective teaching philosophy. Generations of children grow up making the same mistakes as the adults they watch. Me. You. Everyone is guilty of this.

Economist Tim Jackson has a theory about why we don’t do the things we “should do” as caretakers of the earth. Why do we tell kids the earth matters, but trash it in thousands of innocuous and not so innocuous ways each day?

One day while putting up draft strips around the windows of his home Jackson’s 5 year old daughter said:

“Will this really keep the giraffes out Daddy?”

Jackson’s theory was born from this childish misconception.

People are sitting on creative energy as we speak. Sitting on solutions to worldly woes. Sitting on inspiration and brilliant notions. Ideas, solutions, and energy that will remain confined in human minds for all time.

We’re too exhausted from keeping out the giraffes to take on the world’s problems.

This being a metaphor of course.

A metaphor for huge consumptive lifestyles that take days keeping up. Large homes must be cleaned. Large closets of clothes must be washed and folded. Many toys, vacations, and gadgets to entertain bodies and minds- equal more hours at work to afford it. More hours at work equal more hours at the gym or yoga studio to unwind and/or strengthen stress tensed muscles. More time to work… affords more money to buy things… in order to relax from work. This is the cycle.

Changing course in life would be easier, if we were maintaining kayaks instead of cruise liners.

Now it’s too late of course. The giraffes are here. The 2000 square foot homes that are considered “middle class.” The tank size SUV’s. The Martha Stewart scrap booking parties. The happy hour cocktails. The box seats for the pro sports teams. All of these things we want and must maintain…

Jackson says life is a story.

And “the story is one about us… being persuaded to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to create impressions that don’t last, on people we don’t care about.”


Now living in one of the more sustainably minded cities in the United States has me thinking about reducing the size of my own personal ship. I want to live in harmony with those darn giraffes. I want to use my energy for something bigger than myself.