Shopping Our Way Green?

Leave it to Madison Avenue to turn all the newfound public interest in the environment into a shopping trip—and a pricey one at that. I suppose it’s the only way environmental protection can be permitted to exist alongside capitalism, which has to keep consumers consuming (even what we don’t really need) in order to keep flourishing for the fewer and fewer who benefit.

© Jerry Russell

It goes along with the other trend I find irritating, this tendency to place an inordinate amount of responsibility on the individual, making it all about "personal choice" rather than about the need to sign the Kyoto agreement, reduce emissions and otherwise pass laws and change policies that negatively impact the environment. In his December 10, 2007, speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore touched on this, saying: "We must abandon the conceit that individual, isolated, private actions are the answer."

I was thinking about all these books and websites that offer tips, tips and more tips—and "10 Ways" to do this and that. "If only everybody would dry their clothes on the clothesline instead of in the dryer we’d save blah, blah, blah
" Well, they are going to exhaust their tip inventory soon enough and have to begin really drilling down: "10 Ways to Not Run the Water While Brushing Your Teeth!" You could write a whole book about it
and sell that!

I"m sorry, but "everybody" never does anything, unless compelled by rules and regulations. There is nothing wrong with laws that mandate environmental behavior. If I were an innkeeper I wouldn’t place all those cloying little signs around: "It’s up to you, but if you hang up your towel and make your bed instead of throwing it all on the floor, we’d save blah, blah, blah." To hell with that. "You’re getting two towels and one set of sheets. Have a nice stay."

A truly fit global environment is measured by health, not wealth, and as we adhere to stricter environmental standards, we"ll begin to reveal more and more the bankruptcy of an economic system that can’t help but destroy everything in its path. And for what? So people at the top of the economic ladder can drive a luxury hybrid Lexus SUV that gets a few miles per gallon better mileage than the regular one, while people at the bottom of the economic ladder—by necessity, not choice—still have to ride undersized bicycles to their kitchen jobs?

For my part, I’m throwing my hat in the ring and starting a moat business. Yes, moats. I’ve watched as my economically privileged town has steadily transformed its original modest homes into three-car-garage monstrosities (yes, sometimes with compact fluorescent bulbs in all 20 rooms). I’ve got my slogan for the sides of the company vans all worked out: "Moss Moat and Drawbridge: Serving Westport’s Home-Improvement Needs!" emblazoned over a castle and moat teeming with alligators and a prominent toll-free number to call: "1-800-555-GATOR." One wide-open-mouthed reptile will, in a talking balloon, paraphrase a well-known mattress ad: "Leave off the last "R" for ""ridiculous!""