Today's Hump Day Hmm asks for our thoughts on Earth Day. I remember the first time I saw an "Earth Day" celebration. I was in Washington, DC, and there were people giving away things and selling things promoting the use of marijuana-made paper. Somehow, it made me wonder about whether the "green" movement was an extension of the hippy movement of "free love and rock and roll." The people giving away the information certainly would have looked right at home at Woodstock.
I am not, by nature, a person who intentionally pollutes. I don't throw trash out of the window of my car or into storm drains as I walk along. I don't smoke. I even do my best not to run water unnecessarily when I brush my teeth. I do flush more than once quite regularly, but trust me, that's for the best. I try not to waste paper. I do as much e-billing as I can without making my wife uncomfortable. I even read e-books sometimes. It is rare that I print something off a computer to read it, in fact.
All that said, I am not a big recycler. For one, it is not well supported in this area. I have also read a great deal on how inefficient recycling is compared to new production. I am not opposed to recycling. I used to save newspapers and magazines for months to recycle as a child. I just don't have that available to me anymore, and I rarely take newspapers or magazines that I don't want to keep now. I prefer to reduce my consumption of items as opposed to recycling what I have used. I gladly buy recycled items when I find them to be good quality, but I don't find them very often in general. I am also not someone who drives a tiny car to save gas mileage. For one, I tell my wife "I don't want to feel like I am putting my car on when I get in it." That's how cars like a Miata make me feel. For another, I prefer safety over mileage any day, and the two don't seem to regularly coincide. I am a safe driver, so I am not paranoid that I will cause a lot of accidents, but there are a lot of unsafe drivers out there who just might slam into me at any given moment.
I have encouraged truck drivers I work with to research the use of cooking oils in their trucks to save money on fuel. Unfortunately, it's not a practical alternative for the economy to expect more than a small number of drivers to use those sorts of fuels. Ethanol takes so much gasoline to actually produce (I have heard estimates of 2/3 to more than one gallon of gasoline used per gallon of ethanol produce) that it is not really a marketable, usable alternative. We need a lot more research into legitimate fuel alternatives instead of pumping subsidies and marketing dollars into phony ones. I am fascinated by the idea of hydrogen powered cars, cars that run on heavy water, nuclear energy use, and other solutions that might actually be cleaner and renewable long term. I love the research going into solar energy, but it seems to still be a long way from being a real alternative for most users.
All in all, when it comes to the environment, I am probably more of a user than a conserver. I think a lot of people have misguided perceptions about the need to save plants and animals. For instance, there are more trees in the United States today than there were in 1900. A huge number more. When someone protects a habitat of a wild animal that may or may not actually live in a forest, they are doing harm to the loggers who work in that area. I say that as a person who is not terribly fond of log trucks. I just prefer to protect human beings and their welfare over animals and plants. I would also be a lot happier of the people doing the protecting did so where they live. Too many city dwellers like to tell the rural parts of the country what needs to be conserved while they drive their hybrids on busy streets surrounded by skyscrapers. Why don't they demand their apartment building be torn down to transplant a forest? It's so much easier to tell someone else to do what they are unwilling to do.
Could we do a better job of working with the environment instead of simply using it? Probably. Mostly, though, I think we have a fairly arrogant perspective when it comes to our impact on the planet. The planet has gone through many cycles climatically and ecologically, and it has "harmed" itself in many ways that humans cannot even imagine emulating or recreating. More air pollution comes out of a single volcanic eruption than the entire effect of humans in history. No, I tend to thing we're along for the ride a lot more than we'd ever want to admit or accept.
What would I like to see in the future? Tall buildings that are covered with solar panels that can supply most of their energy (if not the energy of the surrounding smaller buildings as well). More use of nuclear power plants. Improved public transportation in large cities. Automobiles powered by renewable fuels with healthier emissions. What a bright new day, right? So long as we get there in logical fashion. The way green laws are heading, we may all become more green simply because people are forced to quit driving altogether and grow their own food. Present legislation on green laws is driving rampant inflation with no logical reasoning behind these laws. The apparent hope is to inflate the economy so much that expensive fuel alternatives suddenly become reasonable. So much ignorance pervades this line of thinking that I cannot begin to explain it. Thankfully, the economy is a fairly resilient system, and so is the environment. Maybe by the time we actually figure out how to accomplish some of what we dream of, both of them will be functioning in a way to help each other.