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Life Arts    H2'ed 7/18/09

You Can't Shop Your Way Green

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Message Edward Borley

You can't shop your way GREEN.



There's a strange notion out there. An idea that is just absurd. There's a belief that you can shop your way green. Many people ascribe to it. More come to accept it day by day. Any reflection on the notion though shows that it just can't be. Any study of history will show that the consumer contentment centers are using the green idea as just another scam.

You may feel that that new car is just so much greener than some other car. After all it's a hybrid. It gets so much better mileage. It has to be greener. It's not. As a rule any old car that runs is greener than any new car. The energy production cost alone makes that the case. Maybe you're one of the few people that was either poor enough or principled enough to be driving some old clunker until it just couldn't go anymore. Then you hit the lottery. You need transportation, and it is a need contrary to the propaganda. Since you have the cash, and because few things are as ungreen as banks, you buy a car. Buy. Not lease or get on installments. Buy. On the surface a hybrid looks good, as long as you don't look too close at the fact that the batteries were made in Mexico. Why should that matter? They're made in Mexico for the lack of environmental regulations.

Why do we have environmental regulations? Because the greens who came before tried to make things better for everyone. They realized that individual efforts were laudable but impractical. Biking to work everyday may be great for the environment and yourself, but it ultimately achieves nothing in comparison to forcing the car companies to add a a single extra mile to the mileage requirements of new cars. Or forcing battery makers to meet some minimum standards with their toxic production and waste. The end result of that hybrid with Mexican batteries is that you've moved a small amount of well contained toxicity from local to a large, uncontained, amount abroad. Bonus we now get to ship things further.

Of course the point is moot. Needing a car one could always just get a diesel in the first place. They get better mileage than hybrids anyways. They are significantly less complicated than hybrids. While a five year, "Which is going to harm the planet least?" query will show the hybrid on top, a slightly longer look will force one to look at the battery replacement.

If you've found a battery source that you're comfortable with to handle the hybrid's replacement needs, why not just convert an old car to electric yourself. Use the electric for short trips, and a diesel for long. Buy as much of the materials you need to make that happen from your fellow individuals as possible.

You worry about replacing the little insignificant light bulbs in your house with toxic mercury bulbs to shave a tiny bit off the energy baseline, when the car dealers are running huge overhead halogens every night to light up their sales lots to the point of daylight. Why do they do it? To sell you a car. Don't buy the car. It's just that simple.

You hear, "If everyone just switched to CFL's we'd save xxxx energy over the year." Would we? Would we really? True there's an energy savings of watts per lumen, but again that's not the whole story. It doesn't cover the energy per bulb cost of production. Most of the CFL are not actually that cheap, they're subsidized. Take a look at the box and you will see that a not insignificant portion is being subsidized by two sources; your local energy subsidiary and a large war mongering multi-national. That of course means that you're paying for the bulb's true cost either way with the energy company. Subsidized of course means that it's hidden in the junk charges on your bill. The war mongering multi-national of course makes their real money from war. Duh. Why would they subsidize something green then? One: it's their product. Two: it gives them a "friendly" thing to show on TV when they are applying for more contracts, to make more weapons, to kill more brown people, to steal more natural resources, to make more products for you. If you give a multinational a contract . . .

Of course with CFL's there's an extra hidden cost. The one no one talks about. In CFL's that hidden cost is mercury. Mercury is like uranium. There is no such thing a a green amount of mercury. It may save "energy" over a tungsten filament while in the socket, but woe to you if you drop one, or your kid accidentally knocks a lamp over. Kids knocking lamps over? That would never happen, right? How do you now propose to clean up the hazardous materials mess in your home? That wasn't just mercury that got released, which would be very bad, but instead it was mercury vapor. You've just released one of the most toxic neuro-toxins known to man inside your house, and in gas form for easy inhalation to boot!

None of that covers the production methods. Where were the CFL's made? Did they have adequate safety measures for their handling of the mercury? How many accidental releases of vapor did they have last year? So which is better, electricity guzzling tungsten filament bulbs, or toxic compact fluorescents? I don't know. I do know that neither shopping choice makes you greener.

I could go on and on, and I would, but I'm going to stop here with a few short things to think of. I brought up the war profiteers because nothing is more environmentally unfriendly to humans, animals and plants than war. Period. War is not green. I will leave the morality of a particular war to be discussed at a later date, but there is no denying the environmental devastation of any war. Vegetarianism is not necessarily more environmentally friendly than being an omnivore. Eating cattle raised on nearby scrub land, which can't really be used for anything else, is not necessarily worse than eating fruit grown with rapidly depleting ancient aquifer water and flown half way round the world. Again the morality argument is separate.

We should be the change we want to see, but we shouldn't be the new schmucks to make life greener (in the monetary sense) for those who would use our consciences to further rape the planet.

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A sometimes published fantasy (you know magic and fairies, where the world makes sense) author. Accused of being a right wing nut because of being so far to the left that I've circled back again. Transplanted from the California Sun to the Hoosier (more...)
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