Recently I had an (albeit a very weak) online debate regarding what some saw about the value, or lack thereof, of Leftover Love (see previous posts) in the grand efforts offered in the name of environmentalism. The case was that it was a not a worthy cause because of the amount of gas it would take to go out for a meal. All of this has sent my brain on a wild ride of coming up with thoughts (not at all arguments) to defend what I see as very worthwhile cause. So this is my opinion piece (look at me pretending like the rest of the posts are 100% objective) to discuss the problem of narrow-mindedness.
As has been the recurrent theme on this site, small efforts count. You do not have to live in the tree tops to care about the environment. I was at the grocery store earlier (oh my gosh I forgot to grow my own tea and grind my own flour, not too snarky I am sure) and the lady at the till was bagging the groceries was putting one item in one plastic bag. And all I could think about is how is trying to stop this not a worthy environmental goal. Yes I had to drive to the shop, and yes I bought stuff that maybe I could have done without or made myself (actually that is not true, since the other thing I got was milk and I do not have a cow). But given my current abilities I am not able to live off the grid and survive. And I am sure that I would be unable to convince anyone else to give up everything they know to do so as well. That is not how I see change coming about. And while I admire the people that are able to live more self sustainable lives, I do not think that said people should scoff at the actions of someone that still use electricity. How will we accomplish anything doing that?
Small actions count, just as much as big action, sometimes more. If you can convince someone who has never thought about the value of protecting the environment to do a small green act, I see that as a big win. If you can get even one person to think about the consequences of their actions then I believe we have made a giant step forward. These actions, like taking your own grocery bag or your own reusable container to a restaurant are just as important as someone who is able to commute by riding their bike or walking to the store/restaurant. I get that not all people are able to ride their bikes. And I also get that I am not going to convince everyone to grow/raise their own food and stop going out to eat. Unfortunately, there are many on this planet that are forced to survive in a capitalistic society (not saying that is right or wrong). And sometimes people are distracted by big pretty shiny objects (or yummy food) that capitalists sell. Does it make me a bad person if sometimes I fall prey to the big pretty shiny thing and want it? I don’t know, maybe, I guess it depends on who you ask; the point is that how this society functions. But this is not a debate about capitalism, nor is it the answer to solve all human made problems. There is no answer, if there was life would be a lot different and I would not be writing this. So to me that means we need to look at multiple approaches and multiple answers. It does not mean one solution is more right than the other. Just because you cut your power usage down by 50% does not make you more dedicated or concerned about the environment than one who takes their own container to a restaurant or cuts down on paper towel use. I mean how much energy does it take to make a Styrofoam container? What are the effects of that container sitting in a landfill or worse yet someone’s water supply? They are all equally valuable choices, and the more people we can get on board doing each of them, or all of them, or just a portion of them, will help significantly. At least I think so. I just do not see the value in discouraging any efforts to help improve and create more environmental awareness. We should work together and little bit more, especially those in the same camp. We might see some bigger results that way, and maybe the bagger at the store will put multiple items in one bag or better yet offer an alternative to paper or plastic bags. I am just saying that spitting contests get us nowhere.
One of the points made on the other side of this debate was that our great grandparents were self sufficient, and that we could all learn something from that generation. Well that may be true for some, but my great grandparents were not self-sufficient. What they were (at least mine) was much more practical and resourceful, and had more of an appreciation for the value and cost of things. So while I agree that we could learn from our great grandparents, maybe we do not have to think about them all living on self sustaining farms, and feel bad because we do not, but rather remember to appreciate what we have, not be wasteful, and wise in our choices.
There was one last item that was mentioned by the other debater that has bothered me. And I fully admit this is now me being nitpicky, but it was about travel. He mentioned that he had traveled to China and saw a lot of people riding their bikes. Well that is great, but I am sure this person did not ride his bike to China, and for someone who wants to promote a sustainable life, not sure were gas guzzling jet engines fall into that equation. I love to travel, and understand that there is an environmental cost with it, but I see it such value in other areas. But again that was not addressed. I guess I will end here, and say that I know that going out to eat (and traveling) increases your carbon foot print, but any effort to reduce the size of that foot print should be encouraged, especially by others who claim to care about the planet. I think we could accomplish a lot more working together and promoting all environmentally friendly ideas. I heard and appreciate all of his arguments, and admire all of his efforts, but do not think that efforts to reduce waste should be brushed off so casually. Just saying.