Is anyone else following Kevin Drum’s blog posts about climate change?
I’ve been thinking along these lines for a while now, which is disorienting, unsettling for a person who grew up internalizing the three R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). I think these ideas, in my family, were more about thrift than about the environment, at least to begin with, because my parents believed this, lived like this, and demanded it of their kids, before the environmental (or ecology, as they used to call it) movement was a thing.
And as an adult I never really questioned the wisdom of this ethos. I was always scraping by on not much money, so planning meals so that nothing was thrown away or, say, cutting up my worn-out t-shirts to use for rags so I didn’t have to buy paper towels was just necessary. Not that I didn’t see the big picture and believe that reducing consumption and waste was good for the earth. And of course being a lifelong liberal Democrat — well, pro-environment policy was just one of the things I believed in and supported.
But more and more I wonder (for instance, when I take my recycling, which I’ve rinsed and obsessively separated) downstairs and throw it in the bin that my neighbors have filled with dirty takeout containers, plastic bags, and pretty much whatever the fuck else they feel like throwing in there, knowing that even if there were a market for all that “recyclable” plastic — there isn’t: most of it ends up in a landfill — recycling plants will reject it because it’s “contaminated” with non-recyclables) I wonder, “why do I take this so seriously when most people can’t be bothered?” I mean, I’ve always assumed I’m helping, but am I helping?” And this is New York, a supposedly enlightened, liberal place. Good luck even trying to make an effort in Mississippi.
And then there’s the bigger idea that Kevin Drum writes about, which is that even if we pass all these GND laws here, get everyone’s behavior here, get everyone on board here (which, let’s be honest, will never happen), most of the world is not trying, not interested, in making the same changes. So if we really believe that this is an emergency, why are we so focused on these things that so clearly are not going to help at the massive scale required to save the world? Is it just because those are the things we’ve been relentlessly pounding away at for decades. Is it because we’re locked in a battle with a bunch of fucking idiots (that is, 1/2 the population) who still deny basic proven facts like evolution and global warming and the age of the planet and getting them to listen to reason has become the goal?
I don’t know. Like I said, pondering this stuff lately is disorienting. But I can’t find anything to disagree with in Drum’s assertion that if we actually truly believe we only have a few decades to reverse emissions drastically if we want to save the earth and its human population, shouldn’t we be laser-focused on finding something that stands a chance of doing that, instead of expending all our energy trying to implement green building and municipal composting programs?