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A note on Earth Day

2009/04/22

I believe in global warming. Not just that there are natural swings in climate brought about by the Earth’s wobble and sunspots and volcanic activity and, well, you get the idea. Those are all important factors and absolutely influence climate. No, I believe in global warming because of my neighbors.  You see, here on the great open plains of the U.S., I am surrounded by people who can, with 3-4 people/household, fill up a normal trash toter (30-50 gallons I think) not once, but twice a week. And some times even have enough trash left over to require a second little trash can or random assortment of boxes and bags by the curb. That is a lot of stuff. A lot to manufacture, a lot to transport, a lot to do something with (probably involving electricity or water), and a lot to throw away. 

It’s not so easy to just say “Stop buying so much cheap stuff!” We stop buying cheap stuff, underpaid Chinese people, for example, wind up with even less. And no, I’m not advocating unregulated consumerism and growth. I’m just saying that it’s complicated. It takes dealing with inequality in wages, dealing with unsustainable farming practices, dealing with the lack of a cradle-to-cradle manufacturing system, dealing with unsustainable lifestyles, dealing with car culture. That is a lot to change and it’s quite overwhelming to think about. It takes revising a view of the world that’s very polar — rich & poor — to one that’s not homogenous, but far more equal. No utopia (those are boring), just less extreme. It goes back to the “Think globally, act locally” bumper sticker with a footnote about waiting a little longer to afford quality is more cost effective than buying cheap and replacing it more often. Anyway, Earth Day is nice, but it’s going to take a whole heck of a lot more than a little face painting and organic hot dogs to fix our problems. Especially if the neighbors don’t even notice one day.

Side note, I think the EPA should go after spammers. Well, somebody should go after spammers. Not just for making a pretty useful tool fairly obnoxious a lot of the time, but for wasting enough energy annually to power 2.4 million U.S. houses for a year. And most of that is from people having to go delete it. There’s a little people-in-glass-houses rock throwing here — blogging isn’t carbon neutral, but hopefully there’s some benefit to someone.

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