Sunday, September 02, 2007

Greenness and its discontents

All around the world people are thinking globally and acting locally. But something seems to be going wrong: Nothing global is actually getting accomplished. The New Republic sums up a number of articles that deal with this phenomenon:
There seems to be a surge lately in counterintuitive stories about green living. First the London Times claimed that taking the train in England may burn more oil than busting out the family car. Soon after, another Times piece declared that merely walking to the grocery store uses up more energy than driving. (This one cited the work of Chris Goodall, "the latest serious thinker to turn popular myths about the environment on their head.") Then The New York Times and Boston Globe followed suit with articles suggesting that eating locally, the holy grail of crunchy types the world over, isn't all it's cracked up to be.
TNR goes on to assert that it really is possible to decrease that "carbon footprint," despite all this stuff, but the bad news just goes on and on. The LA Times casts doubt on the efficacy of buying "carbon offsets" and notes that the effort to make the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth" "carbon neutral" "has not led to any additional emissions reductions." Worse still, Green-types writing for the Dissident Voice have woken up to the slow horror of being co-opted by Big Business:
It’s obvious now: Severe damage is caused by humanity’s penchant for treating the planet as our storehouse, and all living beings as our personal stock. As public awareness grows, companies sense a need to adjust. But they’ve managed, perversely, to use the need for change as a means to avoid it. Thus the rise of “greenwashing” — the appearance of cultivating ecological awareness in hopes of getting a higher profile for whatever they happen to be selling us.
Most recently, the BBC notes that "Green taxes 'are making billions'":
The government is raising billions of pounds more in green taxes than it needs to remove the UK's "carbon footprint", a report says.

The Taxpayers' Alliance said emissions in 2005 had done damage worth an estimated £11.7bn, but green taxes and charges in that year had made £21.9bn.

It claimed ministers were "cynically" raising revenue rather than using the money to improve the environment.
What is the moral to all this? Think locally and act locally. Why not look for bargains when you shop for food, make healthy food choices, try to exercise, and try to boost your individual prosperity? Why not choose conservation efforts that will reduce your own personal utility bill? Isn't the global level comprised of the sum total of everything on the local level anyway?

Was the above not idealistic enough? Here's a thought for Rosh Hashanah: I recently heard a speaker who declared "What does it mean to think globally and act locally?" Follow the dictum of Maimonides (Hilchos Teshuvah 3:4) that if a person performs "one mitzvah, he tips the scales for himself and for the entire world to the side of merit . . . "

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

No comments: