The Earth Will Provide (And the Market Will Decide)

Our neighbor, the lifelong keep-your-mitts-off-my-God-given-rights Republican (every once in awhile, we think about taking out a Sierra Club membership in his name, or making a contribution to the DNC in his honor): “I will use as much (electricity, water, gasoline, whatever) as I want and for as long as I want;  I can afford it.”

It is a touchy subject with him, all this unwarranted government intervention in his freedom of exploitation.  He recently received a letter from the city utilities department drawing his attention to the amount of electricity he used compared to his next-door neighbors; perhaps it was an unfair comparison, for we have solar panels and we use less electricity than our array generates, while the people on the other side are not home  much.  But, it is also true that even before our array went up, we used only one-third of the average electricity usage for our city.  Our neighbors, like most people in our subdivision, have a electricity-gobbling twenty-year old refrigerator in the garage, and frequently leave various lights (incandescent), televisions (very large plasma ones), overhead fans, and air conditioner on even when no one is at home.  It is his right, he says: he can afford to pay for what, in our region, is incredibly cheap electricity and water.  Water shortage?  No such thing, because over time (that would be geologic time, I assume) the aquifers will replenish.  Oil shortage?   There wouldn’t be any if the environmentalists would just quit whining and let the oil companies do their work.  The earth will provide — always has, always will.  And if it doesn’t . . . .  well, he likes to point out that “you can’t take it with you.”  True enough, but then what about leaving it behind for, say, his granddaughter’s generation?

In the meantime, “the market” must be allowed to determine the fate of the planet because  it is, if you will, a fundamental expression of evolution.  Hence his objection to various incentives for alternative energy.  I know he thinks his tax dollars should not have been used to subsidize our solar array, but we have been friends for many years now and he would never tell us that.  We all know each others’ positions, though — and we all know we will also never get into a conversation about things like oil company subsidies or hillsides denuded by off-road recreational vehicles.

We will also never get into a serious conversation about climate change.  Suffice it to say, global warming is a modern myth put forth by a conspiracy of left-wing eco terrorists;  there is no irrefutable scientific evidence that it exists.  On this issue, he must have absolute proof — majority consensus is not enough.  Which is interesting because how we touched on the subject was via a comment about his glucose level at his last medical checkup.  It was a bit high, his doctor had told him, and if he wanted to ward off diabetes, he needed to make lifestyle changes.  And he has, he said, by working out for an hour everyday and dropping twenty pounds over the past six months.  Clearly, he had no difficulty believing his doctor — and all without irrefutable scientific proof that he will indeed progress to diabetes if he did not lose the weight.

I do not practice reduce-recycle-reuse as much as I could, or should.  I am guilty of complacency, as though tossing something in the green bin is an act of virtue.  At times the three Rs are not “convenient,” and quite frankly, often it feels like such puny effort for what is ultimately at stake.  What does it take to believe that the environment, like the human body, can take only so much use and abuse before failure?

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