Filed under: J840 Week 2 | Tags: consumerism, green, India, market metaphor, Recyclable containers, Walden
As I grappled with the question of what is green, I read about Silver Spring, Barbie and listened to Friedman. Everyone was saying something, but what was it? Walden encouraged me to look at my own roots in India.
As I thought about how we lived then, it struck me that life was much simpler. We bathed from a 5-gallon bucket of water. Soap came wrapped in a piece of paper. Dinners at large festivals were served on plantain leaves. We walked or bicycled everywhere, and played outside. Battery-powered toys were unaffordable. Recyclable containers and shopping bags were the norm. Grocers and vendors wrapped condiments and food in old newspapers. Relatives brought provisions from their farms when they came to visit. We bought less, threw away even less.
I visited the same town, about 25 years later, in 2006. Nostalgia aside, I could tell there really was a big change, and not all of it for the better. Cars everywhere. Restaurants took pride in serving bottled water. Plastic shopping bags were the norm.
What was missing were the recycling and cleanup efforts I have to come to expect from municipalities here. Evidently, every society has to make and learn from the same mistakes.
This reflection leads me to believe that green is a measure of how little adverse impact we have on nature. Looking at it that way, every little thing that I do to reduce impact counts as a step towards becoming greener. Do I really need that new product, even if it’s marketed as “green”? Should I throw away something or will someone else be able to use it? Does it really make sense to talk about the environment using a “market metaphor“?
As we have seen, there’s no single way to becoming “green”. We started down the path of a consumerist society a long time ago and we’re not going to go back to the cabin at Walden any time soon. Nor should we have to. Surely we can find a middle ground between agonizing about the environment and being callous about destroying it.
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