Don’t get me wrong, I do believe we, as a race, are destroying our environment and must change our habits or pay the consequences. I do my best: I try to grow my own tomatoes, buy local and in season, and use beeswax wraps in the kitchen. Every time I go to a beach, I gather any bits of plastic to be found. Etc. Etc.
However, I feel a huge load of collective guilt is being dumped upon us citizens: everything we do is wrong! We are being made to feel guilty every time we turn on the tap. After generations of persuading people to use deodorant, now the new green is—wait for it—not to wash! Ourselves or our clothes.
Of course we should all modify our mindset and each do our bit, but perhaps some more laws could be passed that would make a bigger difference, faster. If I used a plastic straw every day for the rest of my life (I have an ancient packet at the back of a kitchen drawer, since the family kids refuse to use them!) I would still probably have used less than those sold in a single day by a fast food joint. I know a lot of companies are trying to ‘go green’, but, unless they are forced to do so, plenty will carry on in the old way for the foreseeable future.
Nevertheless, the topic has acquired an annoying tone of strident fanaticism. The way things are going, we will soon be advised to live in huts constructed from twigs that have died a natural death, and feed ourselves on fruit that fell off the tree of its own accord, a concept perhaps possible in a banana grove in Zanzibar, but not so much in Montana in the winter.
Else we’ll have to move back into the caves where, unless we happen to have a steady supply of the twigs as per above description, we will cower swathed in layers of vintage, recycled and unwashed sweaters, stinking to high heaven, and chewing on insects and fruit (see the bit about them having died a natural death). Oh, and should we have the good fortune to have a pond nearby, we could supplement our diet with a bit of pond scum, rich in protein and nutritious bacteria.
Our cats will have to be slaughtered because they eat songbirds, we will not be allowed to ride horses because it is cruel (notwithstanding that human civilization was borne upon the back of a horse), but unfortunately all horses will have to be slaughtered, too, because grazing animals harm the planet.
The same of course goes for cattle and their toxic farts, while cheese, one of the oldest and most natural foodstuffs of mankind, has somehow become poisonous, as well as milking being bad for the animals’ psychological welfare.
We will also have to stay put, because every means of transport uses some form of energy. Unless we walk, bicycle or row. Greta Thunberg managed to cross the ocean without impacting the environment, albeit on a state-of-the-art yacht costing a few million and provided and/or skippered by Pierre Casiraghi who obviously has no need to hold down a job and can afford to go gallivanting about the world at will. Not an option for the rest of us, I suspect. Plus the construction of said yacht probably made a footprint as big as a Yeti’s.
Meanwhile, there is a ski slope in Dubai! Which merrily consumes, in a single day no doubt, the fuel that would keep you, dear readers, collectively going for the rest of your lives.
We would be roundly criticized if we dared to wear our granny’s old mink coat (which is dead already), but isn’t faux fur made of plastic?
We are lectured about all the harm we are doing via Environmental Conferences that are attended by people arriving by helicopter, private jet or super yacht.
Everything has a cost, and a fallout. Cows fart, but almond milk production consumes tons of water.
I think it’s a good thing awareness is being raised on all such matters, because there is no doubt the world is seriously overpopulated and in full consumption mode. But let’s keep the tone less strident and let’s not forget what Milton Friedman, amongst others, said: There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
Photos from the inimitable collection of New Yorker cartoons