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The Green Myth

Tomorrow you are going to be executed, you have a choice of being shot in the head or burned alive, which would you choose?  Just because one of these choices may be better than the other hardly makes it a "good" choice!  In recent years, we have come to associate "Green" products and choices with "good".  The fact is, in nearly every case where I see the word "green" used, the correct meaning is not "good", but rather "less bad" (though in some cases it isn't even less bad).

There are no green buildings, the first act of creating a building is to either destroy the environment, or destroy an existing building, and even if you are simply replacing an existing building, you must still engage in environmental destruction to acquire the materials used for the new building.  Even recycling doesn't cut it, as a 100% recycled building will still require resources to reprocess and haul the materials if nothing else.  In much the same way, all other "Green" products contribute to further destruction of the planet.  At this point you might think what if we replace an inefficient building with an efficient one, or an inefficient product with an efficient one.  Isn't that better?  In some cases this is certainly true, though not as often as is claimed.  Manufacturing, shipping, support, etc. for the more efficient building or product may, and in many cases does, do more damage than it will offset once it replaces the original one.  The simple fact is that the greenest building of all is the one which is never built!  The point here is that we cannot "consume" our way out of our environmental problems.  Buying green products does not help the environment, rather, not buying products and not using the old inefficient products is what is least bad for the environment.  Note the term "least bad", there is pretty much nothing we do today that could be considered good for the environment, with the possible exception (in some cases) of working to undo damage we have done previously.

Of course we are going to continue to eat, shelter ourselves, build and buy new products, etc.  The point here is to be honest about what we are doing.  Usually the best solution to a problem is to stop creating it, and in this case it would be by cutting our resource consumption as much as possible.  Expecting "science/technology" to save us pretty much always creates new problems, often doing so without completely solving the original problem, and all the new "green" products are no exception.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of these "science is evil" people, quite the contrary, I am a hard-core science junkie, and have spent a great deal of my life studying, tinkering and working professionally in various fields, but liking or disliking science has nothing to do with whether or not a technological solution to a given problem is a good idea.  It is important to note that there is an inherent assumption here that a technological solution for our problems is even possible.  There is no data available which supports this assumption, it is quite possible that the ONLY solution (short of killing each other in massive quantities) is to stop our mass consumption of goods.

Frankly, our level of ignorance of the issues of environmental problems (global warming, species extinction, etc.) is far worse than most people realize, by the time we really know any correct answers about these problems, it will likely be far too late for that knowledge to do us much if any good.  Even if we knew the exact correct answers today, they probably wouldn't do us any good.  If the answer was that we must cut our petroleum usage by 90% immediately (as in tomorrow), would you walk or bike to work tomorrow?  Would you do it for the rest of your life if that is what was required?  In my experience, most people regardless of their answer here would not do it.   They would either wait for the products which use 90% less petroleum to come out, or refuse to believe that the answer was true, because it contradicts what they want to believe (see "The Lesson").  If you don't believe me, you might want to take a closer look at your fellow country-men.  In the USA, there are radio and TV talk shows whose hosts are paid to tell people whatever lie they wish to hear, and they remain extremely popular, despite the fact that what they say is easily shown to be false (and often is).  I imagine in other countries there are similar symptoms of this refusal to face the various unpleasant truths in our lives.

Here's an idea, why not just assume that you need to cut petroleum usage by 90% and not wait for a final answer from the scientists?  Regardless of the ultimate scientific findings, doing this would definitely be "less bad" for the environment, and if nothing else, you would save lots of money and probably improve your health by walking or biking to work!


Your views are both right and correct, however, getting to the point of having that choice in a petroleum-based, work oneself to death society is quite an accomplishment.My wife is physically disabled so I am currently enslaved to the system in order to pay for her care.I have been fortunate and hard working and now have the choice of lifestyle, but we need to keep an understanding that the society built upon owing our souls to the company store does not let go easily without one making a massive leap of consciousness similar to the yogis of India who spend the retired years begging. 

You are right of course, it's not easy to break free, but you don't have to do it all at once, or even completely.  Don't go for the "massive leap of consciousness", just make small incremental changes, exploring / trying out other options and looking for the better choices.  It is possible to live within the system on a limited basis, taking the good aspects and rejecting the bad.  This is ultimately what this web site is about, re-evaluating who you are and how you live.  Hopefully some of the other articles will help you find a better path.