01 April 2008

Cannon Fodder

Okay. Fine. I'll admit it--I'm a friggin eco-puritan. The worst kind. The kind that snarls at Hummers while her fingers freeze off because she's biking. The kind that silently screams in frustration when her housemates take 25 minute hot showers, and the kind that's utterly disgusted by the sheer amount of mass-produced meat that Americans consume.

I typically squelch these outbursts and channel them towards pedaling faster, finding ways to shorten my own showers, or cooking another batch of lentils for lunch. I firmly believe people have a right to pursue enjoyment and more importantly, throwing a tantrum or stepping up on a eco-soapbox isn't going to convince other people that I'm right and they're wrong. No one likes being lectured (or screamed at). Besides, who am I to talk? I'm taking 2-3 international flights a year now, plenty enough to obliterate all my other minuscule attempts to cut waste out of my life.

I'm not an angry person. I rarely get into arguments, and I can't remember the last time I yelled at someone. Usually, things just slide off my back, so I'm fairly puzzled by this boiling eco-rage that's bursting out more and more frequently.

Why do these things bother me so much?

I attended the down:2:earth convention in Boston this weekend, where I was completely inundated by eco-propaganda. It was eco-puritan heaven--chatting with the folks at Equal Exchange (the fair trade coffee/chocolate/etc company), tasting water beetles and cicadas at a bug cooking demo, learning about Sol Solution and Mass Bike, watching an expert carve up a locally farm-raised pig carcass, and re-discovering The Food Project.

During a presentation on climate change by the Union of Concerned Scientists, the speaker was talking about floods and droughts and she said, "Basically we're going to have less water when we need it and more water when we don't." And I burst out laughing. When she started talking about the effects on fish populations and tree diversity, I rolled my eyes. I didn't care. I've been swimming in don'tpollutesavetheenvironment since first grade, and I'm glad it's receiving much more popular attention, but frankly by now I've grown dead sick of hearing "global warming" bleated everywhere.

So why the eco-rage?

Then I heard Bill McKibben speak, and it suddenly hit me that it's not the pollution or the carbon footprints that bother me, it's the blatant disregard for other people. That's right, drive that bloody Hummer while soldiers die in Iraq to satisfy our oil habit, go ahead, burn a few more gallons so the rising temperatures can encourage the spread of dengue fever and fill stretchedtothelimit crumbling clinics in Bangladesh. Don't worry, it won't harm you. Just turn the air conditioning up. Yeah, maybe Boston will flood, but hey, they'll build dams to keep the ocean at bay. You really shouldn't trouble yourself about all the farmers in Mali that will lose their crops to the flooding rainwaters and their children will die because they won't have the nutrition to fend off disease.

I do believe everyone has the right to pursue enjoyment. Life is short. We don't all have to shave our heads, wear burlap sacks, and retire to caves to meditate. Maybe Hummer drivers really enjoy their Hummers. But fuck it, couldn't you have chosen a slick little sports car instead?

America has 4% of the world's population. And we use 25% of the world's resources. That's disgusting.

Hahahaha...and here's the sick part, I'm willing to bet Hummers don't contribute much to the enjoyment of their owners. Despite tripling affluence in the developing world since the 1950s, overall happiness has declined. McKibben argues that as we grow richer, we become more isolated from one another in our nice suburban homes, and our communities are withering. Humans are social animals. They like interacting. Hummers are big metal boxes that separate you from the rest of the world. Go ahead, pop some more prozac.

Yes, I'm simplistic. It's part of being an eco-puritan. Disagree with me? Disagree with anything I've said? Please post a comment!!! I would really really like to hear another viewpoint on this that isn't the groupthink I've been wallowing in. Know someone who will violently disagree? Please send them here or have them drop me a line.

P.S. Dear housemates, even though your showers sometimes drive me crazy, I still love you. At least you don't take 2-3 international flights every year...