I checked into a hotel room last night – the same days as the kick-off of the UN’s COP21 in Paris. As billionaires and their political puppets convened in a city that is now known more martial law than the light of Liberty to discuss throwing trillions of dollars at the mythical beast of CO2 reduction, I encountered a series paradoxical profundities. Next to my neatly rolled stack of three wash cloths (I seldom use any) was a sign that invited me to care about the environment by placing my used towels on the floor if they needed to be replaced and informing me that in so doing, I was making a “Green” choice. Opposite on the counter in the bathroom were two bottles of $7.50 water offering me “crisp taste from the Tuscan countryside”. The water was conveniently bottled in a single use, plastic container with a lovely accessorized necklace hang-tag promoting its effervescent quality. And here’s the problem with this picture. The hotel in which I was staying was the Omni Hotel in San Francisco California, not in, say Florence Italy. And the unconsidered cost of shipping Acqua Panna water thousands of miles so that I could imbibe Roman goodness while contemplating my green towel choice seemed to be prima facie evidence that we live in a society that doesn’t give a shit about the environment.
In a country where we invest billions of dollars on public utilities to insure potable water from a tap – a tap, mind you that had no water saving features about it – what are we saying when we offer “green” linens and towels but carelessly place over-priced plastic bottled water in the decision theater? It seems to me that we’re not only stating our callous negligence but possibly something far more insidious. I think we’re euthanizing the seed of consciousness that may deign to sprout in our lives to actually select a life that doesn’t require oil-based resin containers, multi-thousand mile logistics, and excessive consumption of cotton-based products. During the choreographed Parisian hubris-fest, the UN and its illusionists speak of carbon reduction while the following headlines blast across the world:
ISIS Funds Terror Through Sale of Oil
Norway Seeks EU Confirmation of Arctic Energy Commitment
Dealers Cannot Stock Enough SUVs
Auto Sales Set All Time Record in 2015
Industry Giants Offer Billions for Environment
We are not serious about the environment and we’re willfully negligent in our reflexive response to the non-issue. It is CONSUMPTION, not CARBON that is destroying us. Communities of persistence around the world – particularly my dear friends across the Pacific – are living in a carbon balance and don’t toxify the earth because they don’t over produce nor do they over-consume. They live in verdant abundance because they understand how to dance with the ecosystem – not lord over it.
And the deeper reality remains that our economic illusion of unfunded pensions – that ominous Depression-level event in 2017 – that will destroy nearly 23% of the discretionary spending of American seniors in 5-6 fiscal quarters poses a far greater threat to our actual living than does the U.S. and Chinese reckless fossil fuel emissions. In a violent society in which guns settle disputes, economic hopelessness born of meaningless existence will bomb, shoot, and terrorize humanity way before the sea gets a chance to rise much more.
The leadership that is required is not the gathering of lords of land and industry. It is the leadership from We the People who can immediately reduce our consumption and increase the utilization of all things for their ACTUAL life cycle. And that can start with the Christmas season. Give the gift of presence, not presents. Imagine someone else using what you have and give it to them. Make the Commons flow with what’s already in it rather than adding more trinkets to the excess in which we’re already drowning. Unwrap yourself for those you love and in so doing, you may find a warming that doesn’t kill polar bears but actually gets closer to the humanity that we all still carry.