Environmental problems are not just for the minute green-thumbed population to care about. The environment is involved in every single aspect of life: eating, breathing, industry, farming, office buildings, and education. This is why it is so confusing that the majority of our country does not particularly pay attention to the environment around them, or to the environment that sustains their ways of life. Before coming to Dickinson I rarely reflected on how our environment connects to society, but instead tended to keep it at arms length. It was something to be tended to, care about, but never seemed entirely tangible. Now I know that everything we interact with is also a part of the environment.
Post WWII brought on many advances to American society: the suburb boom of Levittown type developments, revved up auto industry, new industry of aviation and electronics, and a general shift to middle class. The GDP had increased, population was booming, and most were on their own personal treadmill going up the ranks of society. However, these major advances came with tremendous cost that we are still feeling today, and will feel for generations. We were increasing supply, demand, and the use of our natural resources at an alarming rate. Industry’s favorite word, efficiency, quickly became the environment’s worst nightmare. To industry and markets, being efficient means producing more at a faster rate with high success. This translates into more resources being used at a faster rate, being processed with harsher labor and producing more waste.
Efficiency of our industrial technology started with the assembly line, but has turned into our greatest contender. Farming turned into agriculture through ‘efficiency’ with new technologically advanced tractors. This vaulted food production while also increasing monocultures, the use of GMOs, biodiversity, and using massive amounts of water. For every positive advance, comes many ‘unintended consequences’ with the main example of our overuse of fossil fuels, which are now showing us those unintended consequences through climate change and pollution.
The synthetic age post WWII introduced new ways of thinking as a society, such as technology can displace nature and science is the new religion. With the treadmill of production encouraging extreme consumerism, we find that there is a growing gap between nature and product. The treadmill is a failing system for most which causes “increasing accumulation of wealth and investments into capital intensive technologies, rising social inequalities, and greater ecological “withdrawals”… and “additions”, all of which are encouraged (20 Lessons p 48)” by our government. The only gain in this situation is the wealth of the upper tiers of society who don’t have to experience the degradation in which capitalism causes. People forget that everything around them was once a part of nature, which creates an unintended ignorance and a lack of appreciation. The average societal view is that better = newer. If better always = newer, then there will never be enough products in the world, and we will never catch up with ourselves. We need to have a shift in mentality as a world, and find a way to make what we have be enough. Is more necessary, and will more make us a healthier and happier people?