I finally saw how to see reducing versus reusing and recycling. The distinction is subtle until you get it. Then you see that missing it leads people to counterproductive behavior and, egregiously, feeling good about that counterproductive behavior, leading them to do it more. I read yet another person posting about recycling who didn't realize or address that if we keep producing plastic, it won't matter how much we reuse or recycle, we'll still choke ourselves with it. The pattern and view I describe in today's episode applies for mercury, CO2, ocean acidification, using up resources other species need until they're extinct, and so on. Actually, it's more, because reusing and recycling increase supply, which lowers the cost. The place to look for the effect of recycling is not at the specific case. Yes, if you recycle a given water bottle it will stop that bottle from polluting, but lowering the price by putting it back into circulation leads to more uses, like individually wrapped apples and other waste. It's like the fat on an obese person who keeps eating more calories than he or she uses. You get rolls on top of rolls and fat stuffed between all his or her organs. We're bursting at the seams with plastic, and everyone stops at recycling or reusing while we produce ever more. Same with CO2, mercury, etc. I've tried to figure out how to explain that feeling good about counterproductive behavior accelerates it. Today's episode shares the view I came to recently. The title describes it: Reusing and recycling are tactical. Reducing is strategic.
My book, Initiative, launches in two days. In it I start by describing how Shark Tank, other media, and other parts of our culture that claim to promote entrepreneurship actually discourage it. A few months ago, I met Mark Cuban, one of Shark Tank's main figures, at NYU-Stern and saw him playing his Shark Tank role with students presenting. I was impressed with Mark and initially with the format, but then things changed, which I describe in today's episode.
Imagine someone said too much stress and proposed giving someone with stress shoulder rubs or body massages. I bet a lot of people would say, "I'm stressed. I could use a shoulder rub." If they were ready to give the shoulder massage then and there, they wouldn't say, "You know who should really get them: the government or big corporations." Yet suggest acting on their environmental values and they'll say their doing something wouldn't make a difference. They'll say go to government or big corporations first. My difference is that I've learned that acting on environmental values is like a massage, but for your soul, after assaulting it for your whole life by living against your values, twisting yourself up inside trying to convince yourself that the jet fuel you paid for that's coming out the back of the plane doesn't really have anything to do with you. There's nothing special about me giving greater access or ability to enjoy nature. I just had yet another meal where a past guest recommended I meet a friend where for a couple dollars, we both ate to our fill with enough for two or three more meals left, almost no packaging (she brought chard with rubber bands), we both repeatedly commented on how delicious the food was, it was convenient, quick, and led to greater conversation. Avoiding food packaging once felt like a challenge. Now food packaging seems disgusting. Avoiding food packaging is like avoiding stepping in dog poop. Living a processed life handed to you by organizations motivated by profit and growth is the opposite of a massage.