Friday, March 6, 2009

An Obstacle of Human Desire

It is said that the biggest obstacle for environmental progression is entrenched interest. In the face of bribes (excuse me, lobbying), our representatives can’t seem to make responsible choices regarding sustainability. So business as usual continues, not because we couldn’t change for the better, but because the powers that be don’t want to alter the system they benefit from. Although that explanation has aspects of legitimacy, it proves to be a form of finger pointing. It’s not our fault we are polluters, it’s the man that’s bringing us down! Yet if we really wanted to catalyze change, wouldn’t we start living differently and not be waiting around to be reprimanded? Besides a select moral few who are actually making real sacrifices, we’re all talk and no action.

So the question remains, why? Why do we continue shooting ourselves in the foot – or what might turn out in the long run to be our temple – day after day without adjusting our lifestyles? The answer is simple: living unsustainably, burning fossil fuels gratuitously and consuming crap is fun. It is this obstacle, one of human desire, that is the greatest barrier for sustainable progression.

Want to travel across the world to drink Guinness in Ireland, see the pyramids in Egypt, and climb the Andes in Argentina? You’re going to have to commit environmental sin. The CO2 emissions necessary for those flights are the equivalent of you opening up your own coal-fire power plant in your backyard. Want to eat that Ahi Tuna Roll? Think of how far that tasty fish had to be shipped to reach your plate. And what about your favorite hobbies? Don’t even think about seeing those bands at Bonaroo, or driving to an obscure surf break, or snowboarding at Mammoth for your winter vacation unless you are willing to compromise the well being of future generations. But we do these things anyways, because that’s just the way we are.

Our brains are not hard wired to preemptively solve the long-term problems we face. We have proven to be too caught up in the thrill of now to worry about topsoil degradation, resource depletion, climate stability, or waste management. And as we are witnessing as the 21st century unfolds, just as the Club of Rome predicted, the limits of exponential growth and imperceptive policies are catching up with us. The catch about living an unsustainable lifestyle is just that, it’s unsustainable; it can only be upheld for so long, no matter how strong the desire is for it to be everlasting.

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