13 votes

Is recycling worth it anymore? The truth is complicated.

16 comments

  1. [16]
    suspended
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    Back in 2008, I got avidly involved with research around the subject of environmentalism. I was reading everything I could get my hands on that addressed this subject. After 18 months of this, I...

    Back in 2008, I got avidly involved with research around the subject of environmentalism. I was reading everything I could get my hands on that addressed this subject. After 18 months of this, I had an intuitive (or gut) feeling that there was something that I was overlooking but not intentionally. I thought that maybe I should try to 'think outside of the box' about this. While this may seem easy to do, I wasn't having any success.

    A few months later I accidentally was introduced (and I can't remember how) to a book entitled Endgame, Vol. 1: The Problem of Civilization. The largest takeaway that I had from this author is we are enculturated into these problems and rarely ever question our own behavior or the behavior of others.

    I spent a great deal of time reading this work, thinking about it critically, and so on. I even spent several months engaging the author, Derrick Jensen, about his ideas and writing. So, I don't agree with everything that Mr. Jensen writes about. However, I believe that you and I could learn a great deal from his writings concerning this subject matter.

    Derrick begins his work with a list of twenty premises. I'll quote a few below that I find to be important and/or challenging:

    Premise Six: Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.

    Premise Fourteen: From birth on—and probably from conception, but I’m not sure how I’d make the case—we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homes—and our bodies—to be poisoned.

    Premise Twenty: Within this culture, economics—not community well-being, not morals, not ethics, not justice, not life itself—drives social decisions.

    11 votes
    1. [4]
      joplin
      Link Parent
      Well that's pretty cynical. Why not? We've done many things just in my lifetime to voluntarily transform to more sustainable ways of living. It has been difficult to get people on board, but we've...

      Premise Six: Civilization is not redeemable.

      Well that's pretty cynical.

      This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living.

      Why not? We've done many things just in my lifetime to voluntarily transform to more sustainable ways of living. It has been difficult to get people on board, but we've stopped using leaded gas (which ironically was invented to improve engine efficiency!), we've eliminated the use of chlorofluorocarbons which has helped in bringing the ozone layer back to normal. We've started up alternative energy sources for electricity generation and it's growing every year. We've made numerous advances in improving the efficiency of existing technologies like solar cells. I very much think we will undergo (or more to the point are undergoing) such a transformation.

      If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses.

      While I agree to a point, I have to point out that nature has done far more damage to the planet than humans. There have been 6 large-scale extinction events, but life on the planet has survived.

      The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.

      I don't think any reasonable person can disagree with that point. But that doesn't mean there's no hope.

      15 votes
      1. [3]
        suspended
        Link Parent
        I was expecting this type of push-back and it's understandable since the bombardment of gaslighting propaganda has worked for so many decades. You speak as if I have given up hope. I don't believe...

        I was expecting this type of push-back and it's understandable since the bombardment of gaslighting propaganda has worked for so many decades.

        You speak as if I have given up hope. I don't believe that anyone here, on Tildes, has done so.

        Most of the misunderstanding around this subject comes from the uninformed. Most of the general public doesn't understand, for example, what 'sustainability' means.

        Despite the increased popularity of the use of the term "sustainability", the possibility that human societies will achieve environmental sustainability has been, and continues - to be switched environmental degradation, climate change, overconsumption, population growth and societies' pursuit of unlimited economic growth in a closed system.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          petrichor
          Link Parent
          Hey, perhaps I'm reading your comment wrong, but this kind of insinuation that differing opinions are a result of being gaslit or uninformed is really not cool.

          Hey, perhaps I'm reading your comment wrong, but this kind of insinuation that differing opinions are a result of being gaslit or uninformed is really not cool.

          21 votes
          1. suspended
            Link Parent
            I meant that these corporations, that produce so much throw-away plastics, have used several tactics to mislead the public for decades.

            I meant that these corporations, that produce so much throw-away plastics, have used several tactics to mislead the public for decades.

            5 votes
    2. [5]
      EgoEimi
      Link Parent
      I agree with Premises Six and Twenty but disagree with Premise Fourteen. I observe that (keyword:)idealized nature has become a product itself to be consumed. The problem (I think) isn't that...

      I agree with Premises Six and Twenty but disagree with Premise Fourteen. I observe that (keyword:)idealized nature has become a product itself to be consumed. The problem (I think) isn't that humans hate the natural world and wild animals: the problem (I think) is that we can only interface with the natural world as consumers, whether we're depleting an underground water reservoir for agriculture or eco-touristing and glamping in a rainforest.

      I believe that culture drives economics which in turn drives culture in a feedback loop. This loop grows an ever taller stack of cultural-industrial abstractions that becomes increasingly divorced from the natural world and its processes.

      I find Derrick's premises interesting. Premise Fifteen—"love does not imply pacifism"—struck me because I'm reading a book that makes a strong argument that most violence is morally motivated (virtuous violence theory).

      I think a few premises are missing. I'd add that humans compete for status; and that status is currently underlined by one's essential ability to expend resources. This seems to be a universal biological pattern: animals compete for mates by signaling their fitness — their ability to uselessly expend resources and energy. Similarly, I observe in my highly-educated peers the same animal drives: posting photos and updates about their new homes and home renovations with all the latest accoutrements, Peloton home gyms, jet-hopping between hip global cities, Michelin restaurant meals, and so on.

      One person—who shall be unnamed but floats about in one of my queer tech social circles—expressed that working remotely and not commuting helps save the environment. The irony is that he's spent the pandemic jet-setting between tropical destinations, and he directs product at an e-commerce "unicorn" that sells unbranded bargain-priced Chinese-made crap—$4 waist-slimming tights! $12 plastic hamburger phone speaker for your smartphone! $6 LED showerhead for fun colored water! $7 galaxy print panty! All stuff that is destined for some landfill in a few months—and then also algorithmically suggests more crap to users based on their preferences so they can make impulsive 'fun' purchases.

      I find right-wing criticism of globally-visible environmentalists like Al Gore and Bill Gates for leading high-consumption lifestyles to be valid. I think that these high-status folks both get their status from consumption model that underlies our hierarchal status model while simultaneously reinforcing said model. I wish that things could be different.

      6 votes
      1. [3]
        suspended
        Link Parent
        If you watch the video in question, then you'll see this marketing message that comes from the corporations. Namely, a throw-away consumer culture that has littered and poisoned the Earth for...

        If you watch the video in question, then you'll see this marketing message that comes from the corporations. Namely, a throw-away consumer culture that has littered and poisoned the Earth for decades. We have been brainwashed by these giant industries and they have successfully placed the blame upon the everyday person. This is gaslighting in the same way that politicians use it.

        The general population is not to blame for the environmental destruction of the Earth. It is the uberwealthy that give no fucks for anything but lining their own pockets with wealth. It is an insane sickness that has been written about by, for example, Tolkien (Lord of the Rings). Dragon hoarders inflicted by a disease of insatiable greed.

        Look here for these, approximately, 400 of them: https://mkorostoff.github.io/1-pixel-wealth/

        3 votes
        1. skybrian
          Link Parent
          You're making some pretty sweeping assertions there. If poor people can be "brainwashed", why can't rich people be brainwashed? The human capacity for greed and delusion doesn't seem to be...

          You're making some pretty sweeping assertions there. If poor people can be "brainwashed", why can't rich people be brainwashed? The human capacity for greed and delusion doesn't seem to be isolated to any particular class?

          10 votes
        2. petrichor
          Link Parent
          I generally disagree with this. It really depends on the type of environmental destruction you're looking at. Crude oil pollution, for example, is primarily caused by individuals driving leaky...

          The general population is not to blame for the environmental destruction of the Earth.

          I generally disagree with this. It really depends on the type of environmental destruction you're looking at.

          Crude oil pollution, for example, is primarily caused by individuals driving leaky cars or boats. High-profile oil spills account for a much smaller share of total pollution than most people would expect.

          There's enough blame to go around. Keeping some of it on the individual is important to avoid rampant non-point pollution, but I understand the point that this has historically been used to deflect blame from those profiting from environmental degradation. It's just important to not make false generalizations.

          6 votes
      2. NoblePath
        Link Parent
        So i went to a Bill McKibbon lecture in affluent, supposedly progressive Asheville, NC. Guess how many of us road our bicycle? 8 out of >1000 in attendance. And at least a quarter lived less than...

        So i went to a Bill McKibbon lecture in affluent, supposedly progressive Asheville, NC. Guess how many of us road our bicycle? 8 out of >1000 in attendance. And at least a quarter lived less than two miles from the venue, my guess is more than that. And more than 75% probably within 3 miles.

        This is <1% of people who paid money to see Bill Freaking McKibbon didn’t drive a personal co2 emitting vehicle to get there.

        I had hope before, i do no longer. My kids will probably be ok because i am affluent by global standards. But most of us are toast.

        2 votes
    3. [6]
      Pilgrim
      Link Parent
      Sounds like nihilism with extra steps

      Sounds like nihilism with extra steps

      6 votes
      1. [5]
        suspended
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        I know that it does and when I first learned about these things it scared me to death. I believe that I, now, have been numbed by the fear. I, also, feel helpless knowing that those with the means...

        I know that it does and when I first learned about these things it scared me to death. I believe that I, now, have been numbed by the fear. I, also, feel helpless knowing that those with the means to continue destroying our ecosystems and ourselves will not stop willingly.

        I have much less hope for the human race than most people do. I'm not being cynical either. I don't want people to lose hope but mine is almost gone.

        1 vote
        1. [4]
          Pilgrim
          Link Parent
          We tend to outhtink our messes and I'm sure it'll be no different here, plus it's the only game in town, so why bet against yourself?

          We tend to outhtink our messes and I'm sure it'll be no different here, plus it's the only game in town, so why bet against yourself?

          1 vote
          1. [3]
            suspended
            Link Parent
            I'm not sure that I understand what you are saying. However, I am interested. Would you mind breaking your thoughts down for me?

            I'm not sure that I understand what you are saying. However, I am interested. Would you mind breaking your thoughts down for me?

            1. [2]
              Pilgrim
              Link Parent
              If your concern is an existential threat to humanity then there are plenty to fret about but little you can do individually but the idea that we're years from disaster is not really accurate...

              If your concern is an existential threat to humanity then there are plenty to fret about but little you can do individually but the idea that we're years from disaster is not really accurate outside a catastrophic black swan event. Climate change will take generations. There is a good podcast called Hidden Forces that had a recent episode on the topic the I'd recommend.

              If you are concerned about the misery humans inflict on the world then consider that it's balanced by the beauty.

              But at the end of th day, there is only the one life, the one game in town, so play it. Or not.

              1 vote