Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Hate The Environment.

The other day a colleague asked me whether I would be climbing a lot this summer.  I said yes.

He then said "you're really into the environment, aren't you, Butch?"  This was a reference to both climbing and to one of my work projects, which involved building a community garden.

"Fuck no," I said, "I hate the environment."

The lunch crowd fell silent.  No; I had not mis-spoken.  I do, in fact, hate the environment.  I want it destroyed, used up, chewed-over and spit out.  I want it dead.  I want endangered species gone, plentiful species endangered, topsoil trashed, and a planet so fucking hot from human CO2 emissions that I can bathe in the Arctic ocean in January wearing only my thong and some SPF400 waterproof sunblock.

I guess I oughtta explain what I mean.

What does love mean?  Caring for and sustaining something which we recognise has worth-- as much worth as we ourselves--in and of itself.  Your wife, your dog, your kids, your friends: yes, you may want sex, affection, old-age security or climbing partnerships from them, but fundamentally you recognise something inherently valuable and dignified in them, and you support and care for them because of that.  They might not love you back, or they might love you more or less than you love them, but still.

And hate?  Well, a short definition might be "a selfish disregard".  In other words, if I hate something, I use it for my own ends and I don't care about its needs.  This could involve projecting fear and self-loathing onto people of a different colour, language, origin etc, from me, and me then calling them names, or beating on them with a baseball bat.  It might mean sixteen-year-old me making friends with the dorky kid in computer class just so he would do our dreaded programming project and I could get the necessary B.  It could involve me ignoring the homeless guy outside the IGA on my way to the pub, with my $3,000 mandolin and $20 to spend on beer.

So, do I love the environment?  No.  I fucking hate it. 

What I LOVE is this.  I love my shiny new iPhone.  I love my girlfriend and our kids.  I love climbing and the wilderness, especially when it doesn't have too many people, or too much garbage, in it.

One of my colleagues then asked me about the outdoors.  "If it serves me," I said, "I love it.  Other than that, fuck it."

If I loved the environment, rather than hating it, this is what I would do.

I would first of all stop working.  Work earns us money; money has value only insofar as it allows us to use or trade stuff, all of which has its origin in the natural world.  Money is made of oil, coal, natural gas, steel and other mined goods, of harvested fish, of grasslands and woods turned petroleum-product-fertiliser-and-pesticide-powered monocultures.  Money is made of resource extraction.  And if you don't earn money directly from the environment, such as by being a teacher, a politician, a lawyer, a "knowledge worker", or what have you, you're getting a cut of what the "extractors" are making.  As scientists will tell you, in the majority of the countries with economies in transition [to higher GDPs] the growth of GDP per capita associates with growth in emission per capita.  Some more than others, but the bottom line is clear:  you wanna be rich, you do it by extracting more stuff from the environment, and then you spew more crap-- like CO2 and garbage-- back into the environment.

If you want to be nice to the environment, you have to use less stuff, and then throw less garbage into it.  That functionally means you don't own a car.  You eat little meat.  You work mostly at making food that you grow yourself.  You live in a small house, with loads of people, you don't travel (except by foot, or horse if you're rich), and you own few objects, all of which last a long time and are then recycled.  You make food, medicine, music, clothing and shelter.  The science is crystal clear:  an ecologically sane life = less stuff and fewer activities.  

But that socially sucks.  I would have to live in a shack, eat simply, not travel, ditch my shiny new iPhone, etc.  Fuck THAT-- let the Third Worlders live like that.  I want what's MINE.

Now, you may well say "ah yes, let's focus on the really important things in life, like learning, and community. Let's value those over owning stuff.  Let's direct our energy (literally) into "good things" instead of McMansions, cars and vacations in Hawaii.  Well, sadly, as Jame H. Brown et al note, "it has not been possible to increase socially desirable goods and services substantially without concomitantly increasing the consumption of energy and other natural resources and without increasing environmental impacts that now include climate change, pollution, altered biogeochemical cycles, and reduced biodiversity."  In other words, even the "good stuff"-- like music lessons for the kids, wheelchairs for the elderly and education for all-- involves trashing the world.

If I loved the environment, I would stop climbing.  I used $200 worth of gas to go to the Sierra and back last summer.  If everybody in the world had equal access to oil products, we would have one litre per person per day, for everything-- heating, driving, making nylon ropes and plaastic TVs, etc.  I have $2000 worth of climbing gear, mostly oil products an aluminum...pure garbage and pollution.

I would stop traveling and flying in airplanes.  It takes a hundred or so litres of jet fuel to get me to Indian Creek and back.  Worth about the yearly per-capita GDP of Mali.

I would stop eating meat.  The simplest of Google searches will show you that eating any meat other than the occasional backyard chicken, who's grown fat by eating scraps and grubs, is the single most destructive thing a person can do.  It takes ten calories of edible plants to produce one calorie of meat.

I would stop driving.  Even my shitbox costs $4000/year to run.  Enough $$ to support four Guatemalans.  And no, I would not drive a Prius or other hybrid.  After all, a Prius gets 90% of the gas mileage as a shitbox like my Hyndai Accent...but costs twice as much.  The $15,000 more that you pay for the Prius...that's money, and money is energy, and natural resources.  (I do like hybrids, though, because if I stop thinking, I can feel like I'm better than rednecks and other motorists with big vehicles.   I can Show That I Care)

If I really loved the environment, I'd be a hunter-gatherer, as agriculture is probably even more environmentally destructive than mining and the use of fossil fuels.

Anyway, the upshot of it all is that I want it all.  I want an easy job, security, lots of fun recreation and few hassles.  I want shiny new objects regularly.  I want clean national aprks and crags.  All I want is what people around me have.  Is it unreasonable to want exactly what others have?  I didn't think so.

So, yeah.  Fuck the environment, and fuck the five billion people on the planet who live on one-twentieth of what I do, in the midst of filth and deprivation.  Gimme my stuff, my climbing and my life!

1 comment:

  1. Sadly, 'Butch', all your points are valid. So it comes down to priorities and willingness to change. No, I can't make everyone else cut back at the same time as me, so it might seem like what one person does has little effect. Except as more people see that alternative life, they make some changes, and the accumulated effect is beneficial to all. Think 'tipping point'.

    Our consumptive lifestyle is not sustainable, which isn't just a buzzword. A recent article in Terra Eco (a French alternative magazine) said that we will run out of many elements in the next 10 to 50 years. We will have run through all the copper that is economically extractible, all the nickel, all the rare earth elements, all the silver. And then good luck on making those high tech toys with a reasonable price tag. Why is it happening? We can't be bothered to recycle any of these materials and bury them or wash them into the ocean.
    I think the only realistic driver of behaviour modification will be cost. It won't likely be green policies; no government will try to deprive its citizens of this 'good life' if it wants to be re-elected in 4-5 years time. So they pretend to take meaningful steps while it is business as usual.
    Of course you can have some of your great life and switch in some things that could make you just as happy. Cutting the airflights would be a low-hanging fruit, as would cutting meat consumption (not 100% but significantly from the typical North American diet which is simultaneously killing us).
    It comes down to personal drive, personal ethics. Let's hope we all wake up soon from this ridiculous dream of having it all which is toasting our one and only home.
    daveway (at) hotmail dot com