Karl Koehler: Green hypocrisy

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Recently, the United Nations announced that the world’s population is poised to surpass 7 billion. That’s going to leave a mark.

The milestone provides a good opportunity to comment on the environmental mania that’s taken hold of otherwise sane people as though it were holy writ. Open a newspaper, buy a light bulb, turn on the radio, travel, attend a professional sporting event, go to school, shop for groceries or even go to church, and you are apt to be quickly reassured of the green bona fides of the organization, product or person you encounter. Everyone and everything now is obsessed with being “green.” These days, green sells, and it’s being sold.

This sensibility, in my opinion, is misplaced, driven by well-intentioned but poorly informed points of view. The result of the incessant greenwashing is an inordinate focus on inconsequential minutiae at the expense of well-reasoned environmental resource decision-making. We’re encouraged to change our light bulbs, destroy serviceable automobiles, feel righteously justified when paying more at the pump, clamor for reusable grocery bags (most likely manufactured in China) and abhor carbon emissions. Yet in all of this, nothing of significance is accomplished. Mother Nature turns out to be not nearly so fragile nor dependent on us as we like to think.

These trifling environmental rituals have become tiresome. Enough already! For resort towns in particular, there is a chasm of disconnect between the purely recreational foundations of these communities and the meaningless environmental platitudes they eagerly embrace. Resort communities exist almost exclusively for the convenience and enjoyment of travelers and part-time inhabitants who expend significant financial and natural resources to come and, well, play. People journey across the country merely to slide down hills. That’s fine — provided they don’t at the same time vilify the raw materials, inexpensive reliable energy and hard-working people that make the whole enterprise possible to begin with.

Tourism is championed as though it’s an economic panacea having virtually no environmental consequence. No one so much as whispers of the “carbon footprint” such activity entails — a footprint inflated by importing seasonal workers from far-flung places and subsidizing empty airline seats. People don’t hesitate to vocally bemoan the environmental impacts of a gravel pit, drill rig or coal mine, but they tend to withhold comment on the same issues as they pertain to resort town development. We’re asked to seriously consider taxing plastic bags while coaxing our guests to endure the minor inconvenience of using sheets and towels that aren’t laundered daily as though either gesture actually has some sort of discernable impact on anything. Neither does. These sorts of trivialities are championed while the unbridled material excesses of tourist-driven consumerism and the environmental consequences of second-home ownership are all but ignored.

Environmental challenges can be managed effectively and responsibly while necessary resources are provided. Dedicated people the world over demonstrate this every day. To do so efficiently, I’d prefer we take an honest, unfiltered look at what matters and what doesn’t. A look at the resources we require to sustain our communities and our realistic options for providing them. That means coming to grips with what for many is an all-too-uncomfortable reality: Our existence on this planet does indeed leave a mark. To posture as though it need not — as though “renewables” and “sustainability” and “environmental awareness” amount to anything more than near-pointless distraction — is irresponsible folly. Green sells, but it also smells. The whiff of green hypocrisy is unmistakable.

Karl Koehler

Hayden

Comments

Rob Douglas 3 years, 1 month ago

Well reasoned. Well written. Excellent Karl. This reminds me of County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush championing the Pro Cycling Challenge as a "green" event. The laughter still hasn't died from that thigh slapper. Meanwhile, the self-deluded Bag Nazis run around, like the comical hypocrites they are, trying to pretend that their very existence in this valley doesn't depend on being the least "green" citizens in America given our climate and geographic location. Anyone who truly walked the talk these nitwits spout wouldn't live here. So, they assuage their enviro-guilt by demanding the government dance to their tune and impose their distorted reality on their neighbors. I'll believe these environmental wackos are serious when they personally go dig the thousands of disposable diapers they and their off-spring consumed out of the landfills they befouled.

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sedgemo 3 years, 1 month ago

Karl, you forget there were people living here long before it was a ski resort, and they got by with less because they had to. Recycling wasn't a buzz word when I was a kid, but ranch life has always required making new uses out of things on hand. While I agree with most of your thoughts, I think you miss one important point.

The "minutiae" you speak of includes small things every person can do... and yes, the impact is small but being able to do ANYTHING is a good step if you have concerns about our crowded planet. Small is beautiful. For example, I have no ability to alter tourism or erase second homes (and the jobs they create), but I can buy a better light bulb. I don't need instantly measurable results as you seem to require, and don't consider these small steps distractions. I do agree some are too heavy-handed (the bag tax for example) but insist we can (and should) make small steps as we can. There are too many of us, so like standing in a crowded elevator, we can at least try to make a smaller footprint. The alternative (doing nothing but consume) isn't taking responsibility for ourselves at all.

If you can effect large changes, go for it! If you have ideas those of us with less power and money can actually pursue, let us know.

It's easy for us to take potshots at each other - but ultimately polarizing and thus useless. Why can't we take that human energy and aim it towards solutions... or at least improvements that are achievable? Small steps can start a long journey.

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Fred Duckels 3 years, 1 month ago

I have the impression that the clean crowd assumes to elevate their status to a higher plane than the rest of us rednecks. In the long run there isn't a nickels worth of difference in our overall clean print. Our bus system is nice but it's existence depends on giving a product away, huge subsidies, and a carbon print per passenger mile that is off the charts. Is there a more sensible way to meet the need without making my skin crawl by looking at such waste?

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