Rant About Lazy Americans

So I posted this comment on twitter as robotchampion:

@gavinNewsom in San Francsico, signs first ever compost mandate, requires food scraps be gathered for composting. – http://tr.im/qeQJ

And got this response in Facebook:

“Nothing like building global harmony through state coercion!”

Now this gets me going. In my journeys through A Clean Life one thing keeps hitting me smack in the head. Our environmental problems come from us, the people.

You can’t blame the big companies anymore. You can’t blame the government anymore. There is nothing left to blame and that means we are the last to change. We are passively resisting a better world…why?

lazycatIf you look at Zero Waste initiatives around the country they do so much for every community. Starting with saving money for people, in the form of lower taxes or reduced trash costs. Then go onto time savings, producing so much trash takes effort. You have to open, trash it, and then carry out to the street. We take so many trips to empty our cans each week. Then we have to drag out a bin to the curb. Place bags in the trash cans.

Just think about it, break the habit and the routine. Save money, spend less time throwing things away, and yes make our communities a better place to live. In fact, the environmental benefits are enormous, effecting nearly every place you can go.

Then look at the Local Food movement. This is one of those insane topics. Overweight people who diet, workout, and spend money on diet foods and gyms, actually complain about the cost of local food. The number one most important thing you can do for your body is to have a solid diet. Local food is the diet you need and local fresh food is the perfect diet.

Yet we passively resist. Partly, I think, due to a mistaken belief in mass marketing. You know those commercials and brand labels that offer you the perfect chocolate snack with enriched vitamins and fortified minerals. Ya, believing in that marketing is like satisfying a thirst with one drop of water. You don’t think those companies plan on not filling you up. Why would they ever want you to get full?

The real value of that chocolate bar is minimal to your body, like one drop of water when you need a glass of water.

Cost. It’s a myth. Good food is cheap. Go to any store that sells local food and you will find cheap prices. The problem here is twofold. First, please don’t go to those places and try to buy macaroni and cheese. You will not find any 20 cent Ramen noodles here. Buy the food that they specialize in and you will find great prices. Don’t get angry at these kind of stores because apples are cheap and cheetos are 6$ a bag.

Second, you don’t understand food. Everything we eat is grown/raised somewhere. Then there is a harvest time when that food type is abundant. This seasonal food is cheap due to abundance, better for you because its so ripe, and completely fulfilling. They are glasses of water.

Americans don’t follow this pattern though. We eat whatever we want whenever we want. Most think this is ideal, but its not. The ideal is a fit healthy body that avoids the doctor’s office and occasionally partakes in non-seasonal food.

Wow, this rant is angry. It does show you why I’m all for a little state coercion. How else do you get people to change??

But hey now don’t take my word for it. Dig into the issues and you will find these words to be truth. Or, watch this video of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom:

“if they dont care about themselves, or their family, then its like second hand smoke it effects all of us”

8 thoughts on “Rant About Lazy Americans”

  1. “How else do you get people to change?”

    Here’s the problem: your argument comes down to “how else do I get people to act in accordance with MY values, instead of their values?”

    Because in the end, the reality is that people care about different things in life. And unlike questions of fact, questions of value and relative importance are not so easily resolved.

    Doing things like composting and recycling takes time and effort (and in terms of personal recycling, imho, probably overall wastes time and money that could be better spent ecologically elsewhere). And some people think that their time and effort spent doing something else is more valuable than the ecological benefits of these activities. Some people enjoy crap food, even at the cost of their health. It’s a choice they make. And life is always about such tradeoffs: people’s preferences for one thing over another. It’s true that sometimes people don’t appreciate the harm that their activities cause. But that’s the easy issue.

    The hard one is that many people are in fact making rational decisions about diet, composting, and so on: rational in terms of their preferences. You can argue that those preferences are morally wrong, of course, but this line of argument is not as easy a one to make as it might seem. First of all, it’s hard to get an accurate cost/benefit analysis when people’s preferences are at stake.

    But it’s also hard to make a case that time spent not composting is an indulgence, while all the other indulgences most people take are acceptable. The 10$ someone spent on a crappy movie last week could have saved a dehydrated child’s life in Africa. Yet their preference was to see the movie. How different is that choice, how more or less moral, than someone who chooses to spend their free time playing Xbox instead of composting? Why are some choices outrageous, demanding of government coercion, and some not? And are you REALLY sure that the things you wish to force others to do are about what’s truly the most moral and best, or instead more about simply imposing your own vision of the good life on everyone else (a vision that is every bit as much morally compromised and privileged as that of anyone living in the first-world?).

  2. Drew – thx for the comment!

    I really don’t think of this in terms of morality. For food it is in terms of health and education. We are being fooled, lied to, and tricked. All I want to do is put out the information and challenge people. After that its their decision to improve their lives or find some balance with good v bad foods.

    Check out this study about how 1 in 4 adult Americans are overweight.

    For trash it is definitely not morality it is truth. I grew up on the beach and now I can’t go swimming in the water, neither can my kids. The oceans, rivers, lands, air are all our property and yet being destroyed. I also grew up next to LA and its horrid air pollution. I know way too many people with breathing problems, nearly half the kids I grew up with had inhalers for weak lungs.

    Again, its the education and personal decision that matters. There is a maxim in this whole story ‘the truth shall set u free’.

  3. “Some people enjoy crap food, even at the cost of their health. It’s a choice they make. And life is always about such tradeoffs: people’s preferences for one thing over another”

    i totally agree with allowing people to make choices… if you want to eat burgers and fries all day, that’s cool. the problem is, what about kids? but when you offer no other alternative to your kids or your family, i could argue that it’s borderline abusive.

    i live in baltimore city right across the street from a grade school, and i see so many unhealthy kids that it’s frightening. i grew up on a farm and i was fortunate to eat pretty healthy food growing up, and as i got older i had the choice and ate my fair share of junk. but when you have no alternative and ignore the danger of living off this stuff, we all have a problem. cascading effects such as general health, personal well being, to a person’s productivity and rising health care costs… it’s measurable.

    so, the question is, how do we educate people, how do we give these parents and kids a choice? i don’t think we can tell the parents what to do… they are the parents and it’s their responsibility. and some argue that fast food is all some families can afford (i don’t agree with this point).

    but how do we help these families out, give them a choice? how do we get people to simply look for alternatives, thinking about thee health of their families?

  4. Steve, you are still have a way to go to complete understanding. You need to think beyond the local summer season. You are buying at local markets in the height of the summer growing cycle. But what happens in the winter? Especially for those who live in an area with a lot of cold. While there are some greenhouses in many local areas, they are not enough to sustain all the residents in that local area. And even in the midst of a healthy growing season, there is not enough land given over to farming for local markets to be able to sustain all residents in that area. Many stores already buy a great deal of local food; it is cheaper in some cases and fresher and has a nice marketing buzz. You make it sound like anyone who shops at anything other than a farmer’s market is unAmerican and uncaring. That simply is not the case.

    Additionally you need to think about the aspect of nutrition and nutrition value of foods. A local farm that drenches it’s crop in insecticides and herbicides is not “fresh and healthy”. And there are many that do exactly that just to get a good crop to sell. You can grow healthy food without these kinds of chemicals but it’s a lot more work and a lot of local farmers won’t invest the time in it. And a number of people have allergies to local foods; how do you sustain them if no local foods work.

    You are also limiting yourself to just foods but what about cleaning products and personal care products (e.g. shampoo) which could also have lots of waste and affect health.

    I’m sure there’s any number of things that you still need to look at but you have to look at how to sustain millions of people in urban areas far from the growing fields with minimal waste (zero waste is not possible) and still give them healthy foods.

    I totally agree with you on the need for changing to healthy food. But that does not have to be only fresh local food. There are ways to get fresh food shipped in flash frozen or canned (preferably in jars that can be reused).

    Lastly be charitable. Many people have lived in their lifestyle for so long; they see no reason to change. And there are few organizations available to help them change. Even medical insurance focuses on fixing the problem rather than preventing it. To make real change happen will require a very large marketing and education program. And that will only work if the infrastructure is in place to support fresh food (or fresh, local food).

  5. Kelcy – thx for the comment.

    I do agree that there is a lot going on here. Luckily, there is already a pretty strong movement for both the zero waste and fresh local food.

    Everywhere I go I find a strong community that is much more than extreme liberal greenies. There are communities, business groups, and more. I hope to help unite these groups and together we can break this into the critical mass period, where deep penetration into America’s consciousness occurs.

    You made a lot of points about food. Like for winter, that is only 3-4 months out of the year in DC. In California its nonexistant, so it definitely varies by region. With those in the harshest northern climates getting the least amount of fresh food during those few months. But there are winter crops still being grown and harvested.

    Also, have you seen Food Inc.?

    One of my biggest takeaways from that movie was a talk by one of the largest remaining independent farmers. He said it plainly, if customers were buying my local vegetables I would grow that, but my customers are buying corn products like freetos, cheetos, etc.

    It was moving.

    I also think there is some elasticity in the system. As demand grows the farmers plant more vegetables/fruits and less corn/soybeans. Eventually though we will need larger support. I do believe when that happens, when the people are behind this, our elected officials will finally have an impetus to reform that Farm Bill.

    On Zero Waste. I do believe it is possible for everyone. In fact, I think it is the more economical decision for our country, in large cities, farms, and everything in between . Right now we are facing ever increasing expenses for trash removal, storage, and maintenance.

    If you look at places like New York City and Los Angeles, where the land is fully developed, its even worse. They face floating trash barges with nowhere to go, or new buildings built on landfills only to turn toxic.

    Turning to a Zero Waste solution caps the problem. Puts us on a path to sustainability with our resources and our land. Costs get under control, taxes can be capped, and product innovation can occur.

  6. thanks for the article… i’ll definitely check it out.

    and i think this is an excellent discussion, please keep it going! some great ideas here, and i know that we need to make some of these changes in baltimore, so i will keep reading!

  7. What do you suggest during the non farmer market season? I’m a spoiled girl from Utah when it comes to fresh food out of the garden.. I never had to walk more than 20 ft to get fresh produce.. 🙂

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