If every American took every single action suggested by Al Gore it would only reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 21 percent. This is a stark truth: even if through simple living and rigorous recycling you stopped your own average American’s annual one ton of garbage production, your per capita share of the industrial waste produced in the US is still almost twenty-six tons. That’s thirty-seven times as much waste as you were able to save by eliminating a full one hundred percent of your personal waste. Industrialism itself is what has to stop. There is no kinder, greener version that will do the trick of leaving us a living planet. In blunt terms, industrialization is a process of taking entire communities of living beings and turning them into commodities and dead zones.
Could it be done more efficiently? Sure, we could use a little less fossil fuel, but it still ends in the same wastelands of land, water, and sky. We could stretch this endgame out another twenty years, but the planet still dies.
Trace every industrial artifact back to its source-which isn’t hard, as they all leave trails of blood-and you find the same devastation: mining, clearcuts, dams, agriculture. And now tar sands, mountain top removal, windfarms (which might better be called dead bird and bat farms).
No amount of renewables is going to make up for the fossil fuel or change the nature of the extraction, both of which are prerequisites for this way of life. Neither fossil fuel nor extracted substances will ever be sustainable; by definition, they will run out.
Bringing a cloth shopping bag to the store, even if you walk there in your global warming flip flops, will not stop the tar sands. But since these actions also won’t disrupt anyone’s life, they’re declared both realistic and successful.