The #1 thing you can do for the environment this year is…
February 18, 2008, 10:52 am by bottleman. Filed under: making a difference, politics.

VOTE. And if I can’t can’t convince you, how about flickr artiste magandafille?

photo by flickr user magandafille licensed under creative commons, see http://flickr.com/photos/magandafille/543043278/

Somehow I feel less cynical when I look at this photo.

Generally when it comes to greening up our lives, we tend to overestimate the impact of our sentiments, and underestimate the impact of our actions — as if the incredible sincerity with which you purchased that locally grown organic carrot (or, yummier still, wildcrafted venison!) somehow makes up for heating your 5000 square foot “cottage.”

I have news for you: it doesn’t. Every little change doesn’t make a difference, because a lot of the big decisions overrule them completely. Fortunately, making a big difference doesn’t have to be a lot of work, as I’ve pointed out before.

Case in point: the current US president. It doesn’t matter where you are on the political spectrum, there’s little doubt that if Al Gore had been president for the past 7 years (he did win the popular vote in 2000, remember) that the country’s environmental policies would be vastly different now. The US would probably be participating willingly in environmental treaties instead of snubbing them; there would have been a huge movement towards sustainable energy development; and the amount of political interference in work by federal agency scientists would be vastly reduced. The country would be heading in a considerably different direction.

All you need to do is vote — go somewhere, scribble on a paper form or touch a few computer buttons — to change that. If you can change the administration you can have all the little indulgences you want — say, a non-local carrot — and you’ll still come out looking green.

Reflecting on this makes me feel so silly about the progressive cry back in those heady days of protest against the WTO. The idea then was that there was no real difference between the two major American political parties; one giant protest puppet appearing in a political convention was literally two-headed… one head for Bush, the other for Gore. They shared the same spine, which was a brilliant metaphor by the puppet artist, but totally off base as a prediction. There would have a been a big difference.


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