As I said in the first post I’m really not all that green – I consider myself environmentally agnostic – but I do do some environmentally conscious things. For example, I take short showers and throw my trash away but I do those to save time and to not be an inconsiderate jerk, respectively. The environmental consequences don’t really factor into my decision. You can see that better in my recycling habits. If I have something, say a cardboard box, that should be recycled I’m happy to recycle it but if I pass a trash can before a recycling can I have no qualms about throwing it away, either. I suppose that my decisions could affect the environment long-term, but I don’t really see my personal impact being much more than marginal. The likelihood that me throwing away a plastic bottle instead of recycling it is the straw that breaks the camel’s back and leads us into an unrecoverable nosedive to extinction is so infinitesimal that making a decision based on it doesn’t make sense.
As odd as it may seem, somebody I’ve found myself agreeing with on environmental issues was George Carlin. Yes, that George Carlin:
“We’re so self-important. Everybody’s going to save something now. “Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails.” And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet.
The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, continental drift, solar flares, sun spots, magnetic storms, the magnetic reversal of the poles … hundreds of thousands of years of bombardment by comets and asteroids and meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages … And we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet isn’t going anywhere. WE are!
The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone, and it will heal itself, it will cleanse itself, ’cause that’s what it does. It’s a self-correcting system. The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed. And if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice toward plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, “Why are we here?”
Obviously, Carlin is a comedian and no great environmental thinker. He was simply saying that to get a laugh, but as George Bernard Shaw said, “My way of joking is to tell the truth. That’s the funniest joke in the world.” I think his points about the Earth being self-sustaining are important and I also think that he’s right to some extent when talking about the arrogance of us humans to think that we can impact the planet. However, just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. It’s certainly not great to pump tons of pollutants into the air every day regardless of whether or not the planet will be permanently affected. Considering all the horrible things a lot of people are doing to the environment it’s hard to get excited about turning off a light or recycling as much as possible. That said, perhaps it’s exactly because of those people harming the environment that we should get excited about doing anything possible to offset it.
In all honesty, I’m not all that sure about ways to make myself more environmentally aware. I suppose the best way is just to continue educating myself about it. Just from having one lecture in this course I’m already starting to consider my actions a little bit more. Hopefully this course continues to have that effect on me.
photo credit: http://georgecarlin.com/media-2/