10/19/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Clash of the Time Zones

A lot of people who are trying to live more sustainably are starting to complain about the crazy-making clash between industrial/cyber time and sustainable, nature-paced time.

Let's say, for example, that you are one of the millions of Americans who have recently taken up the delightful but time-demanding process of growing some of your own food. Gardening is wonderful eco-therapy and slows you down to nature's pace. You hear the birds sing, watch the insects on their ancient rounds. Ahhh.

But then you have to crank up again on Monday morning and re-enter the jet stream of modern business culture. This time zone is 24/7 and more frantic all the time as economic insecurity ratchets up the stakes and we work harder and harder just to keep up with bills, even as we're trying to simplify, live more frugally and pace ourselves. Even when we're at home, we spend too much time on our computers speeding along at cyberpace and too little time outdoors.

Soon the little squash or pea seedlings we planted last weekend that are operating on Mother Nature's schedule pop up and demand your daily attention, just like newborns everywhere and in every era. But you have to leave home early (no time to water now), try to get in some frantic exercise time at the gym (no time for a leisurely hike), rush to work and stay late at the office, under a crunch probably caused by fewer employees doing less work. It's dark when you get home so ... droopy seedlings or even crispy critters.

As more of us try to "drop out" from unsustainable society, the clash between nature-based lifestyle patterns and the demands of modern living/earning can become acute. Most of us start out 100 percent in the old culture and inch our way into a different and healthier way of living. But there's no denying that somewhere in the middle of this process we'll probably hit a bad case of Clash of the Time Zones!

So what does your schedule look like? How much time do you spend indoors vs. outdoors? In front of a screen vs. face to face with people, animals, plants and nature? In a car vs. outside? Rushed vs. peaceful? How do you juggle the wild ride between cybertime and nature's time?