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All This Talk about ‘Green’…It’s Enough to Turn ‘Ye Puce

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By George W. Mantor

RISMEDIA, March 17, 2009-You can bet that in the next few months someone will chastise you for not being “green” enough. It is the current day equivalent of the anti-littering campaign that succeeded in stopping most Americans from throwing their trash out of the car windows while driving…at least when anyone was looking, except in Los Angeles.

Car companies are going “green” and so are refineries, builders, and just about every other industry with any exposure to the public. As a matter of fact, even manufacturers of ammunition are producing “green” bullets. These would be particularly appropriate, I suppose, for shooting environmental activists. So, what is this “green?” Is it new? Where did it come from and, why now? Most of the good “green” stuff is already gone, isn’t it?

While our enlightened politicians have been quietly debating global warming versus global cooling, Madison Avenue has come up with a one size fits all word for not spitting in the well: “Green.”

“Green” isn’t a thing as much as a way of thinking. Or, a way of making you think.

Personally, I’ve always liked green, as a color. I’ve had at least four green cars. The last one was a Mercedes C 280 in Bright Emerald. But, when I went to trade it in, the salesman said he couldn’t give me more because green was such an unpopular color. But, that was way back in 1999…before “Green” was all that.

I also like the idea that we should make as small an impact on our environment as we possibly can. And, we do have a ways to go there. I only recently learned about my carbon footprint, my contribution to greenhouse gasses. And, it does seem that there is pretty solid evidence that, if we keep on the way we have been, something bad is definitely going to happen.

I was walking the gritty streets of Los Angeles, on my way to a meeting with a developer who had recently seized upon the idea of “Going Green.” If you don’t see the irony in that, you haven’t been to Los Angeles.

It’s about as green as Chernobyl six months after the blast. Except for a few straggly non-native trees, and the green bullets of course, LA is anything but eco-friendly. In Los Angeles, they have pretty much scraped away all the natural habitat and replaced it with concrete, steel, glass and the human detritus casually tossed in the street by careless people who think they are at Disneyland and a giant mouse will run up behind them with a broom and a dustpan, and make it disappear. More likely to be a Norway rat.

Trash blows in the wind until it gets caught in doorways, fences, or gutters where it remains decaying into a soggy, stinking mass. You definitely want to watch where you walk.

I was being careful, but also thinking about the topic of the upcoming meeting with that developer-Being Greener. The first phase had already taken place. They switched to “greener” office products: recycled paper, bamboo paper clips, solar powered calculators; a bold switch from chemical adhesives to certified organic muselage ground from the bulbs of renewable wild Hyacinth.

I was musing about some of the consequences, like the move to far costlier refillable pens. They still buy the same number of pens. What they didn’t consider was that the pens weren’t wearing out or running dry, they would “disappear” long before they ever ran out of ink. It would have been greener to simply chain the disposable pens to conveniently located writing surfaces.

As I waited for the light to change, my eyes were drawn to the gutter where the exact composition of the decaying soggy mass was indiscernible, but I did notice that some of it was turning green. And, it sort of begs the question, what difference does it make?

No matter how many incandescent bulbs we replace, or plastic water bottles we recycle, or delicious char broiled Rib eyes we don’t eat, the only thing that will make any impact on reducing mans carbon foot print is more responsible reproductive choices.

We cannot make any meaningful difference in the direction of a greener planet if we are unwilling to admit that there will soon be way too many of us for this little planet to endure, let alone support. We have, in fact, already exceeded the support threshold.

You see it playing out in the world’s poorest cities. Recent Oscar winning film, Slum Dog Millionaire, didn’t need to build an elaborate set, they just went to Mumbai. Or, consider the water rationing in LA. You can debate global warming until you are blue in the face, but you cannot argue away overpopulation.

“Each person on earth now requires a third more land to supply his or her needs than the planet can supply.”

That remark is from a Study by the United Nations Environment Programme called the Global Environment Outlook, which took over five years to prepare and involved over 1400 scientists. Do the math if you want. Take 6,770,332,394, the projected world population on April 1, 2009, and divide by 3 and that’s how many are too many for the globe. That would be 2,256,777,461 too many, right now.

Their conclusion, “The systematic destruction of the Earth’s natural and nature-based resources has reached a point where the economic viability of economies is being challenged.”

No kidding! Is that what’s happening to our economy?

And The State of the World 2006, a report published by The Worldwatch Institute stated:
The world’s ecological capacity is simply insufficient to satisfy the ambitions of the People’s Republic of China, India, Japan, Europe and the United States as well as the aspirations of the rest of the world in a sustainable way.

Population reduction must become a global objective, and yet, birthrates are highest in the countries who can least afford to support them. Failing to act will exponentially worsen the outcome.

Reproduction and the Carbon Legacies of Individuals by Paul A. Murtaugh and Michael G. Schlax underscore this point.

The summed emissions of a person’s descendents, weighted by their relatedness to him, may far exceed the lifetime emissions produced by the original parent. Under current conditions in the United States, for example, each child adds about 9441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average female, which is 5.7 times her lifetime emissions.

So, Nadya Suleman comes into focus at a good time. Does a woman with no way to support herself, have a right to fourteen children? Does she have a right to that big a carbon footprint?

If we really mean to return the planet to health, we have to face a brutal reality. We must reduce the number of people dependent upon the resources of this planet to a number that is sustainable. The only humane way to achieve that is through birth control.

Of course, we should all still work to reduce our consumption and our emissions.

If only it was as simple as Time Magazine suggested in 2007. “…switch your wasteful incandescent lights for more energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, and you’re doing your bit to save the planet.”

And, this is where I start to burn a little. What? I should buy more really expensive light bulbs? There is a light bulb in a fire station in Livermore California that has burned night and day since it was screwed-in back in 1901. And, this illustrates a bigger problem. The reason this bulb is still burning is that it predates the theory of built-in obsolescence. For decades, firefighters batted this bulb around like a handball. Today, our landfills are bulging with the crap that was designed and manufactured to wear out.

If you really want to make a difference, replace that light bulb, but wait until it burns out. It takes energy to make stuff in the first place, so once it’s manufactured, we should do our best to wring every bit of usefulness out of it. Take the immediate savings and ship a box of condoms to India, China, or Latin America.

Sure, do whatever you can to reduce your carbon footprint; it can’t hurt. Just don’t pat yourself on the back thinking you made a big difference. That won’t happen in your lifetime. But, by contributing to an effort to reduce population to sustainable levels, you will make a difference a hundred years from now.

“Green” is popular now, and that’s a good thing. But, it has to be more than the latest marketing gimmick. Pretty soon it will be like wallpaper and we won’t notice at all. But, the bigger question is, will the vested interests cooperate with population reduction to a level that is sustainably “green?” I doubt it.

We’ll talk about something else like bringing our own bags to the market, or composting our food waste, or trading in the SUV for a Hybrid. In the meantime, the worst of Mumbai will be creeping up on all of us. And, that turns me red with rage.

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