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Glorious Gluttony

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You are a colorful, valueless component of this great project of resource consumption: Celebrate it!

As the Big Day, that greenest collection of hours, that day when the unified realization of our interconnectedness in this great web of overconsumption switches on in each of our solitary socially-networked little lives and you remember that special someone who opened the world to you... 

When you talked about doing good and held hands on long walks through the city parks.

You talked about getting mountain bikes to really boogie through the chinaberry and hackberry and snorted down those protein-enriched smoothies through over-sized straws. 

Maybe the memory of a supposedly better season, a thoughtful season when all you wanted to do was have fun and helps loosens up kinder notions of yourself. Weren't you prettier then? Smarter? Good-hearted?

But then you realize what you are really. A dirty, stinkin’, glutton, burdening the world by your very existence. 

Nat Geo did their best to show you where we are, with our 2-point-whatever kids and all that conquered lawnspace rolled out over formerly productive native prairie. Were we supposed to feel guilty when we saw the glump of thousands of diapers we each shat into toxifying landfills? And the assortment of pigs and cows we ate on average? Or the mountain of potatoes or sodas or bananas?

Interesting imagery and maybe there was a message. I got restless with the the value-neutral presentation that just seemed to go on and on, like us on the planet, apparently. I suppose the quantities were supposed to carry shock value, but if you’ve ever considered your life as a consumer, you wouldn’t have been. Our gluttony does not surprise us anymore. 

Did the narrator ever get around to sharing that small detail: That our American standard of living can not be duplicated across the globe without four more earths to mine for resources? Or that the pace of car ownership and development in India and China alone may make meeting any carbon goal impossible before too many tipping points are tipped.

So, here’s an idea. In all of the pull-out supplements, and special issues, and insider reports, try keeping track of the number of times you are beckoned to a new “green” product. If our none-too-smart use of resources got us into this current climate mess, then maybe we can buy our way out. We're being sold a bill of servitude.

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Redemption would come a lot easier that way, of course. We wouldn't be contesting with Turner's vision of cannibal Canadians sweeping south in a mapleleaf rage, or with the ruling age of MegaStorms liquidating our kin from the equator out. However, the answer to our condition lies outside our current consumer culture. More specifically, it lies deeper within our culture and in our roots as Producer-Consumers.

The Northeast ISD press release highlights what our kids did in honor of Earth Day: 

  • Driscoll Middle School bought up 53 acres of rainforest in Costa Rica (well on their way to a carbon-neutral economy, btw) by selling 531 T-shirts, a Nature Conservancy program.
  • Redlands Oaks Elementary learned how to garden and sprouted lima beans.
  • Jackson Middle School Earth Club held a campus clean-up.

Plaudits to you poor inheritors of this swirling, spinning mess. 

Buying a rainforest is cool (as long as you also solve some economic issues for those living nearby, or they’ll likely burn, blast, or fell it anyway, on the sly); gardening is a big “hell yeah” that each of us should be exploring (and likely will as water, electricity, gasoline, bread, milk, eggs, and whatever it all makes when you stir it up in a pot escalates in value); but picking up after ourselves? Keeping Texas Beautiful?

I suspect we’ll be falling down on this slope if prices for aluminum and plastics and paper don’t keep rising, too. So, I’m not too concerned on this point either. 

If it sounds like I’m stating the free market case for crisis global climate change response, I am. In a way. 

Recovering our knowledge of gardening, slimming down on the gasohol, watching that thermostat: it all follows an inflationary economy, which we seem to be well into. It is, literally, the least we can do, the latest we can afford to do it.

It's the worst-case scenario, where we allow econo-climatic leaps force the shift on our behaviors.

In practical terms, this sort of reactionary living (as opposed to proactive) means we (and our lima-bean-eatin' children) will be responding to ever-worsening crises with slimmer chances of holding onto the lifestyles we have been enjoying for so long. 

This Earth Day, instead of buying T-shirts to save the rainforest, just buy the blinkin’ forest and pick up a thrift store T instead. Try sleeping in your skivvies instead of shopping for “greener” pajamas (and throwing in a little seaweed face scrub on the side).

Hell. Skip the Earth Day balloon release party and take the afternoon off to break up that water-hungry lawn for a no-water desertscape and a pea garden. It’ll be easier on your wallet and more fun that walking around in the heat stuffing yourself with soda and cotton candy, anyway.

I mean, then you'll have to worry about making birdhouses out of your soda cans and paper tubes. What a pain in the ass that'll be.

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Image courtesy of National Geographic.

Posted by Greg Harman on 4/15/2008
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