The title says it all, but let’s look in more detail.
Take heroin and you get euphoria, but you also suffer the addiction and ruination of your life. You cause others to suffer too, but not directly from the drug. They suffer from your degradation, running out of money, isolation, and so on. In principle, you could use heroin and not cause others to suffer.
Gamble and you occasionally win, but you suffer losing your life savings, house, and friendships.
Take meth, crack, or cocaine and you feel energy and drive, but you suffer the come-down and have less energy or enthusiasm in rest of life, now dull.
Smoke cigarettes and you feel calm and relieved, but you suffer the lung disease and increased anxiety in the rest of life.
Use social media and you feel connected, but you isolate yourself and feel envy.
Consume doof and you feel the pleasure engineered into the sensory experience and of stuffing more matter down your maw, but you also suffer the obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and lethargy in the rest of life.
But fly, drive and SUV, build a mansion, have more than two kids, air condition, or choose to live where you feel such things are necessary and you feel your craving satisfied, but someone else gets kicked off their land, enslaved, tortured, raped, murdered, or their culture extinguished.
Think about it. Somebody pays for the power you consume. You may fantasize that in some future power comes without pollution, but today and for all foreseeable future, someone else suffers for it. That’s colonialism and we live as colonialists.
That suffering results from power sources including fossil fuels, solar, wind, fission, fusion, and every source except present-day photosynthesis—that is, not fossil fuels stored outside the biosphere for millions of years—wind used by sailboats and old-style windmills, and a few nearly negligible sources.
(On reflection, I should include consuming doof with polluting activities since it requires a huge polluting industry to manufacture it, destroying food in the process.)
Would you take heroin if you got the euphoria but ruined someone else’s life, someone you never met and far away?
I was about to write that I doubt you would, but I think many of us would if everyone around us did, much as we’d avoid facing that part of ourselves.
The big surprise: the pleasure you feel from polluting activities is smaller than if you didn’t do them.
However much you feel, say, flying improves your life, you’re justifying and rationalizing after the fact. You may feel a jolt of reward from doing the drug, so to speak, but you decrease the total experience of what brought that reward, be it connection with family, nature, adventure, culture, cuisine, job security, income, etc.
You don’t overall gain from polluting activities any more than you do from heroin. The heroin addict can’t tell when gripped with craving any more than you can.
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