The Green Spot: Ground Rules & What’s Wrong

Alright today we start an experiment in the direction of this blog. I’m going to be taking Friday’s to do a post with a bit more of an environmental theme to it: The Green Spot. First to put your minds at ease I’m going to point our a few ground rules.

  1. I don’t want you to feel guilty. This isn’t going to be a guilt trip on anything so relax.
  2. I will expect you to think. I might challenge some of your assumptions about how you live and I’m not attacking anyone, but I’m trying to make you consider your actions in a new light.
  3. Reading these posts you might feel all sorts of emotions: outrage, embarrassed, joy, or relief. Please don’t assume I’m trying to make you feel that.
  4. Please challenge me on anything, but have some proof before you start. I hate getting into pointless arguments with people who can’t provide one piece of evidence to support one thing they heard once from that one guy. You know don’t you? Likely not, so do some searches and post a link.
  5. Have fun and have a sense of humour about things. Just cause the world is ending doesn’t mean you can’t laugh about some of the stupid things people do or say.

Okay? Good. Now let’s get started.

First off what is the problem? In a nut shell: everything. Climate change, acid rain, ozone layer hole, water pollution, smog, habitat destruction of millions of species…the list just goes on and on. My god no wonder we don’t do anything about it. With lists like that where the hell are you suppose to start?!?

Well hopefully I can simply the issues. Basically we are killing ourselves and taking out a hell of lot of other life while we do it. Yes it is that simple. We are making our very home into a disaster area. A way to look at this is would you shit in your own bed? Of course not that is gross and just plain wrong, but every day everyone of us is shitting in our collective bed called Earth. Why? Are we sick, do we not know any better?

In both cases no. We are not sick, we don’t need to ‘heal’ ourselves or the planet and we do know what we are doing is wrong. So why do we keep doing it? Habit. We’ve collectively grown up living a unsustainable lifestyle fueled by non renewable resources with an ever increasing population. Of course our civilization is a train wreck waiting to happen. You can’t stress out every natural system on the planet forever and not expect one or more of them to break one day. When it does this world isn’t going to be a nice place to live anymore and worrying about the economy is going to look down right amusing in hindsight.

So what are we suppose to do? Here is where people usually start into the guilt trip and present a list of ‘ten simple things to save the planet’. Well here is some relief: I don’t like simple lists. Why? They don’t work. It’s like putting sticks into a river to change the flow. It won’t work they just get washed away. The problem lies deeper than that.

We have to change how we all fundamental think about how we live. Everything we do must shift and you can’t make that happen with a carbon tax or a tax credit on bus passes. They are just more sticks in the river. We have to collectively look at the way we think until one day something will change in you will get up and look down and realize “Oh my god! I’ve been shitting in my bed!” Then you are ready to really do something.

Next week we start looking at our collect heads on how we think and why knowing what to do is so damn hard.

15 thoughts on “The Green Spot: Ground Rules & What’s Wrong”

  1. The thing is that we’re not shitting our own beds. You wouldn’t shit your bed — it’s a ridiculous question. But you might shit your neighbor’s bed and he might shit your bed. You have to shit somewhere and if nobody gave you a washroom then you just might do it.

    Once his bed already had a little poop in it then it becomes a little more like a washroom and you’re likely to poop there again. Before long both your beds are disgusting but neither of you really did anything too wrong.

    What’s worse, YOU spending effort on building a washroom will result in YOUR NEIGHBOUR having a clean bed, not you.

  2. “What’s worse, YOU spending effort on building a washroom will result in YOUR NEIGHBOUR having a clean bed, not you.”

    Ah yes. I love this excuse. Why should we do something when no one else is? It’s seems to me this is Canada’s offical policy of the government and hell a good part of the population. It sort of reminds me as a teenager talking to my mother who said “If all your friends where jumping off a cliff would you?” News flash we are jumping off a cliff.

    People who use this are basically saying “I’m too immature to go against the flow.” What is right isn’t always easy. Didn’t everyone read Harry Potter? *grin*

    Tim

  3. That’s not what I mean. I mean that a lot of times you exerting effort will not really benefit you that much. It’s like charity for someone who doesn’t care about you.

    Let’s examine literally the pooping you were talking about. In the city I live there are moronic dog owners who won’t pick up after their dogs. I always pick up after my dog, or I let it go in my backyard. I DON’T let my dog leave poop in someone elses yard or anyplace that isn’t my property. There are other idiots around who will leave dog crap if nobody saw them. They sometimes leave this crap near my yard or places I walk. They presumably don’t let their dog do it in they own houses.

    The problem we have to solve is to get those idiots to pick up after their dog. My dog is handled, but it doesn’t benefit me one bit. In fact, it’s a bit of a burden because I have to carry stinky dog pooh to the garbage can. It’s helping those other people (among the other good people too of course) who don’t care enough about me to clean up, because now they don’t have to see my dog pooh.

    I still clean my pooh, but I’m not the problem! One possible solution is to tax me and have a roving poop patrol to pick it up, but now I’m paying twice: I clean my own pooh and pay to clean my neighbours. Then that would turn normally smart people into retards who believe they are entitled to leave dog-pooh everywhere because now they pay for a clean-up.

  4. Just think about it in your heart of hearts, do you sometimes cut corners if it doesn’t hurt you or anyone you know?

    Ever tossed some litter

    Ever picked up something at the store, decided you didn’t want it and then didn’t put it back but just left it somewhere .. after all the store employs stockers to put it back.

    Ever left the coffee pot nearly empty in the office kitchen?

    Ever took your dog for a walk and left pooh? Maybe for a good reason “Oh, he pooped twice and I only had one bag”.

    All those things are causing bad side effects for someone else to fix. You can think of a million more and chances are that you do some of them. How do you stop them? That’s the giant question.

  5. How do you stop them? Develop a social conscious.

    It used to be acceptable to smoke anywhere – we became aware of the risks and now society looks on smoking as such a dangerous vice that people are ashamed to do it in public.

    If people were pushed by social values to do the right thing then there would not be as many issues. However, the right thing is not always synonymous with the easy thing. Our inability to do the ‘right thing’ versus the ‘easy thing’ is caused by our limited outlook on life. Either due to time restraints or the inability to see the consequences we choose to maximize the now as opposed to the future.

    As a species we really lack the ability to see where we are going. We can affect such change on this planet, but we need to start thinking long term. We have been living in the ‘now’ long enough, we need to start thinking about how our children and their children will be living on this planet, or we need to find them another one – fast.

  6. Gosh, we’re talking a fundamental change in how we behave that goes against our very nature. Is it even possible?

    Take, for example, my neighbour across the alley who drained his radiatior in his car the other day and let it run down the alleyway and in to the storm sewer. I yelled at him that the storm sewers go straight to the river (do not pass Go!) and that he was polluting our river and also risking the chance that pets may drink the antifreeze and die. He just shrugged his shoulders, gave me the “whatever” look, turned his back to me and continued to work on his car. I grabbed my hose and sprayed down the alley so at least there wasn’t puddles of antifreeze left.

    Do I call the city on him? Will they actually do anything? Not likely. So a couple gallons of ethyl glycol went down the storm sewer and added pollution to our river and the person directly responsible didn’t care.

    Do we have to make every possible environmental offense carry consequences of such magnitude that the offenders will not do it in the first place? Is this even feasible?

    Ideally, we’d change the mentality in the first place so that he wouldn’t do it to start with (like most rational, educated people would do)… but how do you create that level of environmental responsibility? We humans are inherently selfish. If we can get away with it, we will most likely do it. To change that is to completely change how we think as humans… and that is a monumental task that will likely only occur once we are on the brink of extinction.

  7. I’m sorry to say that, but after years of studying human behavior, the only way to make things change is to use the economic leverage.

    Things that pollute should be more expensive, period. Look what happens with the price of gas right now going through the roof. More and more people start to use public transit. People won’t care until it hurts their wallet. People are ready to make the switch, they just need the economic incentives.

  8. TS – Ah thanks for clearing that up. I misunderstood your first comment. I think in a round about way you have hit on an issue. People tend not to do something without some personal benefit or a significant punishment to be avoided. So you can either make a personal benefit that looks useful (as per Emperor’s comment saving some money) or tax the crap out it like Dion’s plan or both. The idea is to drive their behaviour now rather than waiting to change their minds.

    AndyBuck,

    Good idea, but hard to generate unless we change people’s minds first. I think that is where we will end up, but not for a number of years yet.

    I disagree about our species ability to see where we are going. We do see. The issue is the fog of rhetoric which has been created to blind and confuse us on our need to do something.

    Sarlock,

    Oh, good comment. I gotta run here so I’ll get back to your comment later.

    Tim

  9. Sarlock,

    First off good tale of someone who doesn’t care. That is why I have to say we need to change everyone’s minds about how they think.

    Two you use some very interesting language that I want to pick a part a bit.

    First off “Gosh, we’re talking a fundamental change in how we behave that goes against our very nature. Is it even possible?” So can I fire back a response question. What is our nature? You speak of it as being obvious, but I’m not sure what part you are refering to. The second thing is by using the world ‘nature’ you making an assumption that it is something that we can’t change which strictly speaking isn’t true. Our ‘nature’ as it is is merely the sum of our previous actions and beliefs applied to a current situation. If a person undergoes a shift in thought it alters their beliefs and actions and can change their nature.

    Second “Do I call the city on him? Will they actually do anything? Not likely. So a couple gallons of ethyl glycol went down the storm sewer and added pollution to our river and the person directly responsible didn’t care.” So did you call the city? Just because the person who did the deed doesn’t care doesn’t mean you can’t. You’ve assumed defeat prior to even getting started. You obvious care somewhat by hosing down the area (by the way you are better off to put something down that can absorb it like kitty litter and putting in out with your trash). So what else could you have done?

    Third “We humans are inherently selfish. If we can get away with it, we will most likely do it. ” Yes I agree humans are selfish, the degree of selfishness various, but every one is selfish somewhat. Your second sentence actually hits on something rather interesting. Our law system is based on the most stupid concept possible: if we tell you not to do it you won’t. Of course we know this doesn’t work at all. Gee anyone with a small child could tell you that one. We should be approaching the problem differently. We should have a system based on harm reduction and true social, environmental and economic costs for products. So that is why fair trade coffee/organic coffee is three times the price of regular. We should be forced to examine how badly do you REALLY want that morning coffee and its true cost to produce it?

    Fourth “To change that is to completely change how we think as humans…” This is a lie. Humans don’t think in any given one way. Your making a statement for our culture rather than our species. A common means of people justifying to themselves that they can’t change what they are doing. They haven’t even tired and they don’t want to so they make statements like that implying that can’t change before they try. That is a major part of the problem. We give up prior to starting.

    Tim

  10. How can you change someone else’s habits? It’s very hard. If you try to impose rules, most will simply try to get around them, ignore them, or simply try to avoid getting caught when they break them.

    Remember Michael Jackson’s song “Man in the Mirror”? In it, he says something to the effect that the best way to effect a change is to start with ourselves. That’s what I try to do, as much as I can (although I am far from perfect).

    When there is only one person who cares and acts, many others will point at that person and laugh. A few will think and may decide to do the same. After some time, as more and more people care and act the same way, there is a social pressure that begins building up on those who used to laugh. Eventually, those acts become “cool” or “fashionable”.

    In Canada, we are just starting to enter the environmental coolnes period. Many of the acts are still just gestures without too much thought behind them, but we are getting better and environmental awareness is slowly being assimilated into our collective mentality.

    Hopefully the process will continue. We don’t have much of a choice really. It’s do or die.

    Now, what to do when your neighbour doesn’t care? Ignoring him is not really an option, since we are trying to effect a global change (to address a global problem). We have to use what leverage we have to make him care. If nothing else work, this may mean calling the city to see if they will act (after all, we have laws against pollution). The thing is that it is so much trouble! And it may lead to nothing happening.

    At a more global level, simply acting in our own backyard will not be enough to solve this problem. We will have to act globally. If your neighbour (China, for example) doesn’t want to play by the same rules, we have to stop buying their products. Or at least reduce our purchase of their product as much as we can. Another way would be to add targeted taxes to foreign products that do not meet local environmental production standards. That could force those neighbours to improve their standards if they want to keep selling their products. Essentially imposing fines on people who do not collect their dog’s shit.

    Well, enough already.

    Cheers,
    Frog

  11. Good retort, Tim. Your response and Frog’s has given me pause to analyze the situation a little further.

    Why did I stop at just hosing down the alleyway and why did I not call the city? Clearly I was trying to make a point to my neighbour by acting to lessen the damage to the environment (or at least the surrounding neighbourhood animals, since I did wash the antifreeze down the sewer).

    If I were to do everything humanly possible to mitigate the situation, I would have soaked up as much of the antifreeze as I could have, sealed it so that it wouldn’t just leech out at the landfill later, then called the city on the my neighbour and then done everything I could to apply peer pressure to him to perhaps cause him to think twice before ever doing it again. Why did I not do all of this? Why didn’t I quickly drive up to the local hardware store and buy a bag of absorbant and drop it on the alley? Why didn’t I call the city? Why didn’t I try to add further pressure to my neighbour despite his disapproving glare? Laziness? Not my problem? It certainly gives me pause for thought… for while I did try and act to a certain degree, I only did what was more convenient for me, and I stopped at the point where it would become much more inconvenient for me. The prospect of having my call to the city ignored was enough to cause me to not make the call in the first place. The cost and hassle of getting the bag of absorbant was too much for me to bother. The potential of getting in to a fist fight with my neighbour or risking a retaliation was enough to cause me to avoid further conflict with him with the issue.

    Is it that we are only environmentally responsible when it is convenient for us? And if so, how do we make it convenient for the masses to be environmentally responsible?

    Further, in so many instances, we think we are making the environmentally conscious choice when it fact we are actually doing more damage to the environment. Take ethanol from corn for instance. On the surface it seems like a wonderful idea… clean energy from a renewable resource. But when you factor in all of the chemicals used to grow the corn, the oil used to harvest, process and transport the corn/ethanol, you come to realize that it isn’t so clean afterall and in fact creates more pollution than extracting the same volume of oil out of the ground. If we were growing this corn organically without pesticides/herbicides, fertilizers and harvesting it by hand, then locally processing it and delivering to local markets, then we’re making progress. I have seen analyses citing that the cost of modern food production is somewhere on the order 10 units of energy (primarily oil) expended to create 1 unit of food energy (be it food calories or combustion fuel).

    To the questions you raised about my comments regarding humans being selfish and true to their nature, I refer to the fact that under it all we are just animals fighting to survive in a world of scarce resources, just as every other living being on this planet is. While we try to elevate ourselves above our basic instincts, we cannot deny who we are and what drives us. Will I make an environmentally conscious choice if it does not impact my life negatively? Likely. Will I, however, make this choice if it does impact my life negatively? Unlikely. Some more responsible people will, but there will always be some (be it individuals or entire nations) that will take advantage of your good nature and profit from it (and likely damage the environment because of it).

    Can 6+ billion human beings all co-exist on this planet living in 1,500 square foot homes, driving two cars and living a standard of life that we have enjoyed for far too long in the Western world? The answer is a resounding “no”. But is the Western world willing to wind themselves back to a more basic lifestyle in order to balance our selfish needs with an environmental equilibrium? Not willingly. Someone will always be trying to take advantage of someone else. It’s just what we are and I don’t believe there’s any way to change it, it’s programmed in to our most basic instincts.

    It’s a dog eat dog world out there. Survival of the fittest.

  12. As an addendum:
    I don’t intend to sound defeatist, I just feel that unless we make environmentally damaging actions so costly that no one will do them in the first place, they will continue to occur. This includes both individuals and corporations/nations.

  13. And if the Western world actually decide to cut back to a more basic lifestyle, will that really make a difference if the Eastern world (China, India, etc.) simply takes the “it’s our time now” attitude and keep increasing their lifestyle to the the Western world currently has? Replace 1 billion overconsuming morons with 3 billions?

    It comes back to the original problem of 1 person taking action just to see 10 others around them who do nothing or even worse, take advantage of him. Which is why global solutions are needed.

    There needs to be a pact in place that will allow the Western world to cut back without getting the feeling that the rest of the world will simply replace them as overconsuming morons.

    The problem with survival of the fittest here, is that it could result in none of them surviving.

  14. Frog,

    Great comments and thoughts on this debate. I agree that some level of global solution is needed, but at the same time that is likely going to be the last thing that happens. Governments react to mainstream thought so we need to change the main stream and the governments will follow.

    Sarlock,

    I agree with your statement about providing solutions that don’t impact people negatively. I think the trick to getting some changes to people is by offering more. For example, eating a more local diet. You sell it with: want to lose weight and have better security around your food sources? Buy at your local farmers market and get to know the suppliers. Then continue with you can often buy local organic food at the same price as what you buy at your grocery store. Eating locally is almost always going to make people healthier since very few of us live near candy or chip factories.

    “It’s a dog eat dog world out there. Survival of the fittest.” I disagree with this. We make it this way. In nature there is a balance of cooperation and competition. We choose to only see the one side because it suits us. The reality is doing the right thing to not drive the planet into a bigger mess is going to require some cooperation from all of us.

    I agree our standard of life will change, but why can’t it be more focused on what we really need and deeply want. Do we really want another gizmo or would you like to work a four day work week? Would you live in a slightly smaller house for a four day work week? I certainly would!

    It’s about how you sell the change that will make the change.

    Tim

  15. We have all the answers if we look to ourselves. Sarlock solved it by considering why he didn’t save the planet; he stopped when it go too inconvenient. It’s exactly the same with me. I’ll do some, but I won’t do too much if it’s a burden. It’s the same with practically all of us.

    Except it is a huge burden with no personal payoff. We have everything set up right now for easy lives at the expense of the environment. Unfortunately, most people are not willing to carry much of that burden.

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