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Zalaznick: Quit causing hurricanes

Is swapping a SUV for a hybrid a good trade?

That’s probably a good deal for the environment, and therefore the human race, but not one most American Hummer and Suburban owners are quite ready to make first thing tomorrow morning.

I own a gas-guzzling 4-Runner. I cringe a bit at the pumps, but I’m not ready to come careening down an icy, blizzard-blasted Vail Pass in a two-wheel-drive hybrid.



Sorry.

We’re being asked to change our behavior in all sorts of ways these days and some of us have yet to plug a Bluetooth headset into our ears 24 hours a day or upgrade to an iPhone. If we can’t handle this, we may not have enough mental energy for all the adjustments we have to make to stop global warming, save the whales and try not to run out of water.



That’s no excuse not to recycle or conserve. I’ve written before that failure to recycle should be a misdemeanor (the law would be passed in exchange for taking most drug and marriage laws off the books). I believe cash-guzzling trash haulers should be forced to spend a little extra money to provide curbside recycling everywhere in America.

Eventually, wasting energy should also be punished by fines (in exchange for finding and repealing other counter-productive laws).

But environmentalists and others who chastise us for our less-than-ultra-green lifestyles sometimes ignore reality when they think we Americans, who cherish convenience and are slow to face the shortcomings of our society, are going to fill our monster trucks with vegetable oil, rush out to buy tens of thousands of dollars worth of solar panels and hop on the roof to install them after a bracing morning of tending to our compost heaps, of course.



That’s a dreamy concept, especially after six years of an administration, Congress and right-wing commentators who’ve successfully characterized environmentalists as obstructionist criminals in the minds of most Americans. This lazy, short-sighted cabal has also refused to ask us to inconvenience ourselves in the slightest while our fellow Americans are dying in droves in Iraq.

W. and his apologists have convinced us environmental groups, even mainstream organizations like the World Wildlife Foundation, are more worried about vanishing snails and shrubs than the well-being of small businessmen just trying to make a buck to send their kids to college.

And we, meanwhile, have convinced ourselves we’re more worried about Paris Hilton and Rosie O’Donnell than plummeting snowpack and dying coral reefs.

Most people haven’t even given a thought to switching to compact fluorescent lights and that’s a relatively inexpensive and convenient change in behavior. In fact, the lights are supposed to save us money because they last longer and use less energy.

Makes complete sense doesn’t it? We should be emptying the shelves of the local hardware store, right? They’re so cheap and convenient, in fact, even Congress ” often, whether Democrat or Republican, at the tail end of progress ” has caught on and may eventually ban the light bulbs that illuminate our homes so inefficiently.

I’m not making an excuse for inactivity, just proposing the main reason for the lukewarm response to going green. Those pushing for change will be more successful if they expect and gear their message toward fears that are flimsy rather than intense and progress that’s sluggish rather than revolutionary.

Drastic measures only occur when people sense threats and even those take time ” such as reforming our immigration system and fighting terror and banishing bigotry. Most people don’t yet consider climate change and ecological degradation as likely to begin sullying their American dreams soon.

Part of that dream is that there are no consequences for American exceptionalism.

We still have a hard time understanding how our behavior melts icebergs, even when Al Gore’s yelling at us.

Hey, most of us can’t even connect our behavior to problems in our own neighborhoods, let alone comprehend how not turning off the lights causes monster hurricanes like Katrina.

Assistant Managing Editor Matt Zalaznick can be reached at 748-2926, or mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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