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December 11, 2007



My wife and I have a similar observation about a simple everyday thing -- the baggage carousel. Have you noticed how everyone crowds right up next to the thing looking for their own bag, blocking the view of those behind them?

If those folks could take one or two steps back, then everyone could see. Instead, only the aggressive people who have only themselves in mind can see what's on the carousel, and that's okay with them, since we're apparently only in it for ourselves these days.

If we could somehow convince everyone that it's in ALL of our BEST INTERESTS to work together, then these problems would not become crises, or at least, they might be less so.


Tom --

been meaning to actually record some thoughts here, first and foremost that I'm enjoying reading all of this, and am grateful to you for stimulating discussion on many fronts (I had an intriguing conversation on the playground about your Thomas the Tank Engine post of a few weeks back).

Today, though, I have to say I think I'm with Al, and that while I agree with you that part of the problem is our reaction to what we (think we) know, I don't think we have fully assessed the magnitude of the problems that face us on the climate front.

I sense a mood in what I see of our culture (which is the Berkeley, we-know-the-planet's-getting-hotter-and we-need-to-compost-and-drive-less, very limited corner of the culture) which suggests that -- as human nature proves again and again -- we're all hoping that we can tinker with our habits and make the problem go away. Or, more to the point, that we can tinker with our habits (recycle diligently, be good about composting, buy those cmpact fluorescent bulbs, turn off lights when we leave rooms, drive more fuel-efficient cars, etc.) and wait for some really sharp scientists to figure out the bigger solutions to this problem. As in most situations where a significant change of habits (or, really, lifestyles) is necessary, we're not going to do anything major until the crisis comes to our doorstep.

It's coming. We do know that, at least in some vague way. Or we say we do. But we aren't acting like we really know it -- we're acting like we do when we think the solution to the problem is a relatively easy one. And that's where Al Gore is right -- we pay lip service to the notion that the world is changing, but for the most part, we're still doing all the things we were doing five years ago. We know that the polar bears are losing their habitat, that ocean coral is disappearing, but all of that, for most of us, is still pretty abstract. (And when I say 'most of us,' I mean most of us who actually read those articles and think about them, which, let's remember, isn't most of the country.)

And in case we need a reminder of that, check out the Times story today about how the US is preventing much substantive action at the Bali conference right now.

Now, here it's probably relevant to cite the comparison of the homes of Al Gore and George W. Bush, if you haven't already seen it at http://www.snopes.com/politics/bush/house.asp, and for me to admit that despite my words here, I'm still in the adjust-my-habits-and-I'll-be-part-of-the-solution camp. It's not going to be easy to reform our ways and live more simply; we've not been raised with that in mind, and our economy is driven, in fact, by an opposite kind of behavior.

The problems are deep-seated. But we're going to have to face them -- or, as may be most relevant (though given the most lip-service, too) to readers of this blog, it'll be our kids whose lives will be nothing like ours, and who will be making the sacrifices.

Are we going to have to get as extreme as the family in New York who's spending the year buying absolutely nothing at all? I'm guessing not. But the reality may be closer to their example than to the way we all live right now.

Maybe, in the vein of the folks who posted above, what we have to do is at least shuffle away from the baggage carousel a little bit -- and if we all do that we'll start to see things a bit more clearly.

But saying that and then actually taking the step back... well, it's not as easy to do as it sounds. It's going to take -- well, it's going to take more than an adjustment in our thinking, and more of the significant shift that Al suggests. I wonder what he's done with his house since the story about it surfaced on the web... and I wonder what else I need to be doing right now...


ASpear, you're right that we do little things and ignore the enormity of the problem. But again, what big shift would work? What is the dream? You mention that couple in NY that lives without buying anything -- http://www.noimpactman.com. Well I guess now there's a book and a movie coming out. Imagine the impact of those marketing efforts...

Thanks for the feedback! Great to hear from you.

Lord Sekular

We need to boycott bad companies who are running us and our freedom into the underground. NASA was made not for life in space, but for life on Earth after Dizazstar and so far only the elite have tickets for their "space" program.

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