Tuesday, July 10, 2007

how many rock stars does it take to change a light bulb?

"Like most Americans I like to help people while being on tv."
- Maria Bamford

Here's the thing about Live Earth:

I just don't need household tips on cutting down on my use of resources from people who live far more lavish lives than I could ever imagine, thank you very much.

Here are a few things that ordinary people who are living within a budget do not need to learn from movie and rock stars:
Turn off the light. Put on a sweater if you are cold. You don't need that. You can use that again. Make it yourself. Give it to someone who needs it. Leave a place as clean as you found it.

Photograph by Russell Lee | Library of Congress : American Memory
Some people do this because they are worried about being able to afford to pay the bills rather than because they want to save the environment.

Hollywood telling ordinary Americans how to conserve resources is outrageous.

Americans telling this to people in Brazil is offensive.

Okay. It's fine if Hollywood and rock stars want to support environmental causes and use their celebrity to draw people to events. This is part of the fundraising world.

However, the various forms of hypocrisy do get a little hard to swallow: did Sheryl Crow sing her SUV-promoting song "Every Day is a Winding Road?" Seriously: when you are making fistfuls of money off of promoting SUVs can you really call yourself an environmentalist?

I know I'm being cynical. And I'm not the target for Live Earth. I was more the Live Aid generation. I do realize that telling people to use energy-saving light bulbs is a way of making people feel like they are helping and that is important. Even more important is spreading awareness of the larger political issues that have to do with oil companies, car companies, governments, the Kyoto accord, the world bank, rain forests, global poverty, etc.

The biggest problem with Americans on an individual level is our use of gas guzzling cars. Changing that has to do with developing and improving mass transportation systems and smaller cars. And then getting Americans to change their habits and start using them. I'm not holding my breath. Maybe this generation will change. It is a little hard to believe they will when the icons that are preaching to them are also flying private jets and promoting SUVs.

We need a government that is far more committed to providing people with what they need in order to conserve whether it be recycling programs or investment in making alternative energy resources not just feasible but cheap. (By the way, do all of the performers at Live Earth -- the people who can afford to do this -- have homes that run on alternative energy?) I don't need tips on how to conserve energy. I know how to do this. Here is what I do need: affordable solar energy. I would like to be able to afford to install solar panels. Ahem, Governor Schwarzenegger (link: why is arnold at live earth?).


Ms. Place said...

Excellent post, Trixie, and how coincidental that you and Eric chose to write about similar subjects at practically the same time. Must be the rarified air in California. LOL.

Here's where my cynicism about our changing our costly energy habits continues to strengthen: My family and I were discussing the disgusting rise in gasoline prices last April when I laughingly said to no one in particular, "This is the death of the SUV and Humvee." My niece's boyfriend looked aghast and said that he and his behemoth, which guzzles 13 miles to the gallon, would never be separated. He could not imagine EVER driving a small, energy efficient car. His statement floored me.

I grew up in Europe and recall taking the tram to school. My parents rode my brother and me on the back of their bikes for a day at the ocean. Dad rode his bike to his university, which was 25 miles one way.

As a result of my upbringing, I adored my years in Boston, where I could catch the green line right outside my apartment, or the bus, or ride my bike. And whenever the urge hit, I would take Amtrak to NYC to spend a day in a fabulous museum or two. I'd read on the train and arrive fresh instead of flustered from fighting traffic.

This country has so far to go in terms of public transportation, share riding, and beefing up our rail systems. I despair that it will happen in my lifetime. And as for affordable solar panels: Why did this relatively simple technology not become readily available at Sears or Lowe's or Wal*Mart years ago?

trixie said...

We have allowed oil companies and car companies to determine our energy policies.

There is no reason why we could not have developed superb public transportation systems -- light rails and high speed trains. Or why we don't have affordable solar energy panels or why we don't have energy efficient cars. Or why we don't have more bicycle friendly towns and cities. Americans are just as capable as being on the cutting edge of these areas. The American people could not have become a culture that was accustomed to that way of life any more than the one it has now.

But we've allowed our culture to be taken over by corporate interests so that now that seems unimaginable. Pretty sad.

eric3000 said...

"Turn off the light. Put on a sweater if you are cold. You don't need that. You can use that again. Make it yourself. Give it to someone who needs it. Leave a place as clean as you found it."

Good advice! Nice to finally read some new Kora in Hell posts!

And probably not that much of a coincidence that we are writing similar posts; I think we were both reminded to do it by the Live Earth concert (I was also inspired by the New Yorker cover with the Statue of Liberty holding an energy-efficient light bulb).

As for fuel efficient cars, I was asked recently on a questionaire how expensive gas would have to be to make me buy a hybid car. I randomly wrote $9 a gallon because I don't really care how much gas costs; even if it were cheap I would still want a fuel-efficient car! But if that's what it takes to make some people stop wasting gas, then fine.

Anonymous said...

Trixie, thanks for this post.

Now I don't feel so alone with my feelings about these stupid big concerts and the hollywood lectures...

I think we've got to put the sexy back in small cars!

-- desertwind