NRDC Reminds US That Small Steps Matter - 15% Reduction in Emissions Possible

CFL photo

photo: Adam via flickr.

Frankly this seems a bit like a combination of deja vu and rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship, but the Natural Resources Defense Council has released new analysis calculating what all the simple, inexpensive lifestyle changes mean in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions--namely 15% of total US emissions.This can be achieved NRDC says through the following suggested behavioral changes:

Reducing unwanted catalog subscriptions, decreasing vehicle idling, using a programmable thermostat, replacing seven lightbulbs with CFLs, setting computers to hibernate mode, shutting off unused lights, and eating poultry in place of red meat two days per week. All of the recommendations offered in the study are available to be adopted immediately, at little or no cost, and will reduce not only emissions, but home energy, transportation and food costs as well.

Though, to their credit, the NRDC makes it quite clear that these sort of simple steps (the former bread and butter of the green movement, Green 1.0 if you will) is not a substitute for aggressive national and international policy action (Green 2.0), but from where I'm sitting these simple steps really fall short.

Vegetarian Diet Most Important Lifestyle Change You Can Make
Eating poultry instead of red meat two days a week? Are you kidding me?!? How about eliminating red meat altogether, or better yet, all meat products entirely. Then you are talking about some actual commitment. Not some feel-good pat yourself on the back for doing your part half measure.

Without Making Clear the Magnitude of Change, We'll Never Get There
What the environmental movement needs, no what society as a whole needs, is a wholesale reassessment of the contract between humanity and the natural world. It needs a quantum shift in mindset (Green 3.0).

Yes, these small changes mean something--15% knocked off US carbon emissions is nothing to sneeze at--but the sort of reduction we're talking about still wouldn't get us to average European levels, let alone what is sustainable in the long term.

It may even be a first step on the road, and if we can get more people onto that road that's a good thing, but unless from the outset we start talking about how long this road is and the sort of transformational journey involved, it's just bound to get us walking in circles.

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