The New University published an article entitled “10 Easy Ways to Go Green” on Jan. 12. As the author explained, it was intended as a list of ways in which students can “go green” without putting in a “strenuous effort” or summoning the “willpower” to scale back their consumption to sustainable levels. “Going green” may be “in” right now, but it is hardly slowing our rapid descent into hell. The mantra of “going green” is designed primarily to put a happy face on capitalism; that is, to make us feel better about our role in the global economy without critically confronting how our behavior leads to the devastation of our ecosystem, labor exploitation and the commodification of social relationships.
While by no means a comprehensive list, below is an alternate list of things each and every one of you can do to resist the negative impact you have on our ecosystem. Incorporating these suggestions into your everyday life may be difficult, even painful, but it is possible and absolutely necessary for the survival of the planet and the plants, humans and non-humans inhabiting it.
1. Stop using your cell phone, computer and TV: On top of the power consumption, the production of these “tools” leads to intense environmental and labor exploitation and often funds warlord activity in Africa and disposal results in the seepage of toxic chemicals into our water supply. Even keeping your cell phones on is deadly: every year, as many as 50 million birds die from collisions with cell phone towers and power lines.
2. Buy local: It is not enough to take reusable bags to the grocery store without examining the processes behind food production. The World Trade Organization’s policies have led to increases in the use of chemical fertilizers and engineered crops, which damage local ecosystems through runoff, deforestation and increased susceptibility to crop failure. Most foodstuffs are grown half-way across the world, leaving behind a huge footprint even for “organic” foods. Agricultural policies promoted by the United States Agency for International Development, the WTO and the North American Free Trade Agreement have led to the displacement of small farmers and indigenous people throughout the world.
3. Don’t consume animal products: The consumption of animal products (even eggs or milk) leaves a huge footprint. Cattle “production” uses up large amounts of grains and large tracts of land, which could be used to fight hunger in our communities and around the world. Much of our meat comes from overseas, and the delivery of meat to grocery stores leads to a lot of unnecessary pollution.
4. Dive into dumpsters: We cannot ignore that much of the food brought to market inevitably ends up in the trash. Looking in dumpsters at night can yield a plethora of free, edible food. Many supermarkets have taken to locking dumpsters, which enterprising young college students can find a way around.
5. Ride a bike: While car culture has all but completely consumed California, much of Orange County is still bike-accessible, letting you experience your community more intimately than you can with the windows rolled up. Car culture has led to rapid construction and expansion of roads and parking lots, which pave over (destroy) natural habitats, displacing fauna and leaving our ecosystems at risk. You can commute from Fountain Valley or Mission Viejo in an hour, which can be faster than driving during rush hour.
6. Start a garden: If you have a backyard, perma-culture systems are easy to construct, and you can often utilize fish, gray water and compost into a sustainable, diverse ecosystem. By growing your own food, you can provide much of the food you need for a healthy diet, spend less time working at a miserable job and re-establish a connection with the land, which is being extinguished by housing developments and commercial agriculture.
7. Support native flora and fauna: Having green grass all year round not only wastes large amounts of water, it is also damaging to the local ecosystem by replacing natural habitats where plants and animals can flourish. You can also “guerrilla garden” by planting native wildflowers in barren soil, in the grass or anywhere else that needs more color. Think about how beautiful Aldrich Park would be with California redbuds and concha lilacs growing naturally!
8. Re-evaluate your consumption: Buying from thrift stores is trendy, but does not challenge our culture of consumption. Buying second-hand still requires transportation (our transportation to the store, transportation of goods and transportation of workers). One alternative is the “Really, Really Free Market:” people share what they can and take what they need, while coming together as a community invested in mutual survival. There was one Free Market in Santa Ana on Black Friday last fall and there will be more in the spring — or even better, start your own!
9. Reuse everything: Even if you follow the above steps, unfortunately you may still be left buying things or ending up with waste, and consumers are responsible for only a small portion of waste and pollution. But you’d be surprised how many things can be reused! Tofu containers can be used as bowls, old bike tubes can be cut up and used as rubber bands and cardboard boxes can be used for stencils; you can furnish your entire apartment with milk crates and dumpster wood. A little creativity can go a long way.
10. Escape from denial, and start acting: Don’t pretend that politicians will save our planet, or that bureaucratic, hierarchical “activist” organizations will either. Ultimately, only direct action will keep our land base healthy. Derrick Jensen argues that the only way to save salmon is to blow up dams, and groups like the Earth Liberation Front have taken matters into their own hands. While neither promoting nor discouraging such action, I will instead only suggest you keep in mind the following maxim: “There is no justice, just us.” With that in mind, you can decide for yourself what you are capable of and willing to do. The fate of the world quite literally rests in your hands.
Taking the first steps toward true sustainability is difficult, but not impossible. Check out Santa Ana Food Not Bombs (Sundays at 3 p.m., Ross and Civic Center in Santa Ana and coming soon to UC Irvine) or come to the “Earth First! Roadshow” on Feb. 21 on campus. Your friendly neighborhood anarchists and environmentalists are here to offer support and suggestions as you make your transition to a less destructive way of living and join the resistance against ecological (and human) domination.
John Bruning is a graduate student in the department of sociology. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Filed Under: Opinion