Tips for cutting energy use and material consumption are always welcome, and we now have an e-book titled “Painless Green: 111 Tips to Help the Environment, Lower Your Carbon Footprint, Cut Your Budget, and Improve Your Quality of Life – With No Negative Impact on Your Lifestyle.” Tips include house modifications such as: plugs on unused electric sockets in winter to cut off cold air from outdoors, windows and doors proofed against drafts, no more bottled water, print on both sides of computer paper, and no more dishwasher dry cycle.
While I support useful incremental actions, there are two big reasons why the 111 tips won’t make much difference. My experiences in politics and on this blog show me that only about one in ten people will voluntarily change consumption behavior when saving the planet is his only incentive. It’s too much trouble, it won’t make a difference because no one else is going to change his habits, and the big dogs in the media and politics say we should consume more to boost the economy.
The second reason for the tips’ impotence is the emphasis on the 111′s “painless” character. In sports coaches told us “No pain, no gain,” and we ran through walls to be the best we could be. The science is clear that mankind’s consuming too much over past decades had changed Earth’s climate, with uncertain consequences playing out and still to come. Our economy needs to downshift quickly towards consuming much less energy as our best shot to slow unfolding of those consequences. Everyone needs to share in the pain those adjustments will bring. A national carbon tax that would double the price of energy for all Americans would be an efficient way to give everyone price incentives we understand to encourage us to consume less, now.
What are the chances of an American carbon tax? Slim to none. Republicans and Democrats broadcast the proven mantra of more for everyone, particularly your friends, and the ship of state continues sailing into a large, dangerous storm. Today’s anniversary of Bin Laden’s attacks remind us that the country responds well to dramatic events that happen in short time frames, but, like the frog in water that is gradually heated, not so well to really big, slow-developing threats.