Smile Politely

Living Green While Working Proves Difficult

In the past several years, we’ve seen a growing trend in sustainability and in “living green.” Eco-cups to eco-diapers abound. The university-run Bevier Café recently adopted SpudWare, biodegradable cutlery made from potato starch and soy oil. More and more people are going vegetarian. As far as trends go, one that promotes a more sustainable lifestyle is fine by me. It’s about time that we all realize the deleterious effect we’re having on our planet. However, it’s difficult to ignore the backlash against the environmentalist movement. It’s easy to simply say that this backlash is coming from oil tycoons, car manufacturers and corporate executives in the minority; yet it’s also coming from a very large and important part of our country — the working class. Environmentalists are perceived as elite, privileged, unemployed hippies. Now, exactly how all that works out is a mystery, but this misconception had to have come from somewhere.

A large part of this misconception is the idea that “living green” is really a luxury, one that many people cannot afford. At the end of the day, shopping at Wal-Mart is so much cheaper than shopping at an organic grocery store. Then you say, “at what costs,” right? Aggressive de-unionizing tactics, factory farmed poultry, beef and pork, produce that has traveled thousands upon thousands of miles, and the list goes on. But none of these concerns are the immediate, pressing needs of many families, especially considering the economy today. Now, this is not to say that some of these families don’t lead sustainable lives, but they are by far in the minority.

On top of the financial reasons against the environmentalist movement, we’ve got to address the fact that corporations like Wal-Mart, Monsanto and Shell employ a vast number of people. As evil and greedy as we may think these companies are, the truth is that is they provide an opportunity for many people to make ends meet. These people are not the wealthy corporate executives, but they are “average” people with families whom they struggle to provide for. We’ve all heard the argument that adopting more sustainable practices will eventually create more jobs and I completely agree; but for many, the key word there is eventually.

What does that do for those struggling right now?

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