Where Grouchy Meets Green
In college, we studied an economic phenomenon called “Tragedy of the Commons” which simplified, means that unless we manage our collective resources (commons) in a sustainable manner, we will suffer tragedy. This is a concept from the British Isles from 1833, so you can imagine the effect our overly populated world might have on shared resources and this economic perspective. Even if we managed all our resources more effectively, we still have too many people on the planet, seemingly incapable of prudential behavior. Uh-oh.
When in Hawaii, Lee and I used to swim with wild dolphins. Recently we learned that the state is prohibiting this swimming. Rather than feel cheated, I applauded their decision. The dolphins need rest and secluded places where they will not be harassed by excited humans. It’s good. Protect them.
Just a few weeks ago after reading my blog, a beloved student called me a “grouch.” I giggled out loud. I have never been called a grouch, but I think what she meant is that my blog material has a bite, a quest to inspire accountability in the collective, myself included. I suppose it could sound like I was grouching around, but truly my intention is not to blame or complain, but to inspire. Let me try…
How might I take this economic principle and put it into action? One way is to become aware of our behavior, imagine 4 million people doing the exact same, and decide how sustainable our behavior truly is. Let’s say I am behaving like a grouch. What happens when 4 million people behave like grouches? Life begins to suck. Lesson learned.
What about feeding wildlife? Letting the water run? Cutting down a tree for Christmas? Washing sheets with bleach? Eating meat, fish everyday? Driving three blocks? Watering the lawn to keep it green? Having a lawn? Turning on the heat/AC before managing layers of clothing by adding or subtracting? Letting your dogs chase wildlife? Poisoning a beehive? Using a gas powered mower? Building a home in the wilderness? Blaring your music out loud while hiking? Bagging all groceries in plastic?
Have fun with this. Try to think of the entire human population doing the exact same then project into the future seven generations, like the native Alaskans taught us. How sustainable then? It is fascinating, right? Exercising prudence, or conservationism is the new sexy, not grouchy. I’m not talking about reusing dental floss, but just a little more mindfulness around what we consume and how. We are a very large family, and anyone who has reared multiple children knows that management of resources comes with the territory.