Energy, the Environment, and Public Policy: Issues for the 1990s

By David L. McKee | Go to book overview

4 Environmental Restraint: Living Lightly or Not Living

JOHN E. CARROLL

It is not uncommon for environmental and even energy conservation conferences to be attended by participants each of whom drive alone in a vehicle to the conference, in spite of the purpose and nature of the conference. In this circumstance each contributes directly (and unnecessarily) to one of the prevailing environmental problems of our times: consuming and burning excess fossil fuels, polluting the atmosphere, creating a demand for more vehicles, more roads, perhaps warming the climate, and so on. Each as well wastes money, deprives himself of the companionship of others, and as well gives up the opportunity not to have to drive, although some of the latter are admittedly matters of a more personal nature. (But burning oil, polluting the air, perhaps changing the climate, etc., are not personal matters.) Such people are normally highly educated, environmentally trained people often all traveling the same route to attend an environmental conference, a conference focusing attention on the very same pollution problem that they themselves were causing in their mode of travel. Needless to say, the parties involved are not conscious of any of these things--it would not likely even cross their minds. And their arrival in this manner would hardly have been noticed by anyone. As a society and as individuals we do not notice such things; indeed, we are conditioned not to see them. The irony is that environmentally educated, environmentally conscious, and environmentally concerned people do not notice the impact of their behavior any more than does anyone else. Perhaps such people, given their long years of education, are even more conditioned not to see. Such is an exceedingly common happenstance and a major part of the energy (and environmental) problem. The small percent who are aware are hesitant to raise the subject because they know they will encounter a defensive reaction and that they will

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