It's Not Easy Being Green

--- The Question of Choice ---
June 2000

It is said that you can fix anything if you throw enough money at it. Unfortunately that is exactly the attitude that has created the collection of environmental problems the planet now faces. Problems like pollution do not arise from a chemical plant belching fumes into the air or an oil tanker that runs aground and pollutes miles of coastline

Pollution is a direct result of consumer demand. This means YOU! It means, all of us! We, directly cause the demand for new factories and chemical plants to be built, the insatiable demand that requires the shipment of fossil fuels trans-globally so that we can drive instead of walk to work.

These situations are created by our *desire* to be sophisticated human beings who play with complicated technological toys and enjoy a high standard of living. We want choice and we want the best (that we can afford).

In any natural environment an open niche will eventually be occupied. The same is true of commerce. Wherever there is an opportunity to create wealth, a way will be found to exploit it.

The solution to this situation is to take greater care of, and responsibility for, our choices.

It is easy to point to a midnight dumper tipping toxic waste into stormwater drain and cry "criminal!". It is less easy to accept that our collective choices create scenarios (the karma) whereby such things occur. There is after all *NO* safe way to store or dump toxic waste, legal or otherwise!

In some cases it may be possible to neutralize toxic waste, but the cost of that process must eventually be passed on to the consumer. In a world of choice, where cheaper items are available from regions with less stringent environmental policies … I think you catch my drift.

This is a game that has been successfully played by numerous large corporations throughout the twentieth century. They move their manufacturing base from country to country, to wherever the legal and/or environmental requirements and labor costs are minimal. And they do this all for us, so that we can have "the best" for less!

There is no turning back the clock on this one. The protest that stops a factory being built in one place, will simply see it relocated elsewhere. The answer is to accept that there is a price to pay for our chosen lifestyles that runs far deeper than the debt on our credit cards.

The greatest power that we can exert to change this democratic, wealth driven system, is by the two fundamental things it depends on, ie: purchase power and politics. We vote most loudly with the almighty "buck". In so saying, there is one thing we will all have to accept.
In the future, the lifestyle we are currently accustomed to, will cost more! Unless of course, turning the planet into a near sterile wasteland doesn't bother us.
What to do … some hints:

Pay more attention to what you purchase, ie: How and where was it made? Don't assume that because a product is on the shelf (passed by appropriate national legislating body) that the product (or the manufacturing process used to make it) is in fact environmentally sound.

When you purchase items with an longer
expected useable life (white goods etc.), select items that offer a longer warranty period. If a manufacturer is prepared to back his product for ten years instead of five, this kind of thinking may enable you to halve your junk output over the same period.

Buying energy efficient products may incur a higher purchase price, but there is a whole planet's worth of creatures great and small that would thank you if they could.

To make good choices you require a clear and focussed mind. If you don't already meditate, perhaps you should give it a try.

With a global population running to 6 billion (and growing), it is easy to think that the contribution of one individual is insignificant. Should such a thought cross your mind, consider this. If you are reading this, it is quite likely that you already consume and throw away between 10 and 50 times as much as your counterpart in the third world. Not only that, but you can also expect to live for twice as long.

The bottom line … be mindful … When you shop, pay attention !!!

PS: New Yorkers have the distinction of hosting one of the largest man-made structures (by volume) ever built … the New York City Tip.

Having the largest pile of rubbish ever known to exist in one place isn't even the real problem (one day its sure to make an excellent island). The real problem are the tons of toxic substances that leach out of this mega-refuse pile into the environment, year after year.

This is not a "dig" at New Yorkers (every large population has it's tip), just a reminder that not all of our greatest achievements are as noble as we would wish ;-)



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