Mr. Green Car: Green opinion

January 27, 2010

By Allen Penticoff

Free-lance Writer

If you write a column called Mr. Green Car, it goes without saying that you are probably an environmentalist. I have been one since junior high school in the 1960s, and have seen no reason to give it up.

Having a concern for everyone’s future has been a part of my world for a very long time. I try to be pragmatic about things, though, and I certainly could be better than I am at practicing what I preach. But I am trying.

However, lately, the rhetoric about the presence or absence of global warming has reached level RED. Since convincing you to be green (and a lot of you are now) about your transportation choices is my calling, I’m taking a little time out from talking about cars to talk about the bottom line.

We’ve polluted our waters, we’ve mowed down our great forests, we’ve packed our atmosphere full of toxic chemicals, we’ve scraped the oceans clear of fish and other marine life, we’ve caused many species to go extinct—and we may be next if we do not face up to the realities of our wanton, wasteful and irresponsible consumption of the Earth’s resources.

The debate over global warming has devolved into believers and non-believers; analogous to the debate over evolution. Some choose to abide by science and fact, while others rely instead on intuition or faith to guide their decisions.

Whether you believe in evolution or not does not have much immediate impact on our future. Trusting science and believing global warming is a serious threat to life on this planet is, however, quite important. If you do believe, you are far more likely to act or approve of actions to reduce our impact on climate change. Even if you don’t believe man is causing climate change, you can still agree that air pollution and addiction to foreign oil are issues that need resolution. If you care to make a difference by reducing your consumption, then we are all, in the end, working toward the same goal.

For me, the moral choice is obvious: protect the planet with all its diversity and wonderfulness at all costs. If we are to survive, our priorities should be Planet, People, Profit—in that order.

Because of the differences in opinion, we find ourselves paralyzed—unsure about what we should do and just how much government should do or make us do. We are leaving the way forward to the political process of our essentially-corrupt national government—which we no longer trust to make good decisions. That is why you, as individuals, must take the initiative to examine your own real needs and actions and resolve to reduce your personal impact on our planet. The environmental situation is becoming quite dire on many fronts—your actions and lifestyle changes do make a difference—for each of us who moves to lead a low-impact, sustainable lifestyle will be followed by others as the benefits show themselves.

We cherish our independence in our ability to transport ourselves effortlessly. To maintain this freedom, we will have to give up some things. Big size and big power must go in favor of just enough of both. Our egos and identity need to be weaned away from the “you are what you drive” mentality. I’d rather hope you could express yourself through decorating your electric car than drag racing your pick-up truck to the next stop light.

Pride and admiration will come from how little you consume, not how much you CAN consume. This will be a major shift in the way Americans live—and think of themselves. But to survive, we must adopt this attitude. To maintain the status quo is to court disaster.

Green Communities Coalition is hosting two free, three-hour sessions of learning to live with a smaller footprint on the planet Jan. 30 or Feb. 13, from 1 to 4 p.m., at Montessori School. Contact Mike Kearney at (815) 871-1863 for details or reservations. Their program can be brought to your group, organization, school or Scout troop as well, and is geared toward youth and adults. There is no cost.

From the Jan. 27-Feb 2, 2010

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