By John Jordan-Cascade of Eugene, Oregon who describes himself as "an armchair environmentalist, whose heart is uncomfortably wedged somewhere between Earth-Firsters and progressive Democrats."
The problem really is that all our economic calculus and public policy has, since the dawn of the industrial age, assumed that the raw materials we put into our equations to produce products and services are limitless and the sink into which we pour the waste products of civilization has a limitless capacity to absorb them.
Of course, both assumptions are patently false.
We've known for some time that we will eventually run out of oil, for example, and long before that--it will be too expensive and energy-intensive to make it worth extracting the last vestiges. On the waste end of things, it's pretty clear from rates of cancer and our myriad other chronic illnesses that modern civilization is paying an extremely high price for our overall comfort level.
But no one ever asked, is it worth it? What price "progress?"
Until, that is, the environmental movement of the 60s showed up and made a big splash. (Thank the Goddess!) Most people don't even know this, but modern civilization did not even have a term for the the planet's ecosphere before this movement made it's splash and coined the term, "environment." Better historians than I can say who exactly coined the term, but the point is, we had lost our connection so thoroughly that it took some group of visionaries to coin the term to bring the issues related to it's decline into focus.
Let's just take one simple environmental consideration: recycling.
Shouldn't everything we consume be recyclable, really? Why not? Sure we need time and resources to make the transition, but to me it's insanity that we're not even talking about whether to make that transition, let alone how to make it happen! If you extend the present course of our accumulating waste stream to its logical end, one comes to the conclusion that, eventually, we will transform every resource available into mounds of garbage. Of course, we'll be extinct from global warming or other means by then, but you get the idea. We should be asking, why not recycle everything dammit!? Dare to dream and dream BIG, people!
I loathe hearing from nattering naysayers and apologists for the short-sighted right-wing fanatics who complain, ". . .but we will lose jobs," (code words for the annoyance of public oversight!) or ". . .it will cost too much" (code words for the hassle of denting my bottom line). I have to ask, how much is too much to pay for the survival of our civilization or perhaps our species? It's an asinine response to hear about the costs. That's what government is for, folks! It is meant to be (and it still has the potential to be) the collective expression of what we, as a society, need for our common good. Most certainly, the common good has to be balanced with individual rights. That's what we have the constitution for. But seriously, how many trillions of dollars does every level of government collect from us every year? What can we accomplish with our collective will and our collective creativity and our collective resources? There really is no limit. The only obstacles are political.
Organize, organize, organize!