9/25/2009

It Ain't Easy Bein' Green

... especially if you aren't upper middle class and yuppie.

I follow a number of "green twitterers" and read the links they suggest. What I have found is that the "Green Movement" is made up of upper middle class and wealthy yuppies. If you are lower income or lived on a fixed income being "green" is almost an impossibility because of the costs involved.

For example, a recent post I read about "Green Holidays" listed a number of ways to be more environmentally responsible during the holiday season. Most of the ones listed that would be affordable for lower income people were considered "good" (they were rated from Good to Best). For those who couldn't do all the "Best" options the final suggestion was buying "Carbon Offsets" to assuage one's guilt.

Now, I've never been a fan of this Carbon Offset junk. I figure it's like the old draft dodge of the 19th century where you pay someone to go to war for you if you're drafted. Anyway, how can low income people who may barely be able to afford a decent family holiday also pay for mysterious "carbon offsets" to some company? It's just not doable.

Of course, the "green movement" also includes the healthy eating and "local food" groups as well. They would like us all to stop consuming anything produced by the major agribusinesses and manufacturers. While, I agree and would love to do that. After all, I was raised in a family that had a huge garden during the Summer and got probably 50% of its own produce from it. My grandfather also owned hogs that he slaughtered in late Fall to provide meats for the Winter and Spring.

But, today that's not possible. I don't have room in my small backyard for hogs and I'm not fond of doing the slaughtering myself, unlike my grandfather. I also don't have room for a garden that would produce enough to feed us. I'd love to buy local produce in the store and we do when we can afford it. Still, the cost is at least 50% higher most of the time and it's a strain on the budget. Just last night I needed to get a dozen eggs. Michael always opts for the local organic/cage free eggs. I wanted to get them as well, but I am more conscious of the cost of things like that when we're strained for money. As I stared at the egg case I saw the regular eggs were about $1.50 a dozen or $1.90 for 18. Looking at the organic/cage free the cost as $3.79 a dozen!

Now, I know the green folks will yell about the agribusiness subsidies vs. the local farmer having to charge what it costs without those. I understand that. But, when you're watching pennies those arguments don't hold much water. I'm the rare lower income person who even considers the local organic/cage free eggs. Most would take a look at the prices and laugh.

To make lower income people part of the green movement, the folks at the top have got to get past this yuppie mentality that virtue is its own reward. They need to get active fixing those parts of the system that will make being green affordable for people who have to make tough choices to keep house and home together.

Finally, they need to stop the double standard of "carbon offsets." All that signals is that they have the option of being irresponsible because they can pay a little "fine" to clear their conscience.

If you want the "Green Movement" to succeed you have got to figure out how to make it possible for everyone to participate without going broke in the short term.

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