Last week the New York Times ran an op-ed piece titled, “Going Green but Getting Nowhere“. It was one of the most finely packaged pieces of eco-snobbery I’ve ever seen.
I’m at a place in life where I see it as possible to experience at least some level of personal growth from any paradigm or opinion I encounter…no matter how contradictory it may be to my current thought processes.
The exception to that viewpoint, is when the paradigm encountered is one of dogmatism.
And dogmatic is exactly what that NY Times op-ed piece is (and yes, you CAN write an op-ed piece without it).
Every step DOES matter
The gist of the the NY Times piece is that it doesn’t matter whether you recycle, ride your bike to work, use reusable bags, make energy saving adjustments to your thermostat, or even go completely off the grid, your individual actions won’t make a difference in global climate issues.
Here’s the thing…maybe you don’t care if they do.
Maybe you’re just trying to go greener in the things you’re already passionate about in an effort to preserve….the things you’re already passionate about. Or maybe being greener is an accidental result of your passions. I commute on my bike 2-3 days a week because I like riding my bike, not because I’m trying to save the planet.
But hey, maybe you are trying to make a difference in the fight against climate change, pollution, health decline, or whatever gets your endorphins going. And I’m here to tell you that every step DOES make a difference to that end.
Legislation is NOT the answer
The penny drops when the contributor of the op-ed piece says,
Every ton of carbon dioxide pollution causes around $20 of damage to economies, ecosystems and human health. That sum times 20 implies $400 worth of damage per American per year. That’s not damage you’re going to do in the distant future; that’s damage each of us is doing right now. Who pays for it?
We pay as a society. My cross-country flight adds fractions of a penny to everyone else’s cost. That knowledge leads some of us to voluntarily chip in a few bucks to “offset” our emissions. But none of these payments motivate anyone to fly less. It doesn’t lead airlines to switch to more fuel-efficient planes or routes. If anything, airlines by now use voluntary offsets as a marketing ploy to make green-conscious passengers feel better. The result is planetary socialism at its worst: we all pay the price because individuals don’t.
It won’t change until a regulatory system compels us to pay our fair share to limit pollution accordingly.
I’m not anti-government, but I think the majority of behaviors that are supposedly motivated by legal mandates are actions that, ideally, should be natural for us as human beings in general. It’s not really in anyone’s best interest to murder, but people do it. Guess what, it’s against the law to commit murder…but it still happens countless times every day.
Legislation isn’t the answer…or maybe it’s more accurate to say that legislation isn’t the best answer. Doesn’t it make more sense that we keep the planet in a condition in which it can support human life (because the planet doesn’t really need saving) by taking individual steps that add up to a larger collective, rather than try to unsuccessfully mandate the collective?
…or am I just dancing around a “chicken and the egg” conversation?