Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Confessions of a Lapsed Environmentalist

The guilt! The hypocrisy! As I whirled through my home like a dervish, frantically cleaning, staging and generally getting it ready to sell, these thoughts began to buzz away in the back of my brain.

It didn’t help that as I went, I was trying to compose a post for Earth Day in my head. The reason for such dire thoughts and feelings – my arsenal for maintaining a spic-and span, view-on-a-moment’s-notice condition consists of disposable dusters, mops and antiseptic wipes. All ‘no-nos’ if you are an environmentalist.

Confessions of a Lapsed Environmentalist
Big Tree Huggers!

And I used to think of myself as an environmentalist. Even as far back as the ‘80s, I regularly toted my bottles and cans to the drop-off at the supermarket where I shopped. When being eco-friendly started to take hold in the ‘90s, we recycled what we could, bought recycled everything when we could, took every recommendation for saving fuel and power, joined an environmental group, planted a garden and composted.

For all these things, we paid a premium either in time (cleaning being a case in point), or as is still often the case, in money. Despite often costing less to produce, recycled products typically cost more than their wasteful counterparts. This has always been one of the things that pisses me off – how does this do anything to encourage folks to do the right thing?

Add to that the attitudes at the time, that ranged from defensive to downright patronizing, and eventually I stopped caring so much. I resented that we were the exception rather than the rule. In the belief that our small effort did not matter, convenience items crept back into our lives. Often I don’t even think about it anymore, so my conscience doesn’t bother me. But then on other days… So yes, a hypocrite!

I have not abandoned all my eco-beliefs however. We are a one-car family and have been for over ten years. We still recycle and compost - tasks made easier now that so many municipalities require it. We still use CFL or LED light bulbs and other energy-saving strategies whenever possible. This one is win-win because we save money, as well as help the environment.

As Earth Day approached, I went to their web-site. They have an environmental footprint calculator there, in the form of a quiz. The result was disappointing. The fact that I would require 1.9 Planet Earths to sustain my lifestyle was not the disappointing part. It was that the average Ontarian (the closest featured place to my home) needs 3.58 Planet Earths!

My environmentalism was inspired by Dr. David Suzuki. I cannot remember the exact date that I saw him speak about the Power Shift solution, but it must be about fifteen years ago. Power Shift highlighted that the means existed even then, to curb greenhouse gas emissions on all levels. Most suggestions required wholesale government and private sector backing though, and therefore went nowhere.

Further inspiration came from a vastly different source. Author Gwynne Dyer wrote Climate Wars in 2008. Some of the scenarios on which he speculates are already coming true, and if that is the case, years ahead of what was predicted a mere seven to nine years ago. This book should scare the bejesus out of all of us!

‘Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize we cannot eat money’

There is still a sliver of time to wake up before this old proverb becomes truth.  My environmental ambivalence doesn’t mean that I am completely without hope. And so, despite that dubious tone, I would like to wish us all a Happy Earth Day.

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