Looking at the problems and solutions
Story and Doodles by Justin “Scrappers” Morrison // @scrappers
Before I was brainwashed and trained to consume. Before I became a human cash crop feeding a greed-based economic system. Before I became the leading cause of climate change. Two-hundred-fifty-two million years before I made my first mistake, a mass extinction happened. Like most of the five mass extinctions, this one was caused by carbon in the atmosphere. It warmed the planet by five degrees and killed 97 percent of life on Earth. As a typical middle-class consumer, I am adding that same amount of carbon to the atmosphere, and I’m doing it 10 times faster than the last extinction. I’m trying to kill myself.
Why am I doing this? Honestly, I’m not sure. I’m trying to understand as I write these words to you. My lifestyle is killing my planet and ultimately killing you too. This is not a suicide letter, because I’m trying to snap out of this doomed slumber that’s brought me to the edge of extinction. At some point I stopped thinking for myself: I got in line, learned to get intoxicated, allowed fake people on screens to tell me what to want, grew into a lifestyle that ignored the impact each step I took left on Earth, beyond Nature’s bounty and the sort of common sense built into my personal wildness.
I am trying to break free from this deadly lifestyle. I know I’m not alone. I know you try. I hear you talk about growing kale in your garden, but you still buy frozen pizza from the mega-market. I see the frustration and hypocrisy with ourselves. We are not perfect, but we can make progress. I’ve learned that we hit bottom when we stop digging. Let’s raise our heads up out of this consumption pit we’ve dug and get back to a lifestyle that isn’t suicidal.
I need to walk, bike, and use mass transit when I travel, or limit my total travel. My fossil fuel-powered transportation lifestyle gives off CO2 emissions, which is the leading cause of global warming, and global warming is the leading cause of extinction. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports 60 percent of CO2 emissions from transportation are from sports utility vehicles like trucks, vans, and other “adventuremobiles.” This is a big pill to swallow, but if I love the environment so much I need to stop driving and flying so much.
30% of the CO2 emissions Killing our Planet are from U.S. Transportation
I need to stop using dirty electricity. About 30 percent of CO2 emissions come from generating electric power mostly used at home. Hawai’i primarily burns diesel fuel to generate electric power, and most other states burn coal, “natural” gas, and nuclear nonsense. So even if I drive a 100 percent electric car across Texas, if I’m charging my phone at a gas station while hiking the Appalachian Trail, if I’m toasting a bagel in Wyoming...I’m still killing the planet with dirty electricity.
So how do I stop? Some baby steps would be to turn the lights off when I’m not using them, entertain myself with a book rather than a screen, dress (or undress) for the temperature while inside rather than using the heater or air conditioner, turn the water heater temperature down, and so on... A bigger step would be insisting on paying more for renewable solar and wind energy.
What’s an even bigger step? Take a few steps backwards, evolutionarily. I don’t mean go full caveman, but maybe I could sleep when it’s dark and do my work when it’s light. My work could be more about chopping firewood and recharging the electric batteries with a stationary bike generator… Rather than my work hours being spent standing in the social media tarpit like a bored animal waiting for extinction.
Make Love, Not Babies!
Right now, our planet’s human population is over 7.3 billion. According to United Nations predictions, we could reach 9.7 billion people by 2050, and over 11 billion by 2100. Scientists think our planet can only support 9-10 billion people. So what happens when we go over that number?
It sounds like wild apocalyptic science fiction, but the future I had is not here for my 10-year-old son. When he’s my age, the Earth’s human population will run out of natural resources. I’m talking about starvation, death by pollution, death by war, and very real enslavery to commercial agriculture. He will inherit our truly trashed planet and have to fight in real wars, killing or being killed by armed slaves to secure agricultural land and clean water for the big businesses that keep these slaves fed and protected. Thirty years from now, babies will grow to be slaves to a greed-based economic system. Heck, has it already happened? Is it happening to me? I am pretty “brand-loyal.”
You might be thinking, “But what if enlightened people like me stop making babies, but every other cash-crop human zombie keeps getting preg-o-rante?” Welp, if you’re so enlightened, maybe get over yourself and adopt a baby instead of adding to the population problem. Or, at the very least, try to practice safe sex, limiting human footprints on our planet as it runs down the road, puttering on gas fumes, right off the cliff of extinction.
Look at the Real Price Tag
I’m such a brainwashed consumer zombie that I don’t even look at the price tag of most things I buy, and I totally don’t look at the ecological price. If I was brave enough to look at the true price tag, I’d see the amount of trash, deforestation, water pollution, or fossil fuels burned to move the things I buy.
I need to look at the waste I’ve created with each purchase. The third-largest contributor to CO2 emissions, following the United States and China, is food waste that adds up to 3.3 billion tons of CO2 a year. This much goes into making and moving food that becomes trash! New Rule: I can’t leave the table until my plate is clean, or even better, I’m going to put less on the table.
I need to avoid single-use packaging by reusing containers. That means going to the store with more than a canvas bag. I need to bring reusable bags for bulk oatmeal and beans, reusable bottles for soap and peanut butter refills, and containers and utensils for lunch from the hot bar (I’m looking at you, vegan mac and cheese).
I need to look at where things come from. For example, the palm oil in my cookies, candy, toothpaste, and snacks comes from commercial agriculture operations that are deforesting the Amazon rainforest. That means I’m personally responsible for the extinction of animals and people. I’m only looking at the flavor options on the label. I need to look at the deeper realities of what I buy.
Change, or Die!
I need to rethink my lifestyle. Most “things” I do cause pollution: traveling, shopping, eating, making love, and even chilling out watching TV. So here are some lifestyle changes I’m going to practice more: