Taking personal responsibility
There are so many save-the-world groups shouting about subscriptions, donations, products, signatures, calls to action, as well as those irritating chuggers (charity muggers) who jump out at you on the sidewalk wanting you to smile, stop, sign, and give money. This product is green, the one next to it is eco-friendly, a company promises sustainable manufacturing, another is socially responsible. The quantity of and confusion around things we should be concerned about is overwhelming. It’s time to get back to basics to try to figure out what really matters.
Jef Lloyd, a friend who has a Ph.D. in biochemistry, sorted it out nicely for me.
It’s actually quite simple, he says. The confusion comes from mixing up damage to the environment caused by greenhouse gas emissions and damage to people caused by the misuse of chemicals. These are two very different issues with different solutions.
All chemicals are toxic and all life is chemical. You and I and everyone else are individual chemical factories. If we eliminate all chemicals, we eliminate ourselves. That’s one way to save the earth, but probably not the best way.
Environmental damage is caused by human activity. The more feet on the ground, the more damage is done to the earth and the air. Even hunters and gatherers damage plants, wipe out species, and pollute the air with their fires. With the world’s out-of-control population, environmental damage is huge and will only get worse as more and more people are born.
Two things cause 90 percent of damaging greenhouse emissions: heating and cooling our buildings and transportation. And yet, who is giving up their cars and planes or willingly sweltering in triple-digit heat? It is much easier to fight to save the red-winged, five-legged snople. After driving to the frontlines to block gas-guzzling bulldozers, a person can go home to air-conditioned comfort and drink a chemical which causes birth defects and other health problems — alcohol — and feel good about his or her efforts. Buying green detergent or those dangerous fluorescent bulbs has almost no impact on saving the world. Only a reduction in fossil fuels will make a difference,
Few are brave enough to stand up and say that we must control our populations. The problem is that growth — more and more people buying more and more houses and cars — is considered essential to the health of the world’s economies.
So, bottom line, we have a conundrum. Do we save the earth and trash the economy or do we fight to save the economy and hope for the best?