Mar 172015

I recently read THE LACUNA by Barbara Kingsolver. I wouldn’t call it her best novel. But one thing I was struck by–her description of the devoted, we’re-all-in-this-together, luxury-sacrificing, almost ascetic zeitgeist in America during WW II. People were literally giving up things like doorknobs and hairpins so that the raw materials could be devoted to the war effort…. I contrast that with the lackadaisical attitude of even progressive, environmentally hip Americans today about climate change. Is anyone even asking the question, “What would I be willing to sacrifice to save the planet for the next generation??” Bill Maher wisecracked recently–and it seemed he wasn’t even kidding–that he wasn’t even sure he could give up his television remote and go back to standing up and walking over to the TV when he wants to change the channel.
But I mean, really, would it be such a sacrifice to be a radically conservation-minded people, as in using both sides of every scrap of paper, giving up electricity for an hour or more a day (perhaps a self-selected hour) etc.? Citizens were shamed during WW II if they were seen as indulging in the merest self-gratification (like a hairpin) that could detract from the war effort. There is no analogue to that now. Conspicuous consumption remains a sign of status for the most part. What would it take to shift our collective consciousness–I mean, especially those of us that live a relatively comfortable life compared to the vast majority of the world’s population?? It will take a global mind revolution and international cooperation on an unprecedented scale to ward off unthinkable disaster at this point, but I think it has to start here probably, in America, where most of us have so many more choices than the other major polluters in the world.