When my friend Elizabeth drops her son off at school in Connecticut, the moms gather in the courtyard to chat. There is a cool new feature to their SUVs which allows them to lock the doors while leaving the engine on. They stand around, a bunch of them, having a nice chat, while their motors idle in the parking lot, keeping air conditioners going in cars that have no one in them and are going nowhere.
I write this without judgment. People have grown up striving all their lives to be successful in a culture that tells us that a sign of our success is to waste with impunity. "I've worked all my life not to have to worry whether the car engine is on ten minutes more than it has to be," the thinking goes. I get it. You worry about the pennies wasted and then you find yourself in a position where you don't want to worry anymore. You don't want some environmentalist telling you to start biting your nails again.
So it's all very well to argue that responsibility for pollution in our society belongs to the consumers and that we have to alter consumer behavior. The problem then is how to you convince people like the moms outside my friend Elizabeth's school to change? That's why other people believe that its the companies and the Government we have to tackle. That, in turn, begs the question of how you get government to change when the Democrats, for example, decided not to include fuel efficiency standards for cars in the recent energy bill.
There should be no argument about which route to take--no fighting across the ideological divide between personal and government responsibility. The problem we face is too big for infighting. The answer, I think, is to pursue all of it. There should be a race between the people trying to green Government, the people trying to green consumers and the people trying to green companies. As soon as one of use crosses the finish line, we all win.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.