A friend of mine writes passionately and knowledgeably about energy use, our addiction to consumption, and dwindling resources. (Please check it out.) One of my favorite quotations from his post is:
"We worship growth, easy abundance, and the free market. This sin weighs heavily on me, and as I look around, it appears to weigh heavily on the world."
This is obviously written with a religious flair. The religious part is not really the core of his argument (though his faith is core to his essence as a person), but the moral implications are interesting to me. Somehow, I don't feel I need to make this argument to the more liberal readers among you. But even from a relatively conservative Christian standpoint, we are charged with being stewards of the earth. Dominion over the animals - sure - but we're also to care for them, to be measured and reserved in our use. Excess in so many other things is wrong - gluttony, drunkenness, lust - and our passion for consuming so much material without reason is just another symptom of these sins.
But it's not just a moral message - it's a pragmatic one. Sure, our generation may survive our abundant quality of life, but what about the next generation? Some claim, "Oh, we'll just find more oil." Really? Do you have the science to refute decades of consistent facts to the contrary?
"I think the eventual solution will involve localizing our civilization, but to affect the transition we will need the power that the government brings to bear."
Many of us already reduce, reuse, and recycle. Some of us compost and garden, use the library, walk or bike instead or drive, etc. I'm moving to Texas, for Pete's sake, so I'm all about being personally responsible; don't tread on me; laissez-faire. But the fact is that the United States is a massive country, and we do have a government. It has its problems, but it remains among the finest in the world. There are a lot of things we employ government to do for us - pave roads, protect us from floods, fires, and enemies foreign and domestic, provide us with clean drinking water and access to books, other media, and knowledge. I'm a bottom-up kind of girl, but I can also support an earnest top-down approach that can affect a greater base and help businesses and individuals do what is right, maybe even by incentivizing it.
Again, all of this is expounded upon further and in more detail at John's post here. He and I discussed where our success comes from, and for me it was a combination of the Divine and the Sun, basically. John walked me through a refresher course on simple arithmetic, presented me with other important facts, and by that point he didn't need to preach for me to become urgent about this issue. I'm certainly not blameless - I waste and I'm lazy like the rest of us - but I urge us all to do a little bit more.