We May Be Greener, But We’re Not Green

We pat ourselves on the back for being ‘green’ – for reducing the amount of ecological imbalance our lives create.

However, ‘green’ actions usually do no more than reduce our ecological impact from ‘very significant’ to ‘slightly less but still very significant’.

Once upon a time all human’s waste was used by the ecosystem in synergistic cycle.  But we probably didn’t notice.  We probably just thought about it as leaving behind our waste and it magically disappearing.

One day we started generating more waste than the ecosystem needed or could process, but we probably still didn’t notice.  After all, the ecosystem would take care of it, right?  It would magically disappear.  We didn’t understand symptoms that the environment was not magically processing our waste and giving us a clean slate.

Then the industrial revolution came along, but we hadn’t changed our mindset that our waste would magically disappear, even though at this point it was probably clear that the ecosystem didn’t have the resources to handle everything we were dumping into it.

The key point is that human waste never magically disappeared – that was a misunderstanding from the beginning.  It was always a case of contributing to an ecosystem or overwhelming it.  Today, we need to switch our mindset to the reality of the situation – we can contribute to the ecosystem or we can overwhelm it.

We should start to ask those immediately responsible for overwhelming an ecosystem to change their systems.  If someone is dumping something somewhere, they’ll need to change their approach from disposal (in the sea or on land) to a composting mindset.  The ones closest to the problem and immediately knowledgable of the cause are the best fit for changing it.

Asking businesses to changing their systems to not create ecological imbalance would of course raise consumer prices and discourage companies from selling in that marketing, which is why bringing this kind of legislation into the U.S. would be extremely difficult.

We could try to live a completely green (zero footprint) lifestyle in today’s world.  But even the most ‘green’ probably don’t have the time or will to do so.  It would probably involve buying nothing new (no clothes, no home embellishments, no solar panels) and growing your own food (both to reduce the impact of the consumption process), traveling only by foot or bike and composting your human and other waste.  This would take a lot of dedication – making being green the priority in one’s life.  And it’s the opposite of what we call ‘development’ – ‘development’ is usual used to mean moving away from a lifestyle like this.  Nevertheless, some have gone this route.

Maintaining a semblance of the first-world lifestyle we’re used to and being truly green would mean rejigging the way we think about business and its responsibilities.  Unfortunately, we humans have a longstanding habit of instead sticking our thumbs in our ears and saying it will all magically go away.

We can say that our lifestyles are greener, but let’s not deceive ourselves with calling them ‘green’.

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3 thoughts on “We May Be Greener, But We’re Not Green

  1. Pablo says:

    One of the major challenges – if not *the* major challenge facing the globe is the effect of exporting our culture by mass media: right now, only a small percentage of the globe is living this enormously overconsuming lifestyle. But a hundred times that many rural poor across the globe are seeing this lifestyle on TV and defining it as what they want to achieve. As we begin to solve the problems of poverty in Africa and India, our environmental problems are going to blow up in a way we just can’t imagine. Yikes. (And – thanks for writing!)

  2. Addy says:

    ^ All you have to do is watch them immigrate to Canada and become ugly about waste as soon as they have money to spend. ^

    I have seen a lot of small house folk take this on as a dedicated lifestyle. They are inspiring, and challenging. What bugs me is it isn’t found to be profitable.

    I told my husband if I won the lottery I’d start a grocery store that was waste free. Meaning: I would support companies willing to supply waste free household products, bulk items, and local farmers willing to supply both preserved goods and and produce. And I would invent what was needed in order make products accessible to the waste free lifestyle.

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