By Joshua Bardwell, originally posted at Jack-Booted Liberal.
In honor of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, I’d like to share with you some tips for saving the environment that I found in a magazine.
Yay! Everything is going to be okay now!
But of course it’s not. No matter how many of your electronic devices you unplug, mountains in West Virginia are still going to be strip-mined for coal to put the electricity on the wires. No matter how often you turn off your car instead of idling it, there have already been thousands of spills in the Niger Delta (just to name one place). All of these tips might be meaningful ways to conserve a resource that was being obtained in an environmentally sound way, but when environmental damage is built into the system, focusing on conservation is cold comfort.
Environmental damage is not occurring because you and every other American left your car idling; it’s occurring because we’ve built a society in which nearly everyone must have a car in order to survive above the poverty line.
Environmental damage is not occurring because you left your cell phone charger plugged in; it’s occurring because we build houses with no thought towards natural heating or cooling, and then the only option is to run 3000 watt air conditioning units every day of the year to keep the temperature at 68-72 degrees.
Environmental damage is not occurring because you eat too much cow and not enough fish; it’s occurring because we expect to have strawberries in December and mango and pineapple in Detroit, and so airliners deliver them from Hawaii and Chile every fucking morning.
These are the things that would have to change in order to “save” the environment. You cannot “save” the environment by doing the things on that list, because those things are not what is harming the environment.
When I see lists like this, I wonder whether their real effect is to distract me. If I think that I’m doing something meaningful by turning off my engine when I get out of the car, I will be derailed from thinking about actually meaningful actions that I might perform.
Just to be clear, I still think there are good reasons to conserve, I just don’t think that “saving the environment” is one of them. For one thing, conservation may make you less personally dependent on the energy that is being derived in a harmful way. This makes you more open to actions that reduce the availability of that energy, which many non-harmful options do.
For your enjoyment, here is a funny video from Derrick Jensen, talking about meaningful environmental actions.