Global Environmental Fail

There I was, innocently watching TV, and the commercial came on:

Kleenex bathroom hand wipes: Clearly marketed as an alternative to hand towels.

It took about 10 seconds, and then I was yelling. “Fuck you, Kleenex! Fuck you for using the fear of germs to kill more trees!”

Here it is, I thought. Here’s how, despite the Comfortable Western World trying hard to go gentle on resources, Kleenex will get people using more primary resources. And, fuck it, people are scared of germs. They will believe that using paper towels (which these are) will protect them from disease. Sorry, trees. Humans need to feel safe. Sorry, Green Movement.

But then (and I have been thinking about this for awhile) who really buys into the concept of ‘green’? Middle and upper class folks from first world countries. People with the choice, because we have the money.

People who have to count every penny are not going to buy paper towels for their bathrooms, in Arkansas, Anatolia, or wherever. They have towels that work fine. Poor people all over the world are probably not going to buy disposable bathroom hand towels.

In addition, think of the people who work in factories in China or India. Many of them work just to get the money to live. How much do they care how their dollars help the environment? How much do they care that their work may harm the environment? Not a lot, because they can live, from month to month. Recycling? No. Eco-sourcing? None of that, either.

Over the entire world, all the people, how many of us are consciously doing things to help the planet live? It strikes me that it is only, really, the privileged few, and the other (sometimes very poor) few, whose lives are so local that they do not rely on very much other from outside their worldview.

We who have the choice are such a small percentage. How are we to save the planet?

5 Comments to “Global Environmental Fail”

  1. By Arwen, September 17, 2010 @ 7:28 pm

    We’re the ones to save the planet because the rest of the world isn’t really killing it the way we are. (Tho’ India and China are chugging up to our standard of reckless use…)

    You’re right about the towels – in the truly poor areas of the world, things are recycled as a matter of course. Food politics is a different issue, as is eco-friendly resource extraction…

    The definition of middle class has to change quick so that it’s sustainable for everyone. I think we have the luxury of getting a workable model going, to share. However, we’ll have to boycott Kleenex hand towels. Although I haven’t yet gotten up the gumption to go back to hankerchiefs – they worked for so many years, though!

  2. By Liz, September 17, 2010 @ 9:41 pm

    Handkerchiefs worked, but I’m not going to have a communal handkerchief in my classroom, say. I am going to need a box of Kleenex there, unless I issue handkerchiefs to kids.

    And, as someone pointed out to me, we’re not actually saving the planet. This big rock orbiting the sun will be safe no matter how many species go extinct, no matter how much vegetation leaves. We’re trying to save humanity, and sometimes I wonder if we deserve it.

  3. By Beth, September 17, 2010 @ 11:35 pm

    Yeah, the planet will survive just fine without us until the sun blows up – the only things we’ll kill are a few specific species and ourselves. Other species will arise to replace the ones we’ve done in and the green grass grows all around.
    But on the other side of this discussion – I just heard of a study that proved that the use of hand sanitizer made no difference in the number of colds/flus that people catch or don’t catch. So, not only are those towels a waste of trees, they don’t work any better than plain soap and water.
    However, I also know that the only way a business can survive is by constantly creating new products and then convincing us that we need them. A friend once pointed out that no one ever needed fabric softener to eliminate static until they invented synthetic fabrics. The collapse of Kleenex would be hard on the people who work there so they’re fighting for their lives as much as the folks in the third world I guess.

  4. By Liz, September 18, 2010 @ 12:31 am

    Good information, Beth. Also, really interesting. E and I never use fabric softener (we don’t see the point) and mostly wear natural fabrics. That makes sense, because the Upstairs folk wear some synthetics and use the fabric softener.

  5. By Stephanie, September 21, 2010 @ 8:34 am

    I saw that commercial and had the same thought. Stupid Kleenex machine.

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