Year 2, Month 4, Day 5: Never Mind, I’ll Just Sit Here In The Dark

The Pampanga Sun-Star (Philippines) notes that important local figures participated in the worldwide observance of “Earth Hour,” turning off lights and appliances in order to foster environmental awareness and better conservation practices:

ANGELES CITY – Mayor Edgardo Pamintuan has called on for a continuous campaign to protect the environment and reverse global warming.

Pamintuan said during the observance of Earth Hour at the SM City Clark Saturday night that people should always be conscious about the environment.

“Sana ay ipagpatuloy natin itong mga ganitong programa para mapangalagaan natin ang kalikasan,” Pamintuan said.

Thousands of cities, towns, and landmarks around the world switched off lights in observance of the Earth Hour.

“When we turn off our lights, let us use it is as an opportunity to reflect about what we can do to contribute in fighting climate change,” Pamintuan said.

Observance of Earth Hour is commendable. But it’s just the merest tip of a (rapidly melting?) iceberg.

Sent March 27:

While a worldwide Earth Hour is an important initiative, the fight against climate change is going to require more from all of us than turning off electrical appliances for a tiny fraction of a year. We need stringent conservation measures to eliminate inefficiency in power distribution systems, and to develop new frugality in our habits of energy usage. Nowhere, of course, is this more necessary than in the United States of America. While the USA is not solely to blame for the planetary climate crisis, its per capita contribution to the slow-motion disaster of global warming is the most significant in the industrialized world. America has for decades made profligacy a point of patriotic pride — a national delusion which has done extraordinary damage to the world’s environment. Reversing this attitude and the habits it has bred will do more to combat climate change than a worldwide hour without electricity.

Warren Senders

Month 2, Day 19: Consumption Used to Mean You Went to Switzerland or Arizona

This one goes to both of my Elected Representatives. I had the germ of an idea about providing more useful environmental information on the things we buy. I know my purchasing habits would be very different if I knew how much ecological devastation had gone into the manufacture of some geegaw I was ogling, or how many thousands of miles a package of strawberries had to travel. Why not get that information, apply some sort of scoring algorithm, and incorporate it into product labeling?

Dear Representative Markey and Senator Kerry — I write as a citizen concerned about the looming climate crisis. It is my belief that many ordinary people would like to do more — both to help forestall the disastrous effects of climate change, and to help make our culture more environmentally conscious in general. I have a suggestion for a program which could have an impact on the way Americans think about the environment and our role in transforming it.

Our national purchasing habits could be dramatically altered if Environmental Impact information was displayed on product labels. We require such statements for large-scale construction and civil engineering projects; the “Energy Star” labeling program has had a demonstrable impact on consumer buying habits for household appliances — why not make this part of our purchasing equation for foodstuffs and consumer goods? An “Environment-friendly” scoring system would take into account the amount of waste involved in production, packaging and shipping; the sources of raw materials involved, and the likely lifespan of the product. A negative rating would describe an overpackaged product that used many toxic or ecologically detrimental raw materials, which required extensive transport before arriving at the point of purchase or warehousing, and which had a short expected lifespan before disposal; a positive rating would reflect minimal packaging, sustainable use of raw materials and efficient use of transport.

A measure such as the one I’ve suggested will help change attitudes and purchasing habits. Ultimately, of course, that won’t be enough. Our national habits must change profoundly. To be a “consumer” can no longer reflect a positive American value, because the word implies a “taking out” without a corresponding “giving back.” In the nineteenth century, “consumption” was a euphemism for tuberculosis: a wasting disease, almost always fatal. For the long-term health of our planet, human beings in general (and Americans in particular, since we are the examples held up to the rest of the world) must stop taking out without giving back. We have seen the results of ungoverned consumerism emerge in the catastrophic synergy of environmental degradation, oceanic acidification, soaring GHG levels and an ecosystem under assault from thousands of varieties of toxic trash — and we can no longer afford it. Granted, our population may not be emotionally ready to end consumerism as it exists today…but make no mistake, if we don’t end it, it will surely end us.

Thank you for your consideration.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Senders