“Do you wanna get really terrified? Ice caps are all melting, and we’re gonna die.”
– “Do It With a Rockstar” by Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra
Just read this article on President Obama’s move to reduce US CO2 emissions. I’m not from the US, and the bypassing of Congress and “checks and balances” and potential American job loss are all things I’m not going to comment on in this post. I’m not going to talk about strategic positioning relative to China.
What I’m going to talk about is more on the personal Sword of Damocles side of things, so buckle up for safety.
The article talks about how climate change has generally just been paid lip service in politics. It’s a talking point, that gets touched on at the tail-end of speeches made during campaign season. It’s an annual gathering of a select group of world leaders that leads nowhere.
It’s also the Made in China tag on more than half of the products in North America.
It’s Respirator Masks.
It’s terrifying, and I’ve been feeling a kind of incipient terror about it for most of my life, a low-level anxiety that means I will carry around an empty can for blocks rather than throw it in a garbage can. Because that shit is recyclable, and the ice caps are melting, and I need to “do my part.”
“Do my part.” Like it’s a war. And in a sense, it is. But a war on who? Certainly not the environment. The environment in Private Ryan in this scenario. The enemy is established patterns of behavior. In laziness. In legislation.
And I’ve been frustrated because, despite my desire and the desire of nearly everyone I know (and I am a Canadian in the province that birthed Greenpeace, so I might be a biased sample, but I don’t think I am) to “do our part,” the problem is bigger and scarier than our efforts can address. There’s a book I own but haven’t read yet called The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, and part of why I haven’t read it is because, from what I have read, it seems to confirm a lot of the boogeyman I’ve been living with, and likely to introduce more.
The majority of pollution comes from the industrial sector and there are so many things that people making most of the money could/should be doing before any one person needs to feel anxiety about their aluminum can. But most of the people making most of the money will do what they’ve been doing, what’s been making them money, until they’re forced to stop. Until they’re legislated to stop. Until it becomes so inconvenient and illogical and costly to do as they have been, that they have to rethink the way they do things.
It sometimes seems like political parties are more concerned about who will get the credit (or blame) for legislation than in the passing of it. Even if something is generally accepted as fact (like climate change) and it is widely felt that something needs to be done, nothing is accomplished. A politician would rather hamstring their opponent than help their constituents. Which is, I guess, sort of talking about the bypassing of Congress, but really it’s just a general statement about politics and general confusion about the term “public servant.”
Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for you right now. Except to say that I want to be more hopeful about this legislation, about the potential for humanity to become more conscientious denizens of the world, than I can find it in me to be.