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Why we shouldn’t save the planet

There’s plenty of things that annoy me, none more than the paying consumer being lumbered with the responsibility of shouldering the burden of saving planet Earth. This, as a burden, is not ours to bear, and I’ll tell you exactly why.

Only recently, George Bush sort of hung his hat on the technology peg by claiming that technology would be the fix for the damage that’s being inflicted on our home world.

And you know what? He’s right.

However, the route of logic which he took to arrive at this conclusion is flawed. His logic is most probably along the lines of: “I want to keep driving around in my huge American car with a huge engine, damn it! Why the hell doesn’t someone at Honda come up with some super-duper technology that let’s me keep doing that?!”

Well, as logic goes, it’s a stinker. But the idea in principle is sound in certain respects.

The birds, the bees, the apes and then the rest of us

We’re animals, and like all animals, we inevitably make a lot of mess. We make far more mess than any other animal.

Think of it this way: your dog takes a crap. No big deal. But what happens when everyone takes their dog down the same street to take a crap? Then you have a problem.

That’s the human dilemma. We’re crapping everywhere. Billions of us the world over.

Compounded further by the fact that us crapping everywhere is the least of the pollution we produce.

As consumers, we .. well, consume!

You go into the supermarket and you buy a microwave meal along with your regular shopping. You get home, you unwrap the meal, discard the wrapping. You cook the meal and eat it. Chances are, you also discard the shopping bag the meal came in, as well as the receipt, plus the carton for your milk, for the eggs. You get the idea, right?

My issue is, we don’t get a choice.

As consumers, we .. well, consume stuff. We buy stuff that comes in packaging that we can’t ordinarily refuse to accept, and in most cases would be foolish to do so. Yet once we unwrap all of the stuff we’ve bought, we’ve got a huge heap of stuff to get rid of.

Over here in Britain, we now have bins to put different types of waste into. And while there’s a growing a feeling of doing the right thing among some of the public, it’s something we really shouldn’t be doing at all, in most cases.

For sure, stuff like paper, metal, certain plastics and glass should be recycled, but there’s plenty of alternatives out there to make most of the packaging we use biodegradable.

Plus, there are some amazingly sophisticated sorting technologies, which I’ve seen first-hand when on a site visit to a client of mine, who’re a major international glass manufacturer.

Then there’s cars and other vehicles. Much if not all of the chassis can be recycled, but there’s literally a ton of stuff that isn’t recycled, some of which are deadly pollutants.

When politics disables what technology enables

Most of the time, it’s not a social issue. There are plenty of opportunities to forgo attempts to affect social change and instead just make better use of materials.

Forcing social change is like trying to dig a tunnel under the atlantic ocean with a teaspoon. It’s a lot of hard work, probably not worth it in the end.

So given that you can’t ordinarily force people to take up recycling as the next best thing, second only to sliced bread, not everyone can be entrusted with this responsibility. Worst of all is the fact that most of the worlds population aren’t in any kind of position to help with recycling.

So here’s where the burden of responsibility should be shouldered by those who are producing the packaging, and that’s the businesses producing this stuff in the first place.

If we have to pay more to get them to use better materials, so be it. If we have to pay more for better waste collection services, so be it. Anything but trying to foist the responsibility onto you & me.

I doubt any of this sounds like a revelation of thinking, but it would be revolution in politics, because it would make the governments of the western world to force their business communities, and some of major retailers, to tow the line and play nice.

For the likes of the USA and Britain, both of which are wedded to their consumerism ideals, this would be an unthinkable proposition. But as we move forward, it’s something that our governments and our democratically elected politicians are going to have to deal with.

So it’s time for the governments to stop blaming the consumer and start looking at the people producing the stuff we have to throw away…

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By Wayne Smallman

Wayne is the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology website, and the creator of the Under Cloud, a digital research assistant for journalists and academics.

6 replies on “Why we shouldn’t save the planet”

I was going to say something astute, like ‘you’re right, pollution is a problem’. But your article just sounds like so much green garbage that I can’t stop laughing.

“I was going to say something astute, like ‘you’re right, pollution is a problem’. But your article just sounds like so much green garbage that I can’t stop laughing.”

Well fortunately, I can save your blushes and ask something very astute in your stead by asking you to qualify your succinct observation.

However, I do feel assured that you can’t do that, straight-faced or otherwise….

[…] While I truly believe we all need to play our part in creating sustainable living, there are things that I firmly believe are not our responsibility, where big business and the governments should play a more pro-active role in the environment. […]

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