September 27, 2005

Better Environmentalism

Whenever I see things like this list of ways to shop "green", I always wonder why they leave the obvious out. What's the single thing that so many humans do that has the largest impact on the environment? They have kids.

Talk about wasteful, have a kid and suddenly a couple has increased their contribution to pollution by 50%. No matter how many diapers you hand wash and miserable low flow showers you take, and how many cramped up little cars you drive you'll never be able to undo that one little act of massive environmental damage..

Seriously though, the environmentalists have made steps, but if they really want to succeed they need to prevent be good to the environment as coming across as a sacrificial act. Low flow showers are my pet peeve, I don't care how well meaning you are, anyone advocating those things is my personal enemy, sorry.

I ride a bike everywhere and don't even have a driver's license, but every time I hear someone ranting about SUVs I cringe up inside. People drive those things cause they are comfortable, spacious and make them feel good. If environmentalists are against comfort, space and feeling good, well then they are bound to lose whatever struggle they feel they are engaged in. Its the wrong path towards changing people's behavior. What environmentalists need to create is not just alternative products, but alternative products that are better then the ones they want to replace. A couple on the list above might just do that, its certainly possible, lets see it happen..

Posted by Abe at September 27, 2005 12:10 PM


If nobody's going to make any sacrifices, is there a future for environmentalism? I don't know.

Gladwell (yukk) wrote a good article about SUVs, beyond the fuel argument ( Of course they make one feel safe, it's just a feeling.

I find the SUV argument a little tired, but that's a mixture of fatigue and the use of plastics by most people.

It's not kids that are the environmental problem, it's kids in first world countries.
Conceptions of 'spacious' 'comfortable' and 'safe' are culturally based (I'm referring to the perception of safety, rather than actual safety). Changes in these notions over the last 100+ years have mostly been driven by advertising and marketing aimed at creating markets for mass-produced consumer items.
You are correct that the frame 'environmentalism = sacrifice' is bogus. The frame should be 'sustainability = healthier families, safer communities, balanced ecosystems.' But you can't escape the fact that people should give up their gas guzzlers, 2-gal flush toilets and artificially chilled living spaces if they want their children to live on a healthy planet.

My comment on a post at contains "questionable content", which I'd say is a regular occurrence. Here's what I was going to write...

This article touches on some of what you're talking about, especially on how one frames the problem of environmentalism:

I think I got this off of Clay's feed a while back...


heh, that was me testing out Dan's comment, looks like one of the sites I hosted added "http" with a ":" after it to the blocked list.. Think it worked too, spam has been down lately..

Why should the responsibility rest on "environmentalists" ?

It seems to me that the case shouldn't be on enviros to solve the problems of stuck-up first-worlders who feel they "need" an SUV to "feel good and comfortable" and whatever. That's like me saying I need a $10k a day coke habit to feel good, and it's up to the anti-drug crusaders to come up with something better.

Yah right -- I think this comes down to decency and responsibility -- and as far as I am concerned, an argument from status (that 1st worlders *deserve the privilege* of feeling good) already buys the slush-fund argument of feel-good psychologism before one has even begun to consider alternatives.

If this makes me a ranting enviro, so be it. I also come from Vancouver.

Wicked seeing you Abe :-)


Its just a matter of tactics, the environmental movement has taken too attacking these machines verbally like they are the enemy, yet doing nothing physically. And succeeded in doing what? Selling more SUVs? These people are out trying to propogate a cause, but have taken a tactic of alienation. The language points to war, but other then the very extreme (ELF and the like) they really want to seduce. Now the car companies, they know how to seduce, they know real well, hell they've even made that nasty 'new car' smell an attractive scent. SUVs are neither safer nor more comfortable then regular cars, but the companies have gotten people to believe it. An SUV is an intense object, an intense concept, a seduction.

The environmental argument meanwhile is mainly a rationalist one. It reaches intensity only by fear. And the actions of the environmentalists undercut the fears intensity. If they want to talk war, then they need to act like its war as well. If they want to seduce, well then they need to learn how its done, cause right now their tactics are backwards.

but yeah, was great seeing ya tobias, thanks again for dinner!

heh .. I hear ya' .. but do you think environmentalists can *ever* compete on the grounds of seduction? I mean seduction to what? Enviro-style is basically old-age ethics: responsibilities, not demands; duties, not rights, and to which I hold much respect for -- an incommensurable, uneraseable and unavoidable ideal of sacrifice. I think there's something horribly twisted when the entire paradigm is one of seduction/war, basically. It's a losing battle from the start .. unless you happen to really believe that green technology will come save the day. Even or when this does come into effect, it will be dispersed, expensive, limited, controlled, fought over & everything else prescribed by the market.

One vicious thought struck me on going to the States again.. but also seeing Canada.. the number of obese people. I mean *really* obese. Like people who can barely climb a flight of stairs. Whole hordes of them.. and then last night I read an interview with Ralph Steadman.. and looked at his drawings again. This "obese class," _whether rich or poor_, craves the SUV culture -- the big meanmachines that accomodate for the flab on the inside. Can these people ever take into consideration a balanced, nuanced sacrifice toward planetary ideals when they can't even discipline their own bodies ?

Shit. HST mode.

& damn that dinner was sweet dude. Mmm. Thank the heavens for a really high Canadian dollar too. NYC is coming around to be just about affordable -- that & I'm realising how expensive Montreal has become. Shit.


well there is always that old standby the logical/rational argument. But logic is war isn't it? It breaks down to a right and wrong, one needs to win the argument to bring the other over to your position. There is little difference in rhetoric of the green stance of scaring people about environmental threats and the cold war American stance of scaring people about communist threats...