Today Bob Cesca in his Huffington Post blog, Americans Simply Don’t Do Sacrifice Anymore, pointed out that the request President Obama made last night for Americans to pray as we suffer the environmental disaster caused by BP’s oil spill in the Gulf is really all we can expect from American society today. As Cesca points out we have not been asked and have not sacrificed for the good of our country since World War II. He implicates our failure to act as a side effect of our cheeseburger eating, over-air-conditioned, apathy. We are obviously unwilling to change our behaviors when we are in a crisis. How did we become such isolated, self-interested people rather than communities with a sense of nationalism willing to work together to address our problems in creative and effective ways?
Cesca suggests that if we are upset by the current crisis we should stop eating meat and organize a carpool, but how can we reconnect with nature and understand our true impact on the natural world by changing our diet and travelling with friends or co-workers? In America we have worked hard to create an expectation that successful people use a disproportionately larger share of the world’s natural resources. And as Americans we must compete with each other to use more, exploit more, and waste more. From my perspective Bob Cesca has only started hacking away at the tip of the iceberg.
We must become more aware of the dangers of our continued exploitation of natural resources including fossil fuels. In Anne Leonard’s The Story of Stuff she describes the “material economy” which we are required to participate in as a capitalist nation and points out that we are only being made aware of a portion of the story. Because the message of our “material economy” defines production as a “linear system” we do not automatically see the consequences of this perspective for our “finite planet”. The limits of our planet are constantly coming into conflict with the expectations that this linear system which appears to operate without consequence to the economies, environments and cultures it comes into contact with. Leonard also points out that in the world’s wealthiest nations it is now corporations rather than the government who have the most influence in this material economy. Able to weave their own tale about the availability of resources we are not made aware of the implications of exploiting our natural world. Extracting natural resources involves practices which frequently degrade the environment, as evidenced by the crisis we are now experiencing in the Gulf.
How can we make a real difference without sacrifice? We cannot. We must become accountable for our impact on the natural world and explore options which consider the relationships industry, production, and market economy have upon the world’s resources and people. Although I believe Cesca’s indictment of Americans as unwilling to sacrifice hits the mark, it is not enough to criticize our blindness to this cycle. We must change our interactions with the natural world.