A blogging buddy, Jeff Cutler, just put up a fascinating post about the oil cleanup in the Gulf and how it’s made him reconsider the government’s role in keeping our environment clean. To sum up, Jeff’s been tasked with journaling the experiences and events going on down in New Orleans. This gig made him realize governments approach the environment with a short-term view and thus screw it all up for the rest of us (shocker!).
The Government is (not) Always to Blame
While I agree with Jeff’s epiphany, there’s a layer he (intentionally?) avoids. Yes, our government and governments all across the planet share a huge responsibility for our damaged ecosystem but it’s not completely their fault.
The real problem is that governments by their nature (or at least “democratic” ones) must satisfy their constituents. You would think this means governments are there to help citizens, but right now that’s not the case. Huge corporations are tossed into that constituent pool and easily overpower humans. Since corporations don’t need clean air, they don’t give a damn and in turn government doesn’t give a damn. It’s an extremely short-sighted view (after all, without humans, corporations are screwed) but it’s reality. It’s not a conspiracy theory or a ‘big business is evil’ rant, it’s simply fact.
Corporations exert more power than citizens and thus shape government’s plans more than we do.
Humans are 100% at fault
No matter how you cut it, the damage done to the environment falls completely on human beings. The rest of the ecosystem is not dumping massive quantities of oil and debris into the oceans, nor is it polluting our air with carbon and who knows what else. It’s us. Each and everyone one of us. Even if your’e a tree-hugging, carbon avoiding, water recycling human, you’re still to blame simply by being associated with the human herd at large.
Ever driven a car, turned on a non-green-sourced light, bought food from a supermarket or in anyway participated in our global economy? Guess what, you screwed up the environment doing so. Though I try to ride my bike everywhere, limit my meat intake, and generally live well, I still screw up the environment, a ton! Right now, typing on this computer that was charged from a non-renewable resource, I’m damaging the environment. Heck, my battery meter just went into the red so I immediately plugged back into the socket. Frack you environment!
The problem doesn’t lie with just governments, corporations or humans or any other single entity. It’s a complete and systemic failure of humanity. For all of our wonderful inventions and advances, the net impact on this planet and our place in the universe has undoubtedly been negative. We’ve taken, taken and taken and given so little back.
What’s the solution?
It sounds crazy and impossible but it’s actually a lot easier than you think. The environmental problem is at its core an economic problem. In fact, nearly every single problem we have is an economic problem. Almost all of our problems derive from our circumstances; limited resources and constantly increasing demand creates friction between humans, the environment, and progress. Corporations take advantage of these circumstances to make a profit.
There’s nothing wrong with that but it does mean that in our current system these circumstances are self-perpuating. A light bulb that works for 100 years can only be sold once, but a light build that lasts for a year can be sold indefinitely. There’s no incentive for any individual or entity in our current system to act in the best interests of our long-term progress.
We Must Demand Satisfaction
Government incentives would help, but it starts with us. We need to demand these incentives. We need to boycott companies that hinder progress for short-term gains. We need to change. I’m not advocating communism or anything like it. Capitalism works but we need to change to focus on quality, not quantity. We need to reward companies that make long-lasting products, even if it costs us more in the short-term. We need to realize that improving the quality of life of those worst off eventually improves quality of life for everyone.
It might hurt in the short-term. It might be tough and laborious in the short-term. It might cause more problems now. But for us to truly progress and live in better unison with our environment we absolutely need to ingrain economics into everyone and everything on this planet. We need to live knowing that resources are limited and that we must use them efficiently. Using limited resources efficiently needs to be our primary tenet and because it is not we simply must start from square one. There’s too much clutter in these tubes mate and the best way to de-clutter is to throw it all out.
We need to change everything, but we need to start with ourselves.
I can do better, you can do better, we can do better.