December 18, 2007 with loads of snow
I recently read where we can modify our lifestyles, but that it will probably not be enough at this point to reverse the current warming trend. At least at the rate we are losing habitat, species, potable water, land mass, and more. It does not mean that this type of modification is not necessary or should be dismissed. Is it us and our dependence on fossil fuel or is it nature’s grand course correction at play or both?
Many experts say it is both. But saving the environment is not so much the issue anymore, it is about outright survival as the article stated. Ours, and that which we hope to enjoy in a future irregardless of the cause.
2008 typical – 2010 little – 2011 none, You can see from these images that our snow cover lessened in the past five years on the same day of each year. December 18, 2011 there was no snow on the ground. I know this means practically nothing without corresponding data taken over longer periods of time, and the fact that winters do vary in WNY, but it is interesting none the less.
2009 perfect amount to welcome Christmas
The images are from Niagara Falls in order throughout this year from February 1, to May 31, 2011. Make any of the little ones bigger with a click. You can see how the weather warmed in March to welcome robins and break buds, to fall back into April with late snow. May was wet, yet most photos are taken during sunny conditions. February had breaks of no snow cover which is bad for plants in our area. January 2011 images were posted in the previous post.
The following post on Sustainability will continue the year in images.
I Wish It Mattered
Another article questioned what we are doing, saying we are attempting micro fixes, not addressing the macro issues with enough gusto. You really don’t read about the state of the environment as much as in previous years. I am not sure as to why either because it seems like ‘a head in the sand’ kind of approach now. We are seemingly in a denial of sorts.
“Environmental groups have all but abandoned a push for better policies (the big picture) in preference for encouraging their supporters to pursue futile personal green efforts, aided and abetted by marketers flogging supposedly green goods (the small picture),” Peter Knight of Context America. I added the big and small picture comment.
You can see why I chose this statement to stand out. He cites a startling episode of how many people got outraged to where action happened by the power of individuals. Wait until you read what caused the commotion and what the community did to rectify the situation. He also chronicles the point where “the environmental lobby went to sleep.” You should read his take on this subject. I cannot say I agree with all that his organization presents because it is very business oriented, and he appears to have a political bias, but he has many valid points.
Harsh criticism in his speech, but maybe just the right kick in the butt attitude. In trying to curb the ways in which we contribute to global warming, we do many small conservation practices. I too do all the little things like composting, conserving water, growing some vegetables, working and living in the same mixed-use structure, going paperless, keeping the thermostat down, recycling, among countless other common conservation techniques. I drive very few miles and live in a city where I can walk to the grocery store and more.
Since all this is wrapped around my own personal existence, I characterize it as small measures, mainly because as a contribution to conservation and sustainability, it really is a drop in the bucket as I am but one.
He goes on in his talk to say, “A deep belief in the individual rather than group political action has spawned the campaigning clichés that now echo off websites, blogs and tweets. Changing the world, one lightbulb at a time, one organic lettuce at a time, one recycled loo roll at a time.”
When one wraps a very serious and complex issue up into a neat little cliché and rhetoric like this, it does not sound profound, it sounds almost laughable.
So what happened to the environmental momentum? Bigger fish started fighting back in ways they thought would appease the masses, splashing around glitzy marketing techniques and slogans. And how did it pan out? Pretty good as they advertised and packaged their way into our good graces.
But as time wore on, the use of green terminology and product became a success of fancy hype over a serious reality. It flooded the product market and lost its effectiveness and ultimately, consumer interest.
London-based SustainAbility. “Sustainability labels on products may no longer be sustainable, a report by a consultancy – London-based SustainAbility – has found. Labels such as Fairtrade and Energy Star have proliferated to such an extent that their value has been undermined, according to the study.”
How many of us look at those little decals and think wow, I am making a difference here? We just assume that the regulations require compliance, and most are met at minimum standards I presume. Hooray for those that go above and beyond.
On this note, the criticism also is at the marketing of products that may or may not have environmental benefit, and attempt to convince the consumer that they are truly making a big difference. On this point, I agree, another pointless and manipulative tactic.
I use the light bulbs which he is taking to task, and I believe it is still better than doing nothing about it. But he says we are directing our efforts incorrectly and should be focused on “the need for policy changes to encourage energy efficiency.” Not “change the world one light bulb at a time.” Hard to argue that approach. But how to tackle and enforce policy, that is the million dollar question.
But, what I think he is also saying is that we are not reaching enough with the right message, doing enough, that the activism has been misplaced for effectiveness, and the right individuals are not stepping up to the plate.
Basically, have the manufacturers be more cognizant of the damage their products do to the environment (and rectify it) and do not market the small good deeds to make the product more likeable and salable. I would love to be a fly on the wall in those marketing meetings, seeing where, how and why the research and development money is being spent in the way that it is currently.
Also, don’t create products that falsely claim to be ‘green’ (buzz word here), it dilutes all the good that was originally intended.
I saw a commercial the other day, stating by a popular shampoo manufacturer and one I use I might add, that they have replaced their packaging with a product containing 56 percent plant-based material. Now that sounds mighty good on the surface, but the bottle is plastic, and still has a petroleum-based component, so I would like to have them break this down a bit more. I do appreciate companies that make headway in this area and present a caring, responsible front, but also hope that they truly are doing it for the right reason and not just as a PR booster.
I would like shampoo companies to address the product environmental safety also. Throw in the makers of detergents while we are at it too. Phosphates do a number on our natural waterways. Just happens the shampoo I use did not form nitrosamines in treated water, but many others do. Read the Nat Geo posting for additional information.
Nat Geo has an article exposing environmental damage in their article Shampoos, Cosmetics May Form Cancer-Causing Substances in Water Supplies. I seriously doubt if the product itself presents a hazard, is making the container partially plant-based going to amount to a hill of beans?
And to look deeper into this issue, the plastic bottle, no matter what it is made of, gets tossed into a landfill somewhere, even shipped across the country or out of the country. It is all about the process.
And what happened to my shampoo bottle I placed in the bin for recycling? The collector pulled it out of the bin and tossed it on top of my trash receptacle. Just so I would be aware of my misdoing. I guess it is not a recyclable product now. I was shocked and annoyed. So any wonder people stray from the path when even what appears simple turns complicated?
Has mainstream reporting and investigating waned because the activists lost the ear of big government and industry, the area where the changes really need to occur? It is almost like the environmental groups are giving up because government has gone soft due to lobbying pressures. With NASA’s newest findings is it any wonder the word futile is being thrown around? See my post a few days ago for this information.
Oddly since fossil fuel usage is such a hotbed topic, have you noticed cars seem to be shrinking? This is a move in the right direction, but is it a result of affordability? Is it because the price of gas is so high that car companies reacted by making their vehicles smaller and consequently more fuel-efficient? I always wonder the motivation because if like in the seventies with the gas shortage, as soon as gas was plentiful, vehicles grew in size again. Like I said, I would love to be a fly on the wall.
Our lifestyle and buying habits are only a part of the much bigger problem. There are Summits to address just about everything in the environmental book too, except how many of us there are and will be in the future.
Just look at the chart above to see how many of us are predicted by 2100. Take note of the colors of arcs on this graph and see how they are vastly different. This may be represented as such because the survival of populations depend on available food and water supplies or the breakout of war over these basic necessities of life. And below, see how we have multiplied over time, a remarkable jump. There are even complicated charts showing how we are dispersed far and wide.
Knight’s statement of the shift to personal green efforts was a very valid point. Yes, every little bit helps, but that is the salient point, it is just a little bit, not nearly enough, big enough or in the time necessary for change by the predictions looming. It really is time to bring the collective head out of the sand and start paying attention to what is being reported by the experts. So a little builds up to a lot multiplied by many. See chart above.
On the flip side, Nat Geo stated, “For example, if 80 percent of people in an area served by a treatment plant used a typical amount of (they named it, sic) shampoo daily, that amount of shampoo would account for up to 3 percent of nitrosamines in the treated wastewater, the authors wrote.” So if lots of people do something, it matters, good or bad. And is this a pivotal and climacteric factor affecting the climate change scales?
People should start taking an honest look at these issues to evaluate those that they support. If a big corporation is a great offender, stop the personal, economic and political support. Most of us have far more than we need and take more than we deserve anyway.
And people willing to support change through conservation or living a sustainable life see multitudes that won’t, and that degrades the conviction of those that might.
Knight also said,” We can not shop our way out of trouble.” I do agree. If you read his post on this you will understand. It is entitled, Effective action: We can’t save the world one drop at a time.
Yet we continue to focus on simplistic and manageable measures to make the world a better place because they are easily obtainable and make us feel mighty good. Certainly we must keep doing them, but we must do so much more, even if it is difficult.
It is almost like we are the weeds needing to be pulled to give the rest of life a fighting chance. You can readily see how there is no solution to this part of the problem, but there should be. I fear we may be saying, “I remember when,” and not in the typical nostalgic way.
But not all is grim on the sustainability front. There are people voicing and trying to reach many, like the environmentalists of almost fifty years ago, who took a stand and policy happened.
But it Does Matter
There is a group that is changing thoughts to actions, making a difference. It is called The Lexicon of Sustainability. They are a grass-roots type organization, spreading sustainable practice by example and words. I mentioned numbers necessary for the little things to matter in a big way and they have their sights set in that direction. It is education, but education that gets people motivationally involved. So what does it take for that? See my post for more information about them, and click to see how you can participate and help. I am just a concerned individual and hope more will feel compelled to take words to action too.