Ah, the decorated trees, the lights, the packages, the bustle of millions of not-so-tiny feet tramping through stores. Tis the festive season. A season of brotherly (and sisterly) love. A season to rejoice, a season to be with family and friends, a season to forgive and, apparently, a season to forget.
Sure, at this time of year we are constantly reminded of those less fortunate. You can’t turn around without bumping into someone asking money for something (it’s always struck me as odd that charities are out so strongly at a time when most of us have little money, having speant most of it on other things–why don’t they have big funding drives in June or something?). But somehow we seem to forget everything else. Even the things that need remembering.
While there are many such issues, the one I can’t help but be aware of, in this season of extreme waste, is climate change. I mean, all the lights, the travel, the heating of shops, the wrapping paper, the wasted food, the vast amounts of fuel used on moving parcels around the world… Christmas is HUGELY wasteful. So how do we reconcile our concern for the environment, our fear of climate change, our constantly being told to reduce, reduce, reduce, with the economically necessary excesses of the holiday season. Something is clearly wrong here.
It’s a truism that few events so obviously highlight the hypocrisy surrounding the western notion of reducing energy consumption to help the climate than Christmas. Somehow, the more common, but less considered examples and reasons seem to have escaped the attention of most.
(1) First, there’s the sheer difficulty (and, let’s face it, craziness) of having every aspect of our society reduce energy consumption. Consider:
There’s the lazy: businesses that leave their doors open, heating blasted, in the middle of winter or their lights on all night and people who drive short distance to work, school, or the store, for example.
The unnecessary: gyms with electronic circuit training machines to count the reps for you; people driving almost anywhere that mass transit can take them; civic celebrations, such as Christmas, are incredibly wasteful; conventions – whether for work or entertainment – could be done online at a fraction of the cost if needed, or not done at all in the case of fan-based cons. Essentially, any endeavour that’s not necessary is wasteful.
And the downright ludicrous: England is rife with TV shows where food is wasted simply to make a point or where things are gratuitously blown up for entertainment. Not to mention that TV shows just for entertainment are wasteful just by their very existence: the amount of energy and consumables wasted is immense in any such endeavour.
Pretty much everyone reading this will have taken exception to something I’ve listed ‘But what about…?’. But the reality is, if we were truly concerned with reducing to make a difference, these are things we’d have to give up. We could, of course, restructure many of these things to be more efficient. Some, like gyms, could even become self-sufficient, using the patrons own energy to offset operating usage. But we haven’t done this yet. Haven’t even started. So, one look at society suggests how ludicrous the idea of self-regulation is, and how much social inertia we’d have to overcome.
(2) Second is the unreasonableness of the strategy on a global scale.
It’s important to realize that we are not the only ones in the world. While we in the West have been, and still are, the major users of energy, other areas of the world are catching up, notably India and China, not to mention industrial areas of South America. These developing economies will quite rightly point out the unreasonable nature of our request to have them regulate their growth and development at a time when they are beginning to threaten our position atop the global leaderboard. Could it all be a plot to keep them down?
Certainly, you may claim, global climate change is a problem for all countries. But we in the West are the main cause, and we remain the major users, so why, they may point out, shouldn’t we be the ones to shoulder the burden. If we’re so concerned about it, we should be required to make disproportionately strong cuts to curb it. But we aren’t. And we don’t intend to.
Our pleas, followed by our own inaction, speak loudly of our personal stake in this issue. And it feels more like business than survival. Simply looking at government strategies toward this end, should make it clear that there are almost no governments world-wide that believe self-regulated reduction is viable a viable strategy. There are a few working to reduce emissions, but in most countries emissions have actually increased since any of the various treaties were signed. This, to me, signals that reduction is only a thing so long as someone can make money from it. Otherwise, it’s off the radar. Governments, like the rest of us are, at least subconsciously, counting on advances in technology to save us.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m convinced the evidence for man-made climate change is strong. And if the data doesn’t convince, then a look out the window occassionally should. It’s quite clear the world’s weather is changing. There is more bad weather (greater number of stronger storms, for example, and more record highs), and the seasons are shifting (our plum tree that used to provide fruit at the beginning of August, now does so at the beginning of September – a change that’s happened in only a couple of years). Of course, the empiricle observation of climate change doesn’t mean that it’s man-made, but it is still a cause for concern, continued study, and a search for means to either halt, or at least survive (in the case of coastal cities), the change.
But, I suppose the blatantly obvious disregard for environmental issues at Christmas — after we are constantly told about them the entire rest of the year — is just another hypocrisy to enjoy during the festive season. Bah, humbug. Merry Christmas. Or whatever.
Insight and longevity.