Many proponents of the environmental movement were upset when the Cap and Trade bill fell through in Congress. While it certainly wasn’t the best news for environmentalists, this article from the New York Times suggests that it there might be a better option for reducing our dependance on dirty energy.
As a major foodie, I think a lot about what I eat. Because of this, there are many different factors that come into play when making my food choices:
- Nutrition: having been raised by doctors, I always consider how good (or bad) for me the food I’m about to eat is. This certainly isn’t to say I always eat healthy foods; I just always think about how the food I’m eating is going to affect my body, both now and in the long term.
- Cost: as a college student trying to live on a budget, cost is often a factor in my food purchases. It’s sometimes hard to justify buying the fresh produce for example, when the frozen is much cheaper. The cost factor comes into play a lot during the organic versus not organic choice as well.
- Convenience: also as a college student, one of the biggest things I lack is time. Because of this, I will often consider the convenience of foods. Frozen foods or preprocessed foods are great for this, but they don’t necessarily match up with some of my other considerations, like nutrition or environmental issues. Personally, I would much rather cook fresh food every day, but my schedule just doesn’t allow it. Convenience affects my daily food choices as well as my food shopping choices. When I’m trying to decide what to eat during the day, it usually comes down to what’s in the fridge.
- Taste/Cravings: probably one of the biggest factors in my food choices is what I want to eat. As I mentioned before, I love food a lot so I have a hard time ignoring my cravings. I never seem to be satisfied until I’ve eaten what I want. In attempts to justify this, I always quote the idea that you have cravings because your body knows what nutrients it needs. Sure this probably isn’t entirely true, but I still tend to eat what I want.
- Environmental issues: I commonly consider this factor when making my food choices, but it tends to get drowned under all the other considerations. I’ve know so much of the information about how our food choices affect the environment. I do my best to eat in a way that harms the environment least. But at the same time, it’s difficult to do. Our current food system is so engrained that I feel trapped in it sometimes.
Present day technology is something that never ceases to amaze and intrigue me. Yet many times, it also somewhat terrifies me. The things we are able to do today are incredible compared even to just a couple years ago. The rate a which technology is changing is increasing rapidly…
- Look up information very quickly to improve my understanding of environmental issues
- Learn news immediately after it happens, including things that will affect the global environment
- Gain access to works by environmental thinkers that I may never have read before
- Run computer programs that could help me quickly model environmental changes
- Get in immediate contact with people across the world in a variety of ways, opening up the door for conversations about environmental issues I never would have had
- Compile information on environmental issues easily and compactly
- Share my thoughts, beliefs, and discoveries with others (like you, reading this blog)
Technologies like my computer have the power to speed up the spread of ideas and make communication easier, perhaps making it easier to teach people about environmental issues and what they can do. Technology has the power to help us do great things.
- Uses valuable resources in it’s construction that are very difficult and harmful to extract from the computer in order to be reused
- Is built, as part of our system of consumption, to become obsolete or outdated relatively quickly
- Quickly spread lots of false information about the environment
- Serve as a venue for more consumption, as online shopping explodes
- Waste a lot of valuable time that could be used for coming up with the ideas that could save us
While this is a hugely simplified example, it represents the key idea that we cannot rely on technology to save us. Only we can save ourselves from the mess that we have gotten into. We can only rely on ourselves. Technology can certainly speed up the process and make it easier. Whether the process is helpful or harmful is completely up to us.
In his article in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman argues that China is far ahead of the United States in the climate change race, turning the faltering climate into thousands of J-O-B-S while many American politicians just turn it into one big J-O-K-E. I think that this article brings to mind a couple other four letter words that need to be addressed:
Ask any American on the street what they can do to help reduce environmental harm, they will probably ramble on to you about recycling more, shortening their showers, or actually remembering to bring to the store the hoards of reusable bags they have collected. It’s unlikely anyone will talk to you about switching to alternative energy or reducing their consumerism. Most Americans will point to the simple solutions, the everyday little changes that anyone can make. And these are the same types of answers that even some top environmental leaders are selling to us. The argument that little things are all we need to do to make a difference is certainly compelling. We like the idea of all the small individual things adding up to a meaningful whole. We also like the idea of not having to do too much individually. Words like “simple,” “easy,” and even–god help us–“lazy” are permeating the environmental movement from all sides.
I think that the most pressing challenge facing the global environment is indifference. There are plenty of venues out there for working towards alleviating environmental problems, if enough people cared enough to seek them out. The keyword here is enough. There are certainly some people out there who care a lot about the environment, and are working tirelessly towards making it a better place. But there is also the other extreme of people who can’t directly see the effects of environmental degradation, and therefore don’t believe it affects them. If more of these people cared, then we would have more fighters for the environmental movement. And there are the people who do care, but have so many other things to do or think about than helping the environment. If these people cared more, maybe their other obligations suddenly wouldn’t seem as important.
Although there are certainly many other huge issues facing the environmental movement, having fewer indifferent people would help us move towards overcoming these problems as well. More environmental stewards could help spread information to people who just don’t know the magnitude of this problem. Politicians would have an incentive to actually take action against environmental degradation if enough of the public cared for it to be politically beneficial. Also, more people would care enough to make even small changes in their lifestyle, potentially leading to a huge decrease in our harmful effects on the environment.
Stanley Fish is a god example of somebody who doesn’t care. As he says in his article, he believes that our actions are harming the environment, he just doesn’t care enough to do anything about it. Although his wife is trying to get him to make small changes in his lifestyle, he won’t be convinced. The environment is an inconvenience in his mind. It’s people like this who will be our biggest problem to tackle in the environmental movement.