January 14, 2008

Why we bother

In this week's NYT magazine article pondering the origins of morality, writer Steven Pinker chose to end with this surprising downer: "Even if every last American became conscientious about his or her carbon emissions, the effects on climate change would be trifling, if for no other reason than that two billion Indians and Chinese are unlikely to copy our born-again abstemiousness."

Fair enough, I suppose. But that's far from the whole truth... Today's carbon-counters may be the vanguard, but tomorrow that movement has the potential to lead to a paradigm change as regards industry as a whole. Already, sustainability has become a huge buzzword, and while the current trends against bottled water and in favor of Tyvek bags sold at supermarkets may be a bit faddish, they're signs that business is listening to consumers who want more green in their lives. If every last American became voluntarily conscientious about her carbon emissions, we might not counter the impact of Chinese and Indian consumers, but we _could_ inspire innovation that could lead to better methods and technologies that would help more in the long run.

Look, I don't really believe that my recycling does much, individually. I can see for myself how many other people are tossing their recyclables into the trash, and I'm not entirely convinced that the things I leave on the curb for recycling are actually recycled. But I don't think that's reason enough to be wasteful. And through my own example, I hope to inspire people around me to conserve a little more -- and thereby help grow the sustainability movement.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

While your modest recycling might seem like a drop in the bucket, the other way around (throwing your tiny bit of garbage out the window) seems ridicules, isnt it?
a wise, old chinese once asked "how many grains of sand are in a mountain? and if i took one away, is it still a mountain? how many times can i do this before the mountain is no longer?"

besides the point, one trans-Atlantic flight is worth more then a year's emission.