Rationally Green

Many environmentalists favor change in the form of radical laws with unrealistic standards. But rather than forcing change on an unwilling public, why not help people see that it is in their self interest to protect the planet?
Jessica-bennett

Driving through LA is like gliding through the trajectory of human dominance on earth. Where legs were too slow, we built wheels. For the wheels, we crushed great stones and paved the uneven ground.

We needed space, and we wanted height, so we tore metal from the ground and wielded it into great buildings. Our world is our home, but it is also a never-ending reconstruction project for the human race.

Here, in this time, we’ve made our own stars in every light, millions and millions of them that illuminate our cities from space. We’ve cultivated the land, plowed it down to neat squares and clustered resorts around our natural wonders. Where once only mountains rose, there are now preening skyscrapers.

Innovation is the legacy of humanity. We have the unique ability to peer back into the past and to imagine and manipulate the future like no other creature that shares our planet. We dream and from these dreams we build.

Innovation, growth, and success are champions of our times, but the winds are beginning to change. Suddenly a new question emerges: what is the cost of industry? What footprints are we leaving behind?

Environmental concern over the damage of business was once a lonely battle cry that mostly echoed from the hallowed halls of academia. Business spoke of growth and Wall Street cheered. Trees were lopped under the banner of progress, sludge secretly slid into area water supplies and electricity and gasoline gleefully gulped as the civilized world churned and churned into the 21st century.

Those times are over. One too many hurricanes and documentaries have helped us shiver out of our environmental apathy and open our eyes to the destruction our progress is causing. Global warming has netted itself a cozy chair up front in national worries, and words like carbon footprints are now making their way into the general vocabulary.

The demand for environmentally friendly business is a cry people are beginning to hear. We look in wonderment at the damage we are causing and little heated tendrils of guilt begin to burn within the national body.

New questions are echoing coast to coast, in political hallways and in private homes. When we change our world, is it for the better? Should we have the right to paint over nature with the broad strokes of highways — to push buildings into her surfaces and chug out smog and chemical cocktails into the air?

The word of the hour is responsibility. What is our responsibility to our environment? What do we owe it and the future generations that will inhabit this planet after us?

On the edges of extremism lingers the caviler notion that we must immediately cinch our belts, halt everything, and let nature return anew. Of course this would mean the immediate destruction of our economy, our entire way of life, the jobs of a good part of the work force, and a destitute future. Our children might inherit a green earth, but all the man-made stars will be dim and flickering.

At the same time, it seems logical that we should treat our environment with care. Sheer profit is not a worthwhile enterprise if it turns our world into a chemical swamp, peels back the ozone layer, and endows the next generation with a planet spiraling out of its delicate eco-balance.

Ah-ha! So, it would seem that a compromise is in order. Simply put, we cannot ignore this little planet we live on. It provides us the substance from which to build our dreams. We walk on its surface, swim in its oceans, and breathe the air it contains. Preserving our environment is preserving the future of our species, promoting the health of humanity, and keeping guard over our home.

Yet we must be careful not to tumble too deeply into the new environmental flame that has found kindling in popular thought. To drastically alter or stall progress, force companies to rework their business, demand cars to run on something completely new, and malign any use of resources, is to overmedicate — trying to kill the disease at once by gobbling the entire bottle of pills.

A hindered economy could easily spiral into recession and depression. Somehow, I imagine mass poverty and social upheaval would be of graver danger than a soccer mom’s SUV.

The challenge is finding the balance between protecting our environment and protecting our economy and progress. We must find ways of altering business practices without destroying or overburdening the business itself, of delegating resources in a responsible manner while meeting demand. We need to transition fuels and energy sources rather than implement cauterizing laws.

Most importantly, we must breed a culture of responsibility where people feel tied to their environment, connected and responsible for it — where we long to see and appreciate the stars in the sky and the stars we have created here on earth.

Jessica Bennett recently graduated from Truman State University with a BA in Communication. She now lives and works in California.

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To post comments, please log in first. The Atlasphere is a social networking site for admirers of Ayn Rand's novels, most notably The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. In addition to our online magazine, we offer a member directory and a dating service. If you share our enjoyment of Ayn Rand's novels, please sign up or log in to post comments.