Friday, August 24, 2007

Environmentalist, Heal Thyself!

At the Baltimore Aquarium, I saw a kitchsy little "Stop Global Warming Mug". When you put hot liquid in it, you could watch the coastlines of continents recede, representing the devastating effects of global warming. I was sorely tempted to buy it, but I left the museum shop empty-handed. Why?

Global warming.

How much did manufacturing that "Be Aware of Global Warming" mug actually contribute to global warming? And, at the end of the day, how much of our efforts to stop global warming actually fuel the fire? Direct-mail campaigns asking me to write to my (non-existent) Senator ruin more trees than I'll ever save with that letter; even using the most recycled paper still requires the energy to reproduce it as a pretty little inked-up letter. Same for silk-screened tees on happy organic cotton with their save the whales and save the snails message of wholesome goodness - last time I checked, any cotton processing, regardless of how pristine the growing conditions were, will still produce harmful byproducts in the atmosphere. But how much of the problem are we creating in trying to push a solution? I have a bunch of thoughtful and conscientious friends who are avid subscribers to Real Simple, a magazine chock full of handy tips to make your life simpler, and therefore better. I read a few handy tips yesterday in the supermarket checkout line, but at the end of most of the articles, I found I couldn't simplify my life without buying something new first. So I did.

New and more alarming reports come out everyday. Who read the article in The New Yorker last week about the International Dark Sky Association that described how artificial light is increasingly obfuscating the night sky at an exponential rate, as well as providing a startlingly plausible link to breast cancer rates? What about the several reports that suggest that indoor air is more polluted in industrialized nations than outdoor air?

I would love to sit up here on my oh-so-high horse and excoriate the environmentalists and everyone else for making global warming worse. But at the end of the day, I'm contributing to the problem just as much as any red-state voting, plastic bag-toting, Hummer-driving, meat-gobbling earth killer.

I am the lazy environmentalist.

We've all learned about how plastic bottles are killing the earth, right? I’m helping- kind of. Well, at least I'm not buying bottled water at least a lot of the time when I'm not thirsty and actually remember to use a Nalgene, I'm not buying bottled water. I drink DC's finest tap water (ignoring the heap of Brita filters in the corner of the kitchen that cost me $40 bucks), but it doesn't taste nearly as good as Perrier. I'm ashamed to tell you how many Nalgene bottles are sitting unused on top of my fridge at this very moment, unused and probably killing the poor cat as we speak, leaching toxic plasticinicides or something like that into the air.1

I'm aware of global warming, and happily, every day, more and more people are. The little changes necessary to make any real impact are, well, kind of a pain in the ass. I really like my health and natural spaces, both of which are threatened by global climate change, but everyday I make a few choices that would indicate otherwise. I like the feeling of moral superiority as I walk to work, knowing I'm playing my part in reducing greenhouse gases, but it just makes me hang my head lower in shame when I ignore the other little changes I could be making, but am choosing not to- not so much out of maliciousness, but out of sheer laziness.

What will it take to have me practice what I preach, to start remembering to actually bring one of the fourteen or so unbleached, organic cotton tote bags to the grocery store? The spirit is there, but the flesh is lethargic. Sure, I set my printer to print manually so that I can use the backside of paper, but when it goes awry, as computers are wont to go, it's a lot easier to push the “go” button than to figure out why the goddamned machine won’t print the goddamned paper so I can save the goddamned earth. Kermit was only slightly off: it’s obnoxious, being green.

Everyday, I make little promises to myself that I’ll be better. Today I am going to put a little tray on my desk so that I can use the backside of paper for scratch, instead of using brand new pads. I brought a tote bag to keep under my desk so that I’ll always have one when I go grocery shopping after work, and I’ll put a few in the car for when I stop off at the store on my way home from physical therapy- see? I’m consolidating errands! Making the effort! This way, I can get back to my feeling of superiority, and write a proper post bitching and moaning about how the greens are ruining the good green earth. I’ll tell them it's time to start pushing a "Consume Less to Make a Better Life" campaign. I’m already looking forward to putting the message in my recycling bin.

1. Don't worry about kitty; I left the AC on to alleviate his suffering.


Blogger Edward said...

Think of the plastic water bottle as being half full rather than half empty.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Chris Chan said...

I remember, all through middle school, we kids were told that we should never, ever use car washes because they were wastes of water, and that we should only use a bucket of soapy water and a sponge to clean cars. Then, senior year of high school, the environmentalists started to tell us that it was ecologically irrresponsible to wash cars with a bucket and sponge because chemicals from the car paint washed off and seeped into the ground water (it made me wonder if rain is considered bad for the environment now). Instead, we were supposed to go to a car wash that recycled its water. I have yet to find a car wash that announces that it recycles its water.

2:51 PM  

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