"Because you can't hug a tree if you can't find one."
Don't Just Be the Change
As more and more people become aware of the effects of consumer culture on the environment, many of us respond by doing what we can to "save the planet." The changes people make might include switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs, hanging laundry to dry, bringing cloth bags to the supermarket, and participating in curbside recycling. I think these are all good things to do. But it seems like for every thing I throw into the recycling bin, corporations develop a dozen new, unnecessary products made of non-recyclable plastic. And while more people than ever may be aware of the climate crisis and making changes in their lives, many more individuals are unaware or unwilling to change their habits, or to do anything that seems inconvenient. ("Bring a bag to the supermarket? Please! I'll never remember to do that!" or "But what will I use to clean up after Fido?")
So how is individual action benefiting the environment when in one manufacturing minute or with one decision, a company can undo the recycling of my entire lifetime? When in one shopping trip, a neighbor might bring home more grocery bags than I've used all year? Because of my activist, take-it-to-the-streets background, I was really happy to read this article by Alex Steffen at World Changing. It makes it very clear that it is not enough to just model a greener lifestyle. We are going to have to go beyond ourselves and start organizing for change, whether in our workplaces and schools, in our communities, by lobbying our state and local governments or even (I can't believe I'm going to say this) by running for local office. The world can't wait for every individual to spontaneously catch on and start using cloth napkins instead of paper, and entire nations will be under water before millions of American car owners decide to upgrade to more fuel efficient cars.
It is up to environmentalists to get local, state and preferably national governments to enact world changing legislation: to mandate higher gas mileage, to design a better public transportation system and create incentives for using it; in fact to redesign our cities and towns so that we are less dependent on fossil fuels. And to create and enforce regulations that make corporations do the right thing for the environment and not just for their profit margin.