Dave Pollard from How to Save the World, lists his answers to the question: What Can I Do Now?. Of course you should go there and read all of his and what he says about them, but there is one, I think, which is the key. If everyone did this, so much suffering and grief could be prevented.
Use Less Stuff: Consumerism is doubly addictive -- you get the fleeting pleasure of acquiring something, and then you have to work harder and earn more money for The Man so you can pay off the debt you incurred to buy it. Learn to live a Radically Simple life -- buy better quality stuff that lasts longer, make your own meals instead of using processed foods, think before you buy, don't get into debt (only buy when you have the cash in your account), buy local rather than imported goods (especially stuff from countries that have poor social and environmental standards), complain about excessive packaging, recycle, reuse, buy used, share tools with neighbours, turn off the lights, cover the pool, use energy-efficient lighting, keep your tires inflated, carpool, walk or bike instead of driving -- you know what to do. Make a list, draw up a schedule, and do it.
Or, in other words:
- Repair and Reuse
So simple, and yet for some reason they never teach it in school. Why is that?
Now, I'm not saying everyone should live in a tent, only own three pairs of underwear, and sell their CD collection, but doesn't it make sence to think about what you buy before you buy it and consider a few things:
- Do I need this or do I just want it?
- If I need it, can I somehow reduce my dependancy on it, so that I don't need it anymore, or at least need less of it?
- If I need it, are there options that are less destructive?
- If I only want it, why do I want it? Is it something that truly makes me happy, or just something to distract me from the rest of my miserable life? If so, would it be cheaper in the long-run to seek some professional mental help and maybe solve this problem once and for all?
- If I only want it, and it will truely make me happy, can I truly justify the damage it will do to the earth? Does purchasing this streangthen an irresponsible company, bent on manipulating all the people of the earth to participate in their own self-destruction? If so, are there alternatives that don't do that?
- If I only want it, how many hours am I going to have to prostitute my mind, skills, time and effort to pay for it? Is there something else I would rather do with that time? Do I still want it?
- Regardless of if it is want or need, do I already have an older one, or a broken one I can fix? Can I buy it second hand?
- When I'm done with it what will happen to it? Can it be recycled, will it sit-in a land-fill, will it be sent to some developing country with less stringent environmental regulations, where they need the money more than a poison-free drinking supply?
If, after thinking about all of these things, you still buy it, I promise I wont complain. I still buy sometimes even though I know the conciqunces. I have a nine-month old computer, and a brand-spanking new digital camera added to my list of environmental crimes. Sometimes we're weak, but when you think about these things, more often than not, it is much easier to be strong.
One method I have started to get me to think more about it, is my voluntary consumption tax. Since politicians don't seem interested in taxing consumption (because they would be crucified by all of us if they did), I have decided to take it upon myself.
For everything I buy, I set aside a certain percentage of the price to donate to some organization or cause that will help to clean-up after the damage I have done.
My system is very imperfect, and quite subjective in many cases, but I am trying to figure out some good guidelines. Basically, there are two main categories.
- Don't Need
Those things in the need category get taxed less, if anything. What percentage is based on how much damage the item does. I need soap, but I don't need soap with toxic chemicals in it. If I buy the environmentally friendly soap, I pay less tax. If I am in a hurry, or just lazy, and I buy my soap at the 7-11 (never happens), I pay more tax, because I am contributing more to problems that someone has to clean up, and I am pretty sure it aint going to be the manufacturer.
The things in the want category are taxed higher, based mostly on how much damage I think it is doing. My new camera is terrible, and is taxed accordingly. 100%. A sweet treat from the local co-op is a want, but they are generally good about stocking things that have less impact, and buying from the co-op is doing less damage than buying from Seiyu, the Wal-Mart subsidiary down the street. Therefore, I tax myself less on that, but more than I would if it was something I need to keep myself from starving to death, and less than I would if I had bought the same thing at the Seiyu.
Some things may be needs, but they are only needs because I have been irresponsible. A taxi ride home because I missed the last train? I need it, but if I would have paid more attention to the clock, I could have saved my self the $30 taxi-fare, and the $30 consumption tax to be donated to some worthy agency providing relief to Iraqi citizens whose lives are screwed because of my dependance on their crazy ex-leader's oil supply.
Like I say, it is a very imperfect system, and I have been more or less playing it by ear. I also have not even begun to figure out which are the best organizations to file these "taxes" with. The piggy-bank is getting stuffed up, but more importantly, it forces me to think about everything I buy, and consider not just the sale price on the sticker, but the true cost to the environment. This in turn translates to less consumption, and that's how I can afford to raise my own consumption taxes, and why I have so much time to think this up in the first place.