One of the most crushing aspects of non-sustainable civilization is the abuse of our energy resource which cannot be renewed. What makes this such a difficult problem to analyze and solve is the fact that non-renewable energy consumption is embedded in (arguably) literally every part of our lives as citizens of the modern civilization. Some uses of energy from oil and coal are obvious: personal transportation, electricity usage, heating/cooling of the home, running appliances and machines, etc. What I want to draw attention to are maybe the less obvious ways in which we consume energy behind the scenes: any and all outsourced food products which must be transported, nearly every commercial product that comes from a factory, including the technology we use. In my opinion, we need to address energy cost of the amenities we say make us “advanced.” Is having a fancy phone worth depleting our energy resources?
The elimination of commercialism seems awfully far-fetched as a way to reduce energy consumption, but consider what it will cost us down the road if we ignore the industries that quietly consume the majority of our energy supply. It seems impractical to cut oneself off from this stream of consumer products, isn’t that what makes us better humans than we were? Isn’t technology the future of our race? Emphatically, “no.” Pursuit of so many amenities cost us the energy it takes to make and distribute them, and costs us the notion of what it means to be a part of an interdependent ecosystem and removes us from a natural, renewable, way of life. This ideal is far from where we are today, but to move in the right direction, we have to recognize who is wasting energy just for wasting energy’s sake.
[Watch this King of the Hill episode! Its a good one, I’m sorry it would not embed. But here’s the link!]
Greenwashing comes into play with this consideration. It is easy to justify hanging onto commodity when we are convinced it’s all okay. Hank Hill learned his lesson when he dabbled in the carbon-offset game, and found that “going-green” isn’t always what it seems to be. If you ask me, getting back in touch with a local community tears down a lot of the barriers that keep us from knowing how much energy we waste: plant your own trees, don’t leave it up to the companies who tell you they are green so you won’t worry about it. Strickland Propane isn’t the only company who lies about their “green” functionality. Take a page from the Hill family code, and plant a tree and let it provide fruit and oxygen for all those you love rather than shipping some pie in from China.
So maybe you’re asking, “I know all sorts of things I shouldn’t be doing/buying, but what should I?” That’s a complicated question, of course, but I’ll tell you what I think will point this world in the right direction. First, take a look at your life and what REALLY makes you happy: the time you spend with the people you love, the satisfaction of working hard on something, the joy of relaxing afterward. These things don’t require a TV, a car, or an iPhone.
Then, start pursuing those fulfilling parts of life: walk down the street and make a relationship with your neighbors, they just might turn out to be your loved ones. Plant a garden, with someone, somewhere; there’s hardly anything more satisfying or sustainable than growing and eating your own food and you’ll probably end up with enough zucchini to feed the hungry on the way! Hell, take a nap under a tree instead of watching TV. When the day comes to a close, you haven’t driven ten miles to see your friends (or even needed to call them, ‘cause they’re your neighbors!), you’ve worked hard and feel satisfied, and you even pulled some carbon back out of the atmosphere.
Is this starting to sound better than wasting fossil fuels to make pointless products just to keep you distracted from the real world? I sure hope it is. Hobbes knew what he was talking about, and Marx just didn’t know what “religion” would serve us in the 21st century…