Sunday, October 19, 2008

Green Lifestyles are Impossible

The Guardian tells us "Green idealists fail to make the grade," but they don't look further than the obvious:


According to the researchers, people who regularly recycle rubbish and save energy at home are also the most likely to take frequent long-haul flights abroad. The carbon emissions from such flights can swamp the green savings made at home, the researchers claim.

Stewart Barr, of Exeter University, who led the research, said: "Green living is largely something of a myth. There is this middle class environmentalism where being green is part of the desired image. But another part of the desired image is to fly off skiing twice a year. And the carbon savings they make by not driving their kids to school will be obliterated by the pollution from their flights."

Questioned on their heavy use of flying, one respondent said: "I recycle 100% of what I can, there's not one piece of paper goes in my bin, so that makes me feel less guilty about flying as much as I do."

He said: "The findings indicate that even those people who appear to be very committed to environmental action find it difficult to transfer these behaviours into more problematic contexts."

The Guardian


Mr. Barr really nails it when he points out that cognitive dissonance is at work here.

I want to take a big fat plane flight, so I'll recycle used condoms, turn off appliances, buy green toilet paper made from recycled leaves, and cut down my personal methane emissions.

What he's hinting at, whether he knows it or not, is that we can't transfer our "green" idealism to a regular context because our society is structured around gratification of the individual. If you can afford it, do it. So the most "green" people around us may be compensating for what they do that we don't see, with what we can see: lots of furious activity around recycling, voting for Obama, etc.

Maybe a society based on consumption isn't a good idea.

The same consumption mentality has been extended to the third world, with which its constant fires, pollution and reckless population growth, is an equal or greater environmental culprit (but don't say that -- you'll be picking on poor people). If you can feed your kids mangoes, have as many as you want. It's your right. Go ahead, breed and clear more forest. Your lives are equal too!

Maybe both first world and third world are consumption-based, ecodeath societies.

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Subvert the dominant paradigm, don't be a solipsist.

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