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big planet

lately global warming has been annoying me, because I think it's turning into one of those "them" causes, and it really can't be. a super-great article in Bitch about feel-good philanthropy opened my eyes up to this, I don't remember what issue the article was in but it focused in on the media telling us we can buy a bracelet or a t-shirt or a commemorative ___ that will help the cause... whatever you buy is marked up $10, $3 goes to fund an organization working for change. people feel like they're helping.

I think the world has gotten worse since the article. Target has an entire pink section devoted to fighting breast cancer now. granted, most of us can only do the feel-good stuff when it comes to that cause, it's not like we're going to all go be cancer researchers. maybe that's why America loves the cause so much.

We don't luck out so much on other things, like global warming. "Do you believe in it? I believe in it! We're causing it! I wish They would do something about it!". "They" is, of course, the government, or faceless "big corporations", which we all deny working for and supporting and being part of... I'M not corporate America, corporate America is corporate America.

I think the term "global warming" has made the environmental cause, well, global, implying that us little guys can't do anything about it and we now have the right to yammer on to our friends about how it's just got to stop, but we don't actually have to carpool to work, or boycott packaging, or turn down the damn air conditioner, or buy a smaller house. we can separate ourselves from it and handle it with gloves so we don't get dirty. i'm not saying I don't do it. I'm just saying I think it's backwards.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 23rd, 2007 01:53 pm (UTC)
As always,
You're right on.
Oct. 23rd, 2007 03:02 pm (UTC)
I think it's the same reasoning people use to decide not to vote. And if they do vote, they certainly won't vote for a third party.

1) If they vote for the major parties, everyone else is doing that and one vote won't make a difference to which side wins. -> i.e. if everyone else is doing stuff to prevent global warming, adding one more carpool rather than three people driving separately wont' add that much to teh cause.

2) If they vote for a third party, they are "wasting" their vote, since the third party will never get enough votes to win anyway. -> i.e. if no one else is doing stuff to prevent global warming, what's the point of carpooling since eliminating two cars from the road out of billions won't make a significant difference.

What people don't realize in -both- cases (and I can't figure out why not) is that it's strength in numbers that matter. Sure, one vote for a libertarian won't matter, but from all the people I've met with libertarian ideals who either vote democrat or republican (depending on whether they are more strongly for social freedom or economic freedom) because they want their vote to "matter" - if they all actually -voted- libertarian the libs might have a chance.

Same principle here. If everyone who thought about carpooling but thought they would be "wasting" their time since it takes a little more effort and from what they see "no results" - if all of those people actually carpooled or... whatever, we might see a tangible difference.

Ok, this is very badly written, and I apologize for that. I'm exhausted, but I felt like I needed to make a point.

Oct. 23rd, 2007 04:13 pm (UTC)
What an incisive post. Your observations are so accurate. People would rather feel that something is so big and beyond them. "Someone" should so something about it... the weather, poverty, bigotry...

Thanks for the food for thought.
Oct. 23rd, 2007 11:15 pm (UTC)
I agree with you for the most part. Consumer charity campaigns like Gap's RED or the ubiquitous pink on everything from batteries to cereal boxes bother me. Yeah, I suppose they're better than nothing, and if people weren't going to do anything anyway, then it's better that they buy the pink special K rather than the regular, but it bothers me all the same. I feel like it makes people think they're doing something bigger than they are. If all you want to do is throw money at the problem, fine, sometimes that's all you can do, but realize that the charity gets very little of what you just spent.

I also think in terms of global warming, it should be an individual AND government effort. Yeah, we should use energy efficient lightbulbs, turn off the lights when we're not using them, carpool to work, etc... But I also feel it's the government's job to provide incentives to change our current energy culture. You know, I'd love to trade in my gas-guzzling hand-me-down van for a little car (or even better a hybrid), but that's not really financially feasible right now. I'd love it if we went to wind and solar energy, but it's going to take government action to get that going. Sure, as a citizen I can voice my support, but it's not within my direct power to start a wind farm. Carpool? Make it easy for me to FIND people to carpool with. Designate carpool lanes. I think that both individuals and the government have a responsibility.
Oct. 23rd, 2007 11:52 pm (UTC)
Global warming is kind of annoying me, too, given that it's really fucking up my air quality lately. I think it's very appropriate that the cover story for the San Diego Reader (http://sdreader.com/) this week is 'The Perfect Drought', given that they're calling this 'the perfect firestorm' that we've got going on right now.
Oct. 24th, 2007 04:29 am (UTC)
Buying products for charity combines Americans' two great loves: 1) Thinking we're better than other people and wanting to visually demonstrate that and 2) Buying stuff.

That's coming from someone whose employer benefits from some of the charity-buying craze. It's nice, but really, we'd be better off if people would just send us the money or do other, non-monetary things to help. What if every person who bought something pink reminded a friend to get a mammogram?

You're so right that the environment is becoming a casualty of too much talk and not enough individual action. Although it's clear that government policies need to change, we're not good at changing lifestyles. Those actions that have become popular, like switching to compact florescent light bulbs, tend to revolve around – you guessed it, buying stuff.

Just 2 cents from your sis
Oct. 24th, 2007 09:50 am (UTC)
Forget Global Warming, focus on pollution in general
Whether or not we are the cause of global warming is an extremely complicated scientific problem that is proving difficult to communicate to the people.

Pollution, however, is certainly man-made and a more general problem than global warming. People can immediately identify with pollution and there is no debate that reducing pollution is universally a good thing.

I like the fact that you see the go-green gravy train as repugnant, I do too. However, your last paragraph is fundamentally wrong.

Companies and governments are uniquely placed to fix the problem of CO2 pollution. Most CO2 emissions come power-plants, shipping and air-craft.

Only the petrol you burn in your car is something you directly put in to the atmosphere.

Most methane "pollution" comes from agriculture in the form of the vast number of cows in the world's cattle farms. Methane is a much more serious green-house gas than carbon dioxide.

We could eradicate CO2 pollution in ten years if everyone deployed nuclear technology with the same vigour as the United States put in to the Apollo project.

With a huge surplus of electrical power, you can run cars, planes, trains and ships on Hydrogen Peroxide. This decomposes to Oxygen and Water with
in the presence of a silver catalyst - both of which already exist in the atmosphere.

Methane is more tricky, however, there is talk in bio-tech circles of creating a biological catalytic converter for cows in the form of genetically engineered bacteria.

In conclusion, there is little we as individuals to directly influence CO2 pollution. However, with proper regulation of the international markets we can reduce CO2 and methane pollution to an acceptable level within our life-times.

I don't think living as peasants is the answer. Being smart is the answer.

Oct. 24th, 2007 11:07 am (UTC)
Re: Forget Global Warming, focus on pollution in general
most cO2 emissions do not come from aircraft. Even environmentalists predict that emissions from aviation might top 3% in forty years or so. I work in the airplane industry, you'll have to be careful dissing airplanes in this journal :)
Oct. 25th, 2007 08:17 am (UTC)
Re: Forget Global Warming, focus on pollution in general
most cO2 emissions do not come from aircraft. Even environmentalists predict that emissions from aviation might top 3% in forty years or so. I work in the airplane industry, you'll have to be careful dissing airplanes in this journal :)

I'm well aware of both of these facts :)

Shipping puts much more CO2 in to the atmosphere than aircraft. There is no debate that cars are by far the worst offender.

This bring me on to another point: Why are people focusing on aircraft pollution at the moment? There's a lot of politicians in the UK talking about the need to reduce the CO2 emissions caused by aircraft. Of course, their solution like everything else is to tax air-travel.

As a software engineer, it's my view that you should tackle the biggest problems first and the smallest problems last. I imagine this applies universally across engineering disciplines. The biggest problem is cars. Let's start by getting people using cleaner fuels for cars before we worry about other forms of transport.


Oct. 27th, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
Re: Forget Global Warming, focus on pollution in general
well, the general public (and probably some software engineers) would disagree with you in practice... it might sound smart to tackle the biggest problems first, but it's more fun to tackle the ones that aren't your fault or that seem easiest.

changing cars would be inconvenient for everyone. it won't get you reelected. but if you can blame the problem on airplanes, especially general aviation, you've won. because people think general aviation is a bunch of CEOs riding around in their corporate jets, laughing at the little guys on the ground... they deserve to be punished. it won't fix the problem but it'll give people a reason to claim they've done something. which is really a politician's goal.
Oct. 25th, 2007 09:14 pm (UTC)
I actually am a cancer researcher, but I'm finding it damn hard to actually get a job. So, uhm, dammit!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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