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The world is on fire, and I am warming up. And it makes me sick. But then again, not so sick that I'd rather go out in the cold some more. Or even put out. After all, I have my "dings" too. And what has changed at the end of the day if I did empty that cup of water of mine into the fire? Right. Nothing.
Even the occasion for this blog is trite: the purchase of another car. Thoughts of sustainability came naturally; it must be light and fuel-efficient (and big and tough and fast) and as environmentally friendly as possible (though a diesel). And cheap. So that car does not exist. During this process, I thought back to a discussion I had a while ago about sustainability. It was about why we still prefer to buy cheap vegetables, fruits and meat, when we know it does not contribute to sustainability, than some more expensive products that are good (or at least better) for earth, people and environment. I am convinced that if prices were the same, the moral choice would be made. But the prices are not the same. Actually, then, the main motivation appears to be simply money. Just, ordinary dough. Financial motivation turns out to be more than justice, sustainability or other wonderful moral considerations.
There is slavery - more than ever (!). Human trafficking, child labor, poverty, pollution, waste, resource theft. And these are all linked to my consumption: energy consumption, use of fuel, the amount of food I use, what food I use, the things I buy, how often I replace them, the clothes I wear.
To make change in other lives, the choices don't have to be that big at all to have an impact anyway. What it does cost: money. It costs money to have clothes made by an adult instead of a child. It costs money to buy organically grown food from the region instead of genetically modified produce. It costs money to buy meat from a chicken with a better life instead of a plump chicken.
And let us, more than the vast majority of people on this globe, have that money. We don't have that money in spite of, but because of this majority who are post-colonially being fleeced by us. Exploited. Eaten up. This system which we are so eager to maintain to keep our prosperity. The system which I yourself so eager to maintain.
And that's why we prefer to think of solar panels, wind energy and electric cars when it comes to sustainability. That's also a good investment, and one that makes money. What I'd rather not think about is having to pay more money for the same jeans I already wear. That would be very unholy.
Perhaps therein lies a solution: hefty excise taxes on environmentally unfriendly products, on products that have involved slavery and child labor.¹ So much so, that sustainable products are cheaper. Sustainable products not the more expensive alternative; but the first choice. Similar excise tax to smoking, perhaps with the same warning on the packaging (even though those don't work): ‘this product is deadly'. Or: 'people working on this product are dying younger‘.
I know: it's not THE solution either. It is a simplistic solution; it requires a shift at the global level to really get something done. And there are also plenty of dilemmas if even that were to succeed: would you rather pay for child labor, or not, affecting a family that can't buy enough food. Do you want to keep employment at low wages with factories, or do you want them to pay decent wages, and thus move their factory somewhere else. Does my eco-friendly(r) car really contribute to the environment when at the same time there is a mega cruise ship Rotterdam inland navigation with emits as much CO2 as 84,000 cars, as much nitrogen oxide as over 400,000 cars, as much particulate matter as over 1 million cars and as much sulfur dioxide as 376 million cars.
A while back I wrote about dreams: ‘A dream is not the opposite of reality, but an image of what reality can be'. And that's exactly why it keeps getting to me. That is why I am aware of it again and again. I see before me the image of how the world could be. Of how the world is meant to be. Of how humans should protect and care for and love the earth. I not only know but feel to the bone the moral choices that go along with that. And all the arguments from above then fall apart. It is like the dilemma that gives only two choices.² Here that would be: do we do it to benefit ourselves, or to benefit others? But a third option is left out: we do it because it is good in itself.
Maybe it sounds too negative, but we live in a sick world. With sickened lives. But fortunately not mine, because I am in the right place in this world. I am a blessed person. I do want to change but behavioral change proves difficult and rationalizations cloud my mind. It makes me angry at the same time. All this injustice. But most of all, my role in it. I am especially angry at me. Today I am going to start with something small.
- Can all that money collected be put back into other important issues such as the relentless flow of refugees.
- I was reminded of the Euthyphro dilemma where the question is asked whether something is good because God asks it, or does God ask it because it is good in itself. However, there is a third option: God asks it because God is good.
Great to read a blog about sustainability! We can all do our part by consuming more consciously or should I say; consuming. Good luck with the small steps you want to take. Small example from my own life: organic bread fills better and is therefore not more expensive.
Hi Anne, nice to have you reading along and also working on this topic!