Tuesday, May 16, 2006

My feelings (almost) exactly

The Onion, America's Finest News Source, put out an article that almost precisely nails my overall opinion of my own eco-Nazi efforts: I'm Doing My Inconsequential Part For The Environment.

Oh yes, I've thought it. When sweating my butt off walking to pick up the kids from school instead of burning fossil fuels to do it; when sweltering in my Den while my neighbors, !who aren't even home!, run their air conditioners all day long so they can loaf in cool comfort the instant they return from work; when deciding to pay $400 more for my dishwasher because, and swear to Dog this is the only difference feature-wise, it (allegedly) uses about half the water and electricity to wash and dry my dishes.

And I think to myself, "Wow. What an utterly…inconsequential…thing I'm doing here."

By walking to school I've saved maybe one eighth a gallon of gasoline (OK, OK, and the walking isn't doing me any harm, either). By choosing to pay a little more for one gigantic shampoo I can then divvy into reusable individual containers instead of getting ten smaller bottles at the Dollar Tree, thus reducing even how much I'm tossing into the recycling bin, I've made precisely no headway whatsoever toward Saving The World®.

I'm planning to plunk down a staggering sum of money in the somewhat near future to do two things: replace our dinosaur of an HVAC system with a Best of Breed system. Whole house fan, dual controls, brand new duct system and, of course, the machine itself – which should heat and cool our house on a fraction of the energy and emissions of the current system. Ka-CHING! Also, we're planning to put in a fairly massive solar panel system. We have the perfect roof for a Really Big System, and see, this way, we can be putting more energy into the system than we take out, get it? So we're, like, actually generating power…

…so that our neighbors can run their @*^&ing air conditioners all day, while they're at work.


And then I lift up mine eyes to the continent of Asia and behold! I say unto myself, "Holy Carp! They outnumber me by about four zillion to one – they can go through oil faster than I can eat California Brittle!" (Dear God, please, someday…let someone decide to organize a California Brittle eating contest. I would not only win, but I would be in 7th heaven doing so. Thank you, love always, Me.)

And I feel very discouraged. And even a little stupid. It costs a lot of money to take some of these steps. It's expensive, trying to be an eco-Nazi at these levels. It was all well and good when my activities were limited to writing forceful letters to my elected officials (Pombo is so on my spit-list right now…) and maybe picking up litter and putting it in its place. And also it can be darned inconvenient. Composting can get ugly. Also, people tend to look at you a little funny when you explain that the reason you're walking down the side of the road is that you park your car central to all your errands then walk…yes…walk…the up-to-two-miles between stores. To, you know, save gas…?

But then…I consider the effect of a pebble tossed into a calm pool.

You toss the pebble. It splashes in. There is a large ripple formed from around the pebble, and the ripple moves out in circles from its center. Larger at first, slowly becoming smaller and smaller and smaller as they move out to the edges of the pond.

But they do continue on. Imperceptible, maybe. Minuscule. But there.

I can't rock the world. It's too big a pond, and I'm too small a pebble. All of my machinations are manifestly insignificant by the time they get out into the world at large.

But I can have a large impact…close to home. I can have a mighty power, here in the Den. I can make my home more efficient. I can not turn on my air conditioner, I can choose energy-efficient appliances, I can haul my lazy, fat butt off the chair and walk to school. I can choose my purchases based not only on how much money it will cost, but how much "earth" I'm using up. I can choose not to use a plastic bag to hold the one lonely bell pepper I'm buying (this one occurred to me a while ago while buying a single jalapeno, actually – it was like, the bag probably weighed as much as the pepper and why the heck do I need the bag, anyway?!).

I can teach my children to think about these things and send them forth as Conscientious World Citizens. Which is probably the biggest splash I'm going to make. Well, that and my eco-Nazi missionary work. And continuing to write forceful letters (grrrrr…Pommmmmmboooooooooo!) and monitor such things as methyl bromide use in strawberry crops (hello, what part of "banned substance" are we having problems with, people?!) (I mean! I'm pro-business and pro-people-making-a-living, I really, really am – but when we're talking about a chemical that is killing the world, I think that causing strawberry farmers some financial pain is kind of not that important…)

Sure. That my trash tote is half-empty and my recycling bin full is a tiny drop in the oceanic bucket. But for a Den with four small children in it, it's a fairly good-sized splash.

And who knows…maybe my ripples will meet up with some other ripples…and so on…and so on…and so on…and suddenly we'll have this tsunami of awareness that will sweep the world. People who today don't think twice about buying an SUV purely because it looks cool will stop and say, "Wait…being an eco-Nazi is ever-so-trendy these days…I'll take the Prius instead!!"

Hey. It could happen…

1 comment:

PipneyJane said...

You echo my sentiments exactly. I may be a drop in the ocean, but add my efforts together with yours and a few million other people and we're quite a big lake!

On the subject of solar power cells on your roof, which ones are you looking at and how much do they charge per yard/meter/square foot? When I replace the flat roof on my kitchen with a pitched one, I want to use solar panels instead of roofing tiles as much as possible.

Also in my plans is converting our loft to another bedroom, which requires lifting the roof on 2 sides. I think I'll install a solar hot water system when we do that and, possibly, more solar panels. Both projects are about 3 years away.

- Pam

PS: If BBC America run "There's No Waste Like Home", watch it. It's highly entertaining and will give you a "holier than thou" glow from both an LBYM and eco-nazi standpoint.