Saturday, July 14, 2007

Feeling Blue About Going Green

The recent LiveEarth concert extravaganza left me with two burning questions:

#1. Keith Urban—the guy sings like a rocker, looks like a rocker and most definitely plays guitar like a rocker. So why, oh why, is he a country musician?
#2. Perhaps more importantly, I asked myself, What more can I do to help the environment?

Cameron Diaz and other environmental heavyweights offered no enlightenment on conundrum #1 but peddled various solutions for #2:
* Install compact fluorescent light bulbs. Done it. And, FYI Cameron, they don’t last for 5 years (or, in my experience, for even 5 months)
* Lower your thermostat and wear more sweaters in cooler months. Done it. And, FYI Cameron, this is sort of a joke for people who freeze their asses off during Chicago winters.
* Burn fewer fossil fuels. Done it. And, FYI Cameron, public transportation sucks. It’s hard to look red carpet-ready in 3-inch stilettos when you have a mile-long walk to the train station.

My husband and I scratched our heads for more ways we could personally stave off a global climate crisis. We tried to gut it out sans air conditioning during last week’s heat wave but caved when the temperature in our condo topped 90 degrees. To offset this wanton emission of carbons, we decided to try to take shorter showers and think about recycling.

And then today I came across this headline in the Chicago Tribune: “BP gets break on dumping in lake.” Staff reporter Michael Hawthorne continued: “The massive BP oil refinery in Whiting, Ind., is planning to dump significantly more ammonia and industrial sludge into Lake Michigan, running counter to years of efforts to clean up the Great Lakes.” (Find the complete story at,1,647384.story?coll=chi-news-hed)

LiveEarth would have us believe in platitudes like “we’re all in this together” or “small changes can make a big difference” or “one person can make an impact.” I appreciate the sentiment, but what a load of crap. The truth is money—and corporate interests—talks. We the people, as individuals, can’t begin to unplug enough cell phone chargers, plant enough trees, or pile on enough woolens to compensate for corporate pollution.

We can not save the polar ice caps—one Prius at a time—as long as government and regulatory bodies are beholden to the interests of corporate giants. Besides the promise of 80 new jobs, I don’t know what other carrots BP dangled in front of the state of Indiana or, more likely, what actions it threatened if its demands weren’t met (“Fine, you don’t like our toxic waste, we’ll move our business to Mexico”). I do know, thanks to the Tribune, that “the company will now be allowed to dump an average of 1,584 pounds of ammonia and 4,925 pounds of sludge into Lake Michigan every day. The additional sludge is the maximum allowed under federal guidelines.”

By the way, Cameron, that’s my drinking water supply. You still think it’s a good idea I cut back on my bottled H2O?

Can you sense that I’m feeling more than a little duped? The inconvenient truth, when it comes to global warming, is that big changes will require a big commitment from big government and big business. Whether that will actually happen is the biggest question of all.


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