Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Environment - the new impure thoughts

First of all, a disclaimer. While I don't really care about environment in any meaningful way and certainly wouldn't inconvenience myself for any environmental reason whatsoever, I don't think it's a bad thing that some people do care. If those people manage to give me a good opportunity to do something enviromentally useful without being inconvenienced much, I look at it as a positive thing.

I don't own a car and I mostly use fluorescent light bulbs because somebody out there arranged for the city of Helsinki to have enough transportation so that I don't usually need a car to go anywhere, and somebody developed and started selling fluorescent light bulbs. I could smugly say that I do this and many other environmentally-friendly things (such as living in an apartment building close to the center of the city, or having no children) for the environment, but I just don't care enough. Instead I can be and am smug about other things, the ones that I do care about: not needing to look for parking space, getting more light for less electricity (and a smaller electricity bill), saving oil for the airplanes, and keeping the traffic manageable (IMO a city Helsinki's size or bigger cannot function very well if everyone is moving around by car and it's only fair if I leave driving to those who need it more than I do).

I don't consider it bad when other people brag about how environmentally-friendly they are when they are just doing whatever they want to do and it happens to benefit the environment in some way or another. It's always fun to say "look at the virtuous me!", and I am sure I do that often enough on other issues. Problem is, for a lot of people the environment seems to have become a "look at those evil sinners!" thing, and a rather alarmingly popular one.

Again - I don't in any way disapprove of caring about environment as such, but I think that the environment has become a new substitute for impure thoughts: an easy way to disapprove of people everywhere, whatever they do. Just like every person has some kind of impure thoughts, every person does something bad for the environment, such as for example gets born to begin with. It's hard to disapprove of fellow citizens having been born, although some especially efficient nutjobs manage that as well, but look at the range of things you can frown upon! You can disapprove of almost any purchase or consumption of anything, of having children, of travel, of living in the country, of immigration, of foreign food, of meat - you name it.

And, of course, one usually disapproves of what other people do, not of what one does oneself. The childfree get to disapprove of those who have children (because, you know, we all decided to be childfree for the sake of the environment only). The people like myself, who live near the center of the city, use public transportation and like to fly to various places on vacation several times a year get to disapprove of a person who drives his or her car from Vantaa to Espoo to work every day. A person who lives alone in a one-family home and never goes anywhere gets to disapprove of air travelers. A person who lives in the middle of nowhere and drives 50 miles to work and 50 miles back every day in a regular car gets to disapprove of a person who drives 5 miles to work and 5 miles back every day in a SUV.

Most people just live their lives as they see fit, pay lip service to the environment, and then a lot of them accuse other people of living their lives as they see fit and paying lip service to the environment. When people give something up for the environment (or indeed for any other reason), they naturally tend to give up things that are of little or no importance to them, but they also tend to tell other people what kind of things they should give up without giving any thought to what is important to those other people.

Occasional disapproval of other people having fun is in itself a very popular and traditional form of amusement (which is probably why so many religions frown on masturbation), but IMO it really shouldn't become a national sport, much less an international one.

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