All over Europe towns and villages have 2-3 windmills along with solar tiles on many roofs, trash collection includes not only recycling but compost and no one considers going shopping without their own bags. Plastic, glass, and paper are recycled everywhere, from restaurants to train stations to parks. Take-out food arrives with biodegradable wooden utensils and even from food trucks, if you are eating nearby, they give you real cutlery and plates. They seem to care passionately about what’s in the food, water and spread on the fields for fertilizer. In Germany, there are even huge fines for cutting down a tree without an arborist declaring it is necessary and, unless you are allergic, for killing pollinators like bees, wasps, or butterflies.
Why aren’t we further along in the US on these things? Is it because they have so little land, they’ve learned how to care for it? I think that’s very likely. In addition, what I most notice is how no one complains about being inconvenienced by these things. I believe in the US we have come to value convenience over many more important things. It’s more convenient not to have to do the dishes, to simply throw all the garbage in the same bag, and let someone else bag up the shopping. It’s more convenient to throw on more fertilizer than learn to husband the land or buy bottled water than work toward making it clean. It often seems we prefer the convenience of having everything easy and ready-made to the work required to actually live compassionately, sustainably, and interdependently with each other and our beautiful earth.
Unfortunately, it is actually more convenient to drive our cars, one person at a time than to carpool, take public transportation or ride bikes because our vast road system, that furthers our car culture and dependence on fossil fuels, has made caring for our air and water inconvenient. Everyone relies on conveniently available workers, jobs, customers, and profit. Yet without a healthy earth where will the jobs, workers, customers and profit come from
I believe that in the US we have built a culture that seeks short-term results more often then we are willing to work toward long-term health and viability, We value convenience over the long-term sustainability of the earth. We value this year’s profit over an economy that recognizes our interdependence with each other. We value our own comfort over a lifestyle which assures that our great-grandchildren will inherit something beautiful and that they too may prosper.
You may already be doing all these things. Congratulations, good for you! You are part of the solution! I do know that this can still include me. I, too, can be seduced by the convenient. Each time I get to ask myself, what do I value? What is really important to me. And are my actions in alignment with those values? I like to think of it as voting with my time, attention, work, and money. What values are you voting for with your life?