As environmentalism continues to grow in prominence, more and more of us are trying to live a “greener” lifestyle. But the more “eco-friendly” you try to become, the more likely you find yourself confused and frustrated by the green message.
Have you tried giving up your bright and cheery incandescent light bulbs to save energy only to learn that their gloomy-but-efficient compact fluorescent replacements contain mercury? Perhaps you’ve tried to free up space in landfills by foregoing the ease and convenience of disposable diapers only to be criticized for the huge quantities of energy and water consumed in laundering those nasty cloth diapers. Even voicing support for renewable energy no longer seems to be green enough, as angry environmentalists protest the development of “pristine lands” for wind farms and solar power plants.
Why is it that no matter what sacrifices you make to try to reduce your “environmental footprint,” it never seems to be enough? Well, consider why it is that you have an “environmental footprint” in the first place. Everything we do to sustain our lives has an impact on nature. Every value we create to advance our well-being, every ounce of food we grow, every structure we build, every iPhone we manufacture is produced by extracting raw materials and reshaping them to serve our needs. Every good thing in our lives comes from altering nature for our own benefit.
From the perspective of human life and happiness, a big “environmental footprint” is an enormous positive. This is why people in India and China are striving to increase theirs: to build better roads, more cars and computers, new factories and power plants and hospitals. But for environmentalism, the size of your “footprint” is the measure of your guilt. Nature, according to green philosophy, is something to be left alone to be preserved untouched by human activity. Their notion of an “environmental footprint” is intended as a measure of how much you “disturb” nature, with disturbing nature viewed as a sin requiring atonement. Just as the Christian concept of original sin conveys the message that human beings are stained with evil simply for having been born, the green concept of an “environmental footprint” implies that you should feel guilty for your very existence.
It should hardly be any surprise, then, that nothing you do to try to lighten your “footprint” will ever be deemed satisfactory. So long as you are still pursuing life-sustaining activities, whatever you do to reduce your impact on nature in one respect (e.g., cloth diapers) will simply lead to other impacts in other respects (e.g., water use) like some perverse game of green whack-a-mole and will be attacked and condemned by greens outraged at whatever “footprint” remains. So long as you still have some “footprint,” further penance is required; so long as you are still alive, no degree of sacrifice can erase your guilt. The only way to leave no “footprint” would be to die—a conclusion that is not lost on many green ideologues
(see more at icecap.us)