Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Green, sustainable, eco-conscious?

So, I ran across this blog a few days ago - http://www.vanadia.com/bp - and it's gotten me thinking about a few things. 

I've always had a bit of an issue with people who declare from the mountain tops just how amazing they are because they are doing something. I don't know. Take the premise of this blog - dude rides his bike 450 miles to protest an oil spill that's already happened. He gushes all poetic about the good he's doing by riding his bike in protest, he talks about being car free as if this is the only way to "save the planet." He does state at one point that he understands that his "protest" won't really affect BP - though that reads as nothing more than a passing attempt at humility or something as everything that comes after reads as a direct contradiction of that premise. 

I just don't know. It seems so self-congratulatory to me. On so many levels. I mean, first of all, there is the dichotomy of traveling under one's own power while doing so on a vehicle and on infrastructure that is directly a result of petroleum. Secondly, does he really think that a huge corporation like BP really gives a flying f*ck about him and his little protest ride? Is that really the best way to get anyone's attention, particularly in this time of rampant ego-stroking, self-congratulating, social media documentation of every last moment of our individual and often pathetic lives? There's just so much static out there that an individual voice seems about as powerful as a candle next to a klieg light. 

Yes, it is clearly more eco-friendly to ride a bike rather than drive a car. But it seems disengenous to say that riding a bike is the path to being "green" as the blog's author claims. According to him, "”Carless = green. Car = not green. Carless = beyond petroleum (in the truest sense). Car = you destroy the planet a little bit each day." 

If only it were that black and white, that simple. If only we could come up with a nifty equation that fixes all the issues. Let's just all get rid of our cars and then everything will be better. Bullshit. First, going carless is not going beyond petroleum. Let's take a look at the products that folks use on a daily basis that contain petroleum: 

Actually, let's not. Because I don't have the space to list them all out. And we've all seen these lists before, lists intended to shock and astound us. "I didn't know there was petroleum products in my <insert shocking product here>." 

We can all make better choices, for sure, but to try to simplify it as the blog author does, is just hypocritical. 
And let me just put out there that I am not a fan of big oil. I am not a fan of driving my car under many circumstances. Hell, I ride my bike to work every day, year round. In ALASKA! But I've long since disabused myself of the notion that my riding a bike is going to save the planet or something. 

And maybe that's where my point of view differs from so many dedicated bike commuters. I don't envision myself as some eco-warrior with a point to prove. I commute the way I do for a number of reasons, the primary ones being: 

  1. I am cheap. Rather, I live on a tight budget and while I could figure out a way to afford to drive a car to work, I would rather use that money for other things. So, I am cheap so I commute in the cheapest manner possible. 
  2. This is the more important reason. I commute by bike because I love doing it. I love that it gets me out into the world in all kinds of weather. It gives me a chance to see and experience things I wouldn't otherwise get to. It allows me time to prepare for the day and let the day go. It makes me feel better physically and mentally. It keeps me on an even emotional keel. 

So, if it came out that riding my bike was harder on the environment than driving a car, I'd still do it. I'd still do it as long as it continued to make me feel good and it was still cheap. 
Maybe I've just gotten cynical in my old age. I really don't think that any individual can do much to change the course of things anymore. I can stop buying products from companies whose politics differ from my own, but there are a couple of issues there. First, a single person's abstinence isn't going to make any difference in the overall scheme. Some one else will step in to pick up the slack. Secondly, I might boycott a company's products, say I refuse to buy anything produced by BP. Great, but there is no way that we can know just how many companies and holding corporations BP owns, how many products BP products make their way into, how far down the rabbit hole it goes. The only way around it is to only consume those things that we produce ourselves. But is that realistic? 

It ain't easy being green. And maybe the idea of being green is just as dangerous overall as not being green. I mean, hasn't the whole eco-consciousness thing been turned into nothing much more than a clever marketing tool for the hip, young, and moderately affluent? Doesn't following a movement, whatever that movement happens to be, end up leading to the same types of issues that the movement was trying to deal with? Maybe the better way is to go all isolationist - do what you do for your own reasons and for your own happiness and screw everyone else and what they think. Maybe. 

Maybe I'm just full of bullshit and vinegar today. Maybe I'm just being contrary. Maybe I'm thinking about things like the annual bike to work day and how so many folks ride that one day a year and then congratulate themselves for being green and good world citizens - but the folks who are out there every day, rain or shine, who are riding for their own reasons and not shouting about it from the rooftops don't get recognized. 

And what is it that I'm doing with this blog? I'm standing on the mountain top, letting my ego shout out my good deeds. Hmmm...
Carry on. 

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