Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Feeling Bullied to "Go Green"

So it seems like everywhere I go someone is urging me to "go green" -- change this, change that, buy this, stop using that! Oh my goodness, I'm killing the planet!!! And then I get all cynical and resentful, not because I don't think global warming is caused by man [have you breathed the air in Utah recently or listened to scientists?] but rather because I feel like everyone is trying to capitalize off the green movement. Don't get me wrong, I'm all about saving the planet, but I have this sneaking suspicion that all these "green" products are going to cost me a lot more money and many of them aren't doing much to reduce carbon footprint (organic tees, I'm looking at you)....but that really is for another post. There are really all kinds of legitimate ways we can all work on reducing carbon emissions (like turning off lights, carpooling, etc....) so don't think I'm not trying to do my part---I carpool with my husband to work most a Toyota Corolla.

The real reason I decided to write this post is to give you a better reason to try to mitigate global warming. I've been reading this really phenomenal and interesting book called Economic Gangsters which is sort of like a freakonomics about international development. It's fascinating and though "academic" reads like it was written by a journalist, which is always a good thing--I enjoy ecnomists who can speak to the lay man, because when it comes to economics I need it in plain english.

Anyway the take home point is this: the people who are doing the most to contribute to global warming (United States & the Europeans....that's right) are the one's who will most easily be able to deal with the impact and those who will be most heavily impacted will not have the capability to adapt and the consequences for them could be deadly (the notable exeption to this pattern being China).

Here's an example: if the temperature raises a few degrees making it more difficult to grow crops in California the U.S. has good infrastructure to irrigate and has scientists to develop drought resistant crops. Furthermore, there are many in the northern US, Canada, and Europe who would not complain one bit if we had shorter winters and longer summers. We could adjust. It would be fine. The people who would really suffer from global warming would be those in Africa, whose farming relies mainly on rain and already suffer from severe droughts---their irrigation systems are poor or non-existent and starvation is already a regular occurence...raised temperatures and/or reduced rainfall would only exacerbate the situation. Drought=starvation and starvation=desperation and desperation=people who follow evil corrupt people into waging civil wars. And this is not just a few people. It's a lot people. 100 million people could be seriously affected in the next 100 years---these people already live on less than a dollar a day---and many of them have already experienced a civil war in the last generation...and have I mentioned how blessed we are to live here in America?

.....anyway this is getting long and rambly, but my point is that you should read Economic Gangsters. Realize that the world is connected -- and not just by international trade flows or financial markets -- what we do here in the United States can seriously affect those around us.

So I feel bullied to go green, but I'm suddenly okay with it.

Now, I'm trying to be smart about what I do and not just change things because some celebrity told me. I'm trying to do what I do because it actually makes sense. So, I'll never drive an Escalade...never never too Hummer and I plan on avoding a minivan or SUV as long as humanly possible. I'll also try to buy toys and kids clothes at yard sales---but I'll buy some new too---all things in moderation. I'll turn off lights in my house when I'm not using them, use reusable grocery bags, switch over to those more efficient light bulbs, use cloth diapers, turn our heater down at night, buy local when possible, etc....etc...there are lots of options.

Going green is not the focus of my existence and I may not be the greenest person you know, but I just wanted you to know why I'm trying to "go green" and let you know that it has little relation to the snowballing green movement that is sweeping the nation and has everything to do with the realization of how American style consumption is affecting the rest of the planet, including those least fortunate.

So there you go, one of my longest posts in a while. But it's been on my mind all day. Reading that book has really got me thinking. I hope this post got you thinking---and headed to the library to read something written far more eloquently.

3 little remarks:

Brandon said...

At the risk of angering you, I have three questions re: global warming.

1. I'm unsure what the air quality in Salt Lake has to do with whether global warming is man-made. Can you explain?

2. By your use of "scientists," can I assume you believe there is a consensus in the scientific community on this issue?

3. Are you completely convinced the earth is warming at all over the last couple decades?

DP said...

I'll be the first to acknowledged that climate change is controversial, even among scientists.

Still, can't we all agree that air quality and water quality are things we all want? Consequently, maybe even if we don't agree on the reasons for it, we can agree to make an effort to reduce carbon emissions.

By the way, you might enjoy this Newsweek interview with former Secretary of Energy Dan Reicher about "smart" electric grids.


Kaela said...

Interesting points made in this post. I grew up in the northwestern united states, enjoyed the surrounding beautiful trees and environment, and many of my teachers were pretty much part-time environmentalists. I am thankful for the impact they had on me and think the green movement is a great one. I hope as more people jump on board the prices for green products will come down. I am by no means REALLY green, but feel I do what I can on an affordable level and am glad that everyone is becoming more aware of the impact they have on the world around them.

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