Friday, June 20, 2014

This? Or This?

I'm just posing the question, here, whether we, as a society, as a civilization can come to grips with the fact that we have created our own industrialized Hell, our own environmental nightmare, and take logical steps to perhaps reverse some of that process, repair some of that damage…OR…are we just doomed to ride our jet skis and SUV's into the smoggy sunset?

Have we, over time, just become more and more comfortable, more and more entertained by technology and shiny objects, more accustomed to and desirous of an easier lifestyle, that we are unwilling to give up some of those comforts and toys if it meant cleaning up our environment, reducing our use of fossil fuels and chemicals?  Or will we just build more 3M factories to manufacture their #3210 Industrial Respirators?

Or do some of us fantasize that we can continue and sustain our current way of life; that we can have our cake and eat it too?

I don't have the answer.  I'm just asking the question.

Once upon a time…people grew more of the food they ate.  They didn't travel as much; either on domestic highways or on intercontinental flights.  Three generations often lived under one roof.   Then, gradually, people moved off the farm and to the big city.  People became more transient, more independent.  The American Dream (for many) gradually morphed into owning a larger home, having 2-3 children, two cars, maybe a boat and/or some other toys.  Maybe a summer home.  Suburbia flourished.  Malls were built.  Businesses sprang up to build the things we seemed to want, not just for utilitarian jobs (watering and cutting the lawn) but for entertainment and recreation.

How would it impact the economy if we suddenly stopped making jet skis, or thousands of 4-wheelers, or SUVs, or snowmobiles?  Or any of a hundred other non-essential products?  Could we re-absorb that labor force into something more utilitarian and sensible?  I don't know.

My gut reaction is negative.  Figuratively speaking - and I don't need a torrent of hate mail on this - I think that as a society, we've become a herd of obese fast-food addicts who can't go to the mailbox without our Hoveround.  I know there are people with a legitimate need for these devices; I'm speaking about the rest of us.  I think that on the whole, we've become so dependent on convenience that younger generations - in spite of having a historical record of America - think that this is some kind of natural progression.

I would gladly become part of a greener, more self-sustaining community and lifestyle.  I just think that the majority of non-handicapped consumers couldn't handle that.  Yes, we do have some cities that have taken mass transportation seriously and which exhibit higher levels of bicycle use, but that's nothing when compared to a city like Amsterdam.  We are making strides with solar and wind power, but I still think that a lot of people fantasize that this will just replace or current coal-fired power sources, and that we will just continue business as usual.  

Will the direction, pace and style of our consumerism continue, or can it significantly change?

I'm thinking it won't.  Not enough.

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