Friday, 15 June 2007

Dr Environment and Mr Waste

To say the least, I have been known to be supportive of environmental causes in this blog. By the same token, I have also been known not to do much about it as well. I mean, I do try to recycle, I do try to consume less, but I'm not going out of my way to help the environment. Generally, my conscious is at peace because most of the things I need to be doing to make a difference would cause more damage to the environment than their slowly accumulative benefits would earn it (re replacing our house's lighting with more efficient light bulbs) and/or I am on hold due to the prohibitively high cost associated with an environmental adventure (re installing solar panels up our roof). However, the more I think about it, the more the inevitable stares back at me: I'm two faced.
And the reason why I think I'm two faced could be summed up with one word: Diapers (if you're into American English), or the way they are more commonly known in Australia - nappies.
As would be parents we are faced with the dilemma of which nappies we should be using on our future baby. To be honest, there is not much of a dilemma there, because you have to be insane to choose to slave yourself and use cloth nappies when the option of using disposable ones is so readily available. Sure, cloth nappies have certain advantages - babies don't like them, so they tend to become toilet trained significantly earlier - but then again, who gives a shit (pun intended).
One does give a shit, though, if one is concerned with the environment. There is still a certain debate on what causes more damage to the environment: the production of cotton for the cloth, combined with the nasty chemicals used to clean them up, or the huge landfill burden of burying some 5000 disposable nappies with a half life longer than Chernobyl in the ground. The debaters may debate, but my common sense tells me that over the course of 3 to 4 years the baby is going to be outputting his output into a nappy, the cloth option is the clear environmental winner.
But do I intend to use cloth nappies? I'll put it this way: The day I sell my car and start walking everywhere is the day I'm going to use cloth nappies. As I said, two faced.
Of course, we do try to find some better solutions. For example, we already bought some Bambo Nature nappies, a brand that is supposed to bio degrade so quickly adverts will tell you that you can watch them evaporate into thin air between blinks. Which is nice, but come on - being that they're made in Denmark, some whole lot of emissions are generated just in bringing them over here. And since all surveys (including the Choice one) show that Huggies are by far the best nappy out there as far as parent satisfaction is concerned, we also bought ourselves a nice supply of Huggies to take care of those early hectic days when we don't know left from right. Which is fine, but it's also two faced: Huggies are not exactly environmentally friendly.

Question is: What can we do to improve our environmental stance?
Seriously speaking, I don't think there is that much we can do. Sure, we can make a huge effort and become slaves, but will that do much good to the environment on the whole? Not on its own. What can make a difference is a joint effort that will push the companies making the nappies to make a difference: let's face it, if Huggies had a reason to do so, they would be able to come up with a diaper that turns into a watermelon when you take it off the baby's butt. But why should they make an effort when hardly anyone seems to be interested in such a product?
And why focus on nappies in the first place. Let's have a look around: Car manufacturers could give us cars that run on dog shit if they wanted to, but we just don't seem to want. We speak of the environment, yet we demand the airlines to provide us with $50 round the world tickets so we can have ourselves a long weekend in the Bahamas and return home in time to watch the latest soap on our huge plasma TV that consumes more electricity than an oven running on full blast.
We say that we care, we may even make an effort to recycle some of our exhaust fumes, but the bottom line is that everyone is still consuming like there's no tomorrow. The stupidest thing about it all is that there seems to be this conspiracy of silence about it all: we are not allowed to say much about this, because if we stop consuming our economy would slow down, and where would we be then? After all, for a while now the world's economy has been built around constant expansion being the driving force for increasing wealth; so what if this comes at the cost of killing our environment? So what if the cheap source of energy that has been driving this expansion is running out? Let's not make a fuss of it as long as the big boys continue to earn lots of money. Why prepare for the future when the strong can fill up their bulging coffers?

I have started with nappies and now I'm talking about the world's economy at large, and there is a good reason for that.
Oil is running out, and it does not look as if a good alternative source of energy that can provide our ever growing thirst for cheap energy will be available any time soon. Eventually, we will need to learn to live simpler lives. Which is fine with me, if you happen to ask; I can live with more public transport, for example. My main problem would be visiting my family abroad, but I suspect we'd be able to cope. And do we really need all the things we consume? There is so much unnecessary junk in our lives it's a joke; just yesterday we got a ear light (!) with our box of cereal, battery not replaceable of course. Who needs an ear light? And while at it, do we really need to live in houses as big as the houses we currently live in? Do we all need our own private patch of lawn to accompany that house?
The answer I'm aiming at is no. But the reality is that even if we cut down on our consumption, we will still be generating more and more shit by virtue of our growing numbers. Historically, famine, disease and war took care of overpopulation; but with the globalized world being the way it is now, I don't think we can afford to let nature take its course again. I think we should take proactive measures to control our numbers in humane ways instead. And before you start thinking I'm suggesting death camps, allow me to point at the tactics I would recommend: By helping the poor people of Africa to be able to have a proper life of their own, we will also ensure they will not have to have 10 kids they cannot support as their way of having a life insurance policy. By giving birth to our children at a later age, we ensure that the overall growth in our numbers takes place at a slower rate.
At the moment I truly believe this is the only way we can regain control of our situation. Obviously, there are no silver bullets here, but there can be no humane solution that will not address population numbers (which sort of brings into context the futility of claims made by anti abortionists and those of the anti condom camp - mainly the pope - but that's an issue for another post).
Still, while I'm saying all of this, I'm also having my contribution to increasing the world's population. As I said, two faced.

No comments: