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February 13, 2007

Green Article of Mine Appears in UK Environmental Site

I wrote an article that appears on the grownupgreen.org.uk website about environmental issues in America. The last paragraph has a favorite quote:

It is important to separate the fluff that most companies use in their “environmentally friendly PR articles” with the substance of what we can actually do to have an impact on our precious resources. Recycle paper, plastics, and aluminum. It is simple. Teach your kids to do it when they are young so that it becomes a habit. Shut off your lights when you are not in a room. Save water. I can’t fix Green House Gases. Hell, I don’t know enough about them to know how to fix them even if I could. I don’t need to believe that Global Warming is going to destroy the Earth to know that recycling and saving resources is a good idea. Too many folks spend too much time talking about Kyoto and dealing with things at the Macro level that they stop focusing on teaching people about simple things they can do at the Micro level to impact our environment.

I have a hippie uncle who sold everything he owned and built a tree house where he lives. Literally. No joke. Being green doesn’t mean you have to be hippie that lives in a tree house. We don’t have to worry about Global Warming in order to know that saving gas or electricity or water is a good thing. We don’t need impending crisis to convince us to take these simple steps. Simple things are more important than PR opportunities or hysteria.

I am not a Global Warming alarmist. Whether the Earth is warming or not, we just don't have enough evidence to suggest that it is human caused versus being caused by the Sun, and we also have considerable evidence that the Earth has gone through repeated cycles of warming and cooling. I think it is naive to attribute global warming simply to greenhouse gases or to assume a human cause for natural occuring events.

That said, you cannot drive by an old coal burning power plant and think that fossil fuels are good for the environment. You can't sit in Phoenix or LA traffic where visibility is less than 10 miles due to air pollution and think that the H2 next to you with one person in it commuting to work is a good thing. You cannot drive by a landfill and see the products of our consumption sitting atop previous throwaway items. But perhaps worst of all is the pollution we don't see that is happening in China from their powerplants and poor industrial and environmental policies. They are polluting worst of all because of their rapidly expanding economy that serves our growing desire for throwaway consumer goods.

So places like Vail and Aspen sell green tags or use wind power. As if to say that Global Warming is the end of the world. It isn't and won't be. But it isn't the biggest threat we face. We face a very real threat of increasing cancers and asthma from air pollution. We face water shortages because of poor water use and algae blooms from fertilizer and chemical runoff. Our oceans are losing their fertile fishing areas due to pollution. We throw away more and more each year and our way of displaying affluence is to buy bigger and bigger SUV's.

Global Warming (if it is indeed human caused and if it is primarily caused by greenhouse gases) is something that the entire world is responsible for collectively. Consumerism and wastefulness are things that individuals own. Consuming water, electricity, gasoline, and so on are individual decisions that we each have the power to change.

Posted by Justin at February 13, 2007 11:26 AM

Comments

brilliant post. while i do think humans are a serious source of global warming pollution, you're right, there are a million other reasons why being environmentally aware is the only option we have. there's no excuse for fence-sitters anymore -- either we're working towards reducing pollution/consumption, or we're choosing to remain blissfully ignorant. and that ignorance is a luxury very few people in the world can afford to accommodate.

Posted by: ianmackenzie at February 16, 2007 04:06 PM