An interesting article in the most recent issue of Utne Reader gives yet another example of how our addiction to consumption can throw even the best of ideas off track. Over the past several years, canvas totes have been promoted as an environmentally friendly alternative to the question “paper or plastic”, yet as with so many good intentions, the glut of totes now serves as one more yellow brick on the paved road to hell. As the author notes, “It is simply unclear if a consumable can ever counteract the effects of consumption.” A very good question.
There is a strong belief in our society that we can buy our way out of anything. I remember feeling so inspired after seeing Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” for the first time. His argument for making changes in order to save the planet was powerful. I wanted to do something. So I went to the website and clicked on the “Take Action” link, only to be taken to a place where I could calculate my energy consumption and then buy back energy credits. I was at most, dismayed. (To its credit, today AlGore.com provides much more information and creative ideas for how you can help.)
It is behavioral changes that will ultimately make a difference in this and countless other challenges facing us. This, to me, seems the most inconvenient truth, for behavioral change is hard. Very hard. It is much easier to take a diet pill than to change one’s diet, yet this is exactly what we promote as the kind of solutions to our complicated problems. War, the environment, health care reform. Throw enough money at any of these problems and you will find a solution, or so the “logic” seems to go. Possibly no better example of this exists than when we “invest” trillions of dollars to save an economy taken to the brink by greed.
Solutions quick and easy and… purchased. Sadly.