It’s a wonderful lie we all tell ourselves when we decide that we are doing enough by recycling. That no matter how much we consume, there will be someone who will fix the problems of global warming, deforestation, air and water pollutions. We are wrong.
When I was growing up in the eighties and early nineties, there were many different environmentalist movements that everyone seemed to be gung-ho for. I remember the “Countdown For Acid Rain”, “Save The Whales”, “Stop The Lampreys”, and “Save The Rainforest”, just to name a few. But I’m not sure if acid rain does still exist, or the lampreys; and wasn’t the Amazon Rainforest supposed to be gone by now? We view/viewed these, (and many other), environmental movements with as much regard as Cabbage Patch Kids, or the Troll Doll fads. Are we really interested?
We get interested in “fad” environmental movements for two reasons:
1. The media makes it exciting.
It is very hard to ignore an environmental crisis when every star is wearing a ribbon, and making note of their cause in their acceptance speeches at the Emmy’s, “I would like to thank what’s left of the rainforest…”
What is unfortunate in regard to these environmental movements is that we often do not see the results of the people who really do care about the cause, and use our guilt dollars for good. Obviously some good came from the 1987 whaling moratorium or there would have certainly been several more extinct species than there currently are. But people are, strangely, not interested in seeing the amazing stories of what we can accomplish if we work together.
The important part of understanding why we don’t hear about the conclusions, consequences or victories, is really because we never cared in the first place. The truth is that the people who really are concerned about certain issues are not waiting for Fox to broadcast the highlights of efforts to clean up zebra mussels in the Great Lakes Region. They do the research themselves and/or physically get involved. Generally, unless you are actually physically unable to get involved, a few flicks of a pen in your cheque book are not going to make you feel better about things.
“Why don’t we care enough?” is a very hard question to answer. The easiest answer is probably because the parts of nature that are endangered are often so removed, (from most of our lives), that it is difficult for us to remember the problems. I am sure that it is just as difficult for someone living in Ghana to worry about retreating glaciers as it is for someone living in Alaska to worry about the feral cat invasion of Australia. We all feel empathy, but do we do enough o ensure that we ourselves are making a difference?
Most of us, in Ontario, are making a difference. In most cities the blue box program has reduced landfill amounts, and the green boxes have created a great deal of compost. So where is our slap on the back? It is buried in the endless stretches of red tape, controversy and violence that makes the eleven o’clock news. If people are more worried about gang violence, car jacking and how quickly Britney Spears can end a marriage, who has time to congratulate those who are at least making some effort. As we all know in our private lives, those actions, which are not appreciated, generally stop happening, (just look at my sink full of dishes!)
On a global scale we are responsible for many changes and many depleting resources, that even if we feel guilty about it, we cannot hope to change. Some species are already lost to us, most of which went extinct before environmentalism was en vogue. So what is the answer to sorting out the “fads”? Impact the world around you. Stop pouring everything down the sink, and throwing away items because you no longer use them. Make the microcosm of your area your focus. Ask questions about what people have done, and where the successes lay.
The environmental movements in the past have left many of us with a bad taste in our mouths regarding the impending doom of the planet’s death. Where the opinions of the few who are looking forward with trepidation and fear, we need not do so. If we can break down the media’s effectiveness at blindly leading us in the directions they wish, perhaps we can take control of where the environmental movements go in the future.
It’s a wonderful lie that we tell ourselves when we think that it is someone else’s problem to save the planet. Often for those of us living in the western world we have no one to blame but ourselves. Can you imagine the panic people would feel if McDonald’s was threatened? What would we do if we didn’t have greasy hamburgers and pulp made fries? It would be pandemonium as people tried to save Ronald. As much as we blame the demise of some environmental movements on what we are not doing, often what we are doing keeps the problems escalating.
The fact that we over consume in the western world is not a new concept. The idea that through our over consumption we are directly poisoning the planet and ourselves may be. The blame for air pollution often falls on factories and cars, which are a problem, but not the only one. Because guilt is often the best motivator for environmental change, I propose that we place ads on the sides of gas pumps like packages of cigarettes. If there were pictures of sea birds dying in oil spills, or children suffering from asthma, perhaps people would think twice before gassing up their Hummer. But when the power of the western world is dripping Texas tea, how can we expect to be backed? I would turn to the governments for help, but when one of the leaders, (at least one), is basically in bed with the oil companies, we get stopped.
So how do we stand up for ourselves in a world that has been created for our comfort? How do we accept the fact that living on this planet beats the convenience of disposable Swiffer pads? The key is to cut where you can. Make a choice to buy a reusable thermos instead of bottled water every day. Buy a travel mug that can be filled where you buy your morning coffee. Turn off the light when you leave a room. Most importantly, remember it is your responsibility to work at saving the planet.
As individuals we cannot hope to turn the tide on global warming, deforestation and either air or water pollution. What we can do is the best we can do to avoid the “fad” living and make as many permanent choices and changes we can. I can’t even begin to tell you what would happen if we all ate at least one vegetarian dinner a week