I read a disturbing article from Reuters this week, about children in Fukushima prefecture not being allowed outside to play, even two years after the disaster. This is beyond sad, and I can’t imaging trying to raise Baby M in an environment where he had to be afraid of the air.
Since Fukushima, of course, there has been a lot of controversy about nuclear power, and its environmental and human impacts, especially when things go wrong. There are a lot of vocal people who completely oppose nuclear power, under any circumstances. I can see their point, and sympathize with it.
However, a lot of those same folks are also very vocally against the tar sands projects in northern Alberta, and the Keystone XL pipeline that is proposed to take bitumen from Alberta to refineries in the US.
I have a bit of an issue with this. If you are living in a climate-controlled house in North America, drive a car, wear clothing you did not make yourself, and/or eating anything you didn’t grow, you need to recognize that you, too, are dependent on outside energy, and that energy most likely comes from petroleum, or, in many parts of the US, nuclear generation.
“Oh,” you say, “I have a windmill and drive an electric car”.
Not good enough. The metals and minerals in your car and your windmill (and your solar panels and even your woodstove) were mined, and were mined using diesel. The waste from the smelting still ended up in the environment, though probably in China, where it’s easier to forget. I’ve read somewhere that an electric car takes so many resources to make that, in terms of total lifetime environmental damage caused by a vehicle, you are better off buying a second-hand car, even if it’s less fuel efficient. As long as we continue to drive and live in big houses and eat food grown elsewhere, even if we slap some solar panels on the roof, there will be more generating plants, more tar sands expansion, more mines, and more environmental damage.
The fact of the matter is that windmills and solar panels and electric cars aren’t really a solution. People don’t like to think about the real solution, which is to simply reduce consumption. No more new wardrobes every season, or new iPhones every two years or new cars every three years, even if they’re electric. No more strawberries in Saskatchewan in January. We need to learn to do without, or, if we can’t, to buy well-made goods that will last for generations. We need to start repairing things when they break. We need to take some responsibility for our food supply.
Now, I’m no angel, here. I drive a car to work, and heat my house with a furnace. We grow a lot of food here, but we buy a lot, too…some of it even imported. It’s hard to live a low-resource lifestyle in a country that’s set up for commuting and consumption. But I sure get sick of seeing people drive up to join in a tar sands protest, or type furious internet comments about nuclear disasters on their brand new phones. We’re all part of the problem, but until we define what, exactly, the real problem is, there won’t be any viable solutions. So maybe it’s time to face our own hypocrisy and start working towards low-consumption lifestyles. Then we can talk about tar sands protests.