Are human rights and environmentalism mutually exclusive?

In America everybody is of opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards. ~Bertrand Russell

So I missed the last two posts on account of the Texas Renaissance Festival and my sister popping out her second (and likely last) offspring a month early. For some reason it’s absolutely necessary that I personally have visual confirmation of the thing’s existence. As you can probably imagine, I was less than thrilled.

Anyway.

So I posted the Hans Rosling video a week ago. And like many things I post here, it got me thinking.

Specifically, I was amused by the irony of the Occupy Wall Street protests in light of the fact that even the poorest here in America are better off than much of the world. Many would consider my existence, even now that I’m debt-free, to be pretty miserable. If we go by Rosling’s cut-off of $80 a day, I live off of slightly more than half that. So I’m not even in the top seventh when it comes to money. And yet I have a computer, and central air and heat, and video game consoles, and access to a washing machine, yes. My life is on the poorer end of normal compared to my peers in America, and yet I live like a king compared to the other five-sevenths of the world.

The other thing that got me thinking was the bit where he talks about the higher population of the have-nots vs. the higher consumption of the haves. I’ve touched briefly on this before, but I want to talk about it in the context of the washing machine and the environmentalist movement.

According to environmentalism, not everyone can have their washing machine, video game console, and computer. But the haves don’t want to give theirs up and the have-nots at least want the washing machine. Is it fair that according to the supposed tenets of environmentalism that some people should go without, involuntarily? Is it possible to balance everyone at least having access to these things with what the planet can support? I think so.

Look at the washing machine, and the computer, too, which are different beasts than the refrigerator and air conditioner. Washing machines and computers can be shared. In fact, we’ve already got a system set up for sharing washing machines. They’re called laundromats. Amazing, I know.

I know very few people who need their washing machine daily. In fact, I can think of no one person who does. I do laundry every two weeks, myself. A washing machine is needed often, but not so often that it’s absolutely necessary for people to have one of their very own. Just like carpet shampooers, their very nature makes them perfect for sharing. A few washing machines can easily be shared between many people. And it’s not like owning a washing machine makes laundry free. Aside from the initial cost of purchasing said washing machine, there’s the added cost of water and electricity. I’d rather use the laundromat, myself.

So this is the perfect way to make everyone happy. Or mostly happy, anyway. The haves share their washing machines between themselves and allow the have-nots to have some to share amongst themselves. In theory, anyway. And yes, I know that it’s a person’s right to have a washing machine of their very own, but I’m trying to make a point here, dammit.

So why doesn’t the environmentalist movement start pushing for more usage of laundromats? I think the argument is pretty cut and dried, if I do say so myself. One washing machine split amongst five (or more) people is more eco-friendly than five washing machines.

The problem is that the environmentalist movement has been hijacked by consumerism. It’s popular, it’s something that people can feel good about, so they market products to be “environmentally friendly.” The dumbasses get on board with this because they’re, well, dumbasses and don’t stop to think about things. So instead of “Hey, let’s all use laundromats!” it’s “Hey, buy this brand-new high-efficiency washing machine that saves water but ultimately loses out against all those washing machines in the laundromat being used by entire apartment complexes!” It’s like playing telephone with someone who has a serious agenda involving the word “penis.” The message gets fucked up somewhere along the line…on purpose.

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5 Responses to “Are human rights and environmentalism mutually exclusive?”

  1. Sally ate a dozen nickels.
    Sally eighty dozen nickels.
    Sail eighty dozing pickles.
    Sail eighty penis pickles.

    Yeah, it’s usually me.

  2. I like your line of thinking. This needs more chewing on.

  3. I think that’s slightly unfair. I agree with your original premise, that using a laundromat is probably, on balance, more eco-friendly than having your own private washing machine. However, I would buy a washing machine (I rent, so I get one anyway) because I don’t want to lug my damn laundry down to the laundromat once a week and spend an hour or two watching my clothes go around and around when I could be doing other things.

    So – I don’t think there’s a serious agenda of consumerism, so much as convenience, and possibly laziness.

    Which brings me back straight back to your original point, is it fair that we in the first world world have all these things, and therefore deprive everyone else of the same things, just for our own damn convenience? Well – no. However, people without a certain amount of spare time aren’t going to be environmentally responsible, because they’re expending all their effort staying alive, so with that argument – we probably want the entire planet’s population to have access to a washing machines, so that they have the time and opportunity to observe how their lifestyle impacts the environment.

    (Which isn’t to say that other aspects of modern western consumption aren’t silly.)

    Of course, this would be less of a big deal, if there weren’t so many people.

    • You bring up a very good point, and I did neglect to consider the convenience angle.

      Luckily for me, my laundromat is merely a short walk away. I do forget that others may have a laundromat in a much less convenient location.

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