the myth of every little thing
Back in December a friend gave me two books to read. One was Friedman’s “Hot Flat Crowded”, about which I’ve already posted at least once and will probably add more later. It’s a rich source for humor. The other book is Kostigen’s “You Are Here”, which is a typical Boomer attempt to show the various hidden ills of the world by flying everywhere via jet, traveling locally by fossil-fuel-powered conveyance, etc, in other words burning up a couple tons of resources just to tell you what you could probably find yourself in under 5 minutes of Googling. To add insult to injury, this book exhorting us to pollute less is itself cased in a 4-color printed cover with a film laminate ~ not exactly a model of green-ness.
Then there is of course the classic case of Saint Al Gore, who has some 7 different residences .. and let’s not dare be so politically incorrect as to count the carbon-bigfoot footprint of that one’s collective family and support staff.
Our yahoo friends at NAZgulCAR are even getting in on the act by doing things to promote fuel saving measures among their fans ~ while they themselves continue to drive in circles on a bounded track in vehicles averaging fewer miles per gallon than a loaded semi, for no other purpose than to complete a certain number of laps around the track.
Someone I know IRL recently dumped his older, beat-up GM Suburban for (surprise) a newer Suburban with the displacement-on-demand system. Don’t know what the real numbers are for the fuel savings on this vehicle. Like the previous one, this one spends 99% of its time being a solo commuter vehicle .. he just happens to like really big vehicles.
In all of this stuff, you can find the people involved mouthing that little mantra about how every little thing helps, with the implication being that a lot of little things will make up a few big things. In other words, if you’re a strip-mining Hummer driver who likes to go off-roading in the free time, it somehow makes things better if you insist on wearing only natural cotton undies instead of stuff containing those nasty synthetic fibers, because “every little thing” counts.
Sadly, this is an example of that much-reviled “new math” that helped addle more than a few generations of students.
The proper way to cast these efforts is something shaped more like the well-known metaphor about rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic: do these efforts make any progress toward changing our destructive way of life, or do they merely continue that same way-of-life (perhaps with a few window-dressing items like a hybrid car or CF lightbulbs) with only minor appeasements to the greenie contingent?
Sadly, probably more than 99% of what people recommend doing to “reduce carbon use” or “reduce fossil fuel use” belongs to the window-dressing category, and not the realm in which progress is actually made.
Here is how you can easily tell whether a given “green”-minded change is actually making a difference. Simply apply to it the question: “Will taking this step ultimately mean I stop using whatever resource we’re trying to conserve?” Most of the time, the answer will be no. A hybrid car uses less fuel (at least for daily operation per distance) but never weans you off using gasoline. A CF lightbulb uses less electricity (at least for a given time span of operation) but also does not offer you any path for getting off electric lighting completely.
To return to the Titanic metaphor .. during the period of time between when the ship hit the iceberg and when it later sank, some of the people on board were in fact in denial about the scale and timing of the emergency facing them. Many of them, famously, continued rearranging the deck chairs, emptying the ashtrays in the smoking lounge, making sure their bunk spaces were neatly arranged, etc. A minority of them on board correctly perceived the problem, and had the ability to ditch the “consensus trance du jour” (to borrow from Kunstler again) and realize that no combination of business-as-usual actions would in face save them from the pending disaster.
So much of what’s promoted these days as “easy green things you can do” is just so much window-dressing, meant to assuage the guilt of those of us living in the richer and more resource-hogging nations without actually making any real changes. One does not need to change one’s driving habits much to go from a guzzler to a hybrid .. in fact, it is simply a lateral move that does nothing to lessen one’s dependence on having an individual motorcar ~ which is surely the most wasteful means of conveyance yet devised.
Thus do you have the NASCAR weenies convincing their fans to drive slightly smaller motorhomes to the tailgate parties, or switch from F-550 to F-350 trucks for casual driving, while the dummies continue to drive their 4mpg cars around a circular track, going nowhere in life at high speed; thus do you have the guy still using an 8,000lb vehicle as a solo commuter vehicle, even though he imagines he’s saving fuel; thus do you have millions of CF lightbulbs in use (ironically in houses that use above 100kWh/month on other stuff) even though we’ve since learned that they’re full of mercury and in fact constitute hazardous waste if not properly disposed of; thus do you have fools like Friedman and Kostigen contributing to the problem while advocating only the tiniest of steps that do not actually involve any changes in our lives other than switching out a few stage props.
We’re fast approaching the time when the few who see the problem correctly should quietly head for the exits (or the lifeboats) while the rest continue to be dazzled by the live floor show in the Coliseum.
Got lifeboat community?