Government labels food products to inform the public about ingredients, and also detailed nutrition information such as protein, salt, fat and carbohydrate content. It is interesting to contemplate (hypothetically) what an information label might encompass which informed product purchasers of the amount of CO2 and pollution absorbed in manufacturing and disposing of each and every product.
I’m not actually advocating we do such a thing. Nor am I agreeing (or disagreeing) that CO2 is warming the globe, as CO2 is irrelevant to this discussion. This is a discussion about what we actually use, and whose responsibility it is that we use it.
Much of the “awareness raising” that author Wendell Berry endeavored for decades to nurture is about how much pollution is involved in the creation of consumer goods, so that we would make more informed decisions once aware of the “externalized costs” related to our purchases. Lead in paint, fluorocarbons in hairspray, PFOAs in frying pans, PCBs in oil. If we are unaware of their presence, we will keep using products ignorantly. Once aware, we (hopefully) will make informed choices without government coercion.
If product labels explained the pollution “cost” on every item (including, for Chinese goods, the pollution created in their packaging and shipping), then that “raising of awareness” might actually occur, and have an impact. Some awareness-raising is surely in order.
An immediate consequence of this labeling would be sudden revelations of the idiocy of the solar panel and electric vehicle (EV) efforts. Instead of examining these polluting, economically-destructive, regressive follies solely through an artificial assessment of comparing two worlds that don’t exist (one in which Vermont burns fossil fuels, the other in which it uses fairy-tale solar panels that incorporate zero emissions of CO2 in their manufacture) into reality — every solar panel would have a label that reflected how many chemicals and fossil fuels were used in its production, transport and disposal.
With EVs, it would suddenly be quite obvious that the “redneck” Vermonter driving a 10-year-old pick-up truck is not guilty of destroying the planet while driving to work: they are recycling an aging investment of limited natural resources, without all the comfort and bells and whistles of that newly-manufactured (Japanese) boondoggle that they were compelled to subsidize for a wealthy Vermonter to drive. Who is polluting more in both the long and short run? The EV car consumer, subsidized by our government, against our will and in derogation of our ecosystem.
But more, we would see that labeling products is not like labeling food. Food, generally, is something we need to have life. A set of skis manufactured with fossil fuels and shipped from Nordic climes is not necessary to live — neither is a cell phone. If every Vermont “progressive” were to take stock of their own recreational consumption — of carbon, CO2, or toluene and dioxin — they’d pretty quickly take stock also that for our government to burden taxpayers with gas taxes and other costs for the use of fuels to travel, is morally different from taxing leaf peepers or tourists on vacation.
What about snowmobiles and ATVs? Will the progressives who deceive themselves that they are “enlightened” about pollution shut down snowmobile trails while driving their Audis and BMWs to fly to Aruba or Cancun for vacation? Will they tax farmers for their use of fuel equally with the hot tub installer or the foot-washing salon?
How is it that Vermont is supposedly having some grand enlightened conversation about saving the planet while avoiding discussions of the type of use of pollution? The reasons are simple: one, solar panels are not about saving the planet; they are about making money for special corporate interests — an old and familiar story; two, similarly, the government doesn’t actually care if we use less energy, so long as it controls us. It is not interested in reducing our consumption but expanding its own; and three, the moment we have this conversation, the whole scam falls like an EB-5 program.
Let’s look at No. 3. If every progressive had to account for their own “carbonhydrate” diet before they could pick at the twigs in their rural neighbors’ eyes, they’d have their hands so full we’d never hear from them again — if they really cared about reducing their personal contribution to the degradation of their environment. But progressives don’t care about their own pollution — they really care about deluding themselves they are saving the world by subjugating everybody else. The hypocrisy of starving small farmers and poor Vermonters with regressive electric rates and taxes does not for one moment intrude on their indulgence when they spin down to the Cape in their $80,000 car, to embark on a speedboat to stay in a heated hotel at Martha’s Vineyard, and so on.
This awareness of personal responsibility for each iota of each product consumed, would pop the delusion that government can even address such problems. Much like home composting, recycling, or littering, government can’t take over every aspect of human behavior.
It is stunning that so many Vermonters have reduced their awareness of reality and personal responsibility to such a stupefyingly moronic perspective — let alone that they are legislating this as our future, willy-nilly. It is a future of mutually-assured environmental destruction, and the tragedy of the commons. Everyone can poke at the other guy’s pollution, and delude himself that they have “made a difference” while they drive an absurd electric vehicle on their daily polluting routines.
Here’s a dose of reality, and personal responsibility, from Wendell Berry, in 1970:
The environmental crisis rises closer to home. Every time we draw a breath, every time we drink a glass of water, every time we eat a bite of food we are suffering from it. And more important, every time we indulge in, or depend on, the wastefulness of our economy — and our economy’s first principle is waste — we are causing the crisis. Nearly every one of us, nearly every day of his life, is contributing directly to the ruin of this planet. A protest meeting on the issue of environmental abuse is not a convocation of accusers, it is a convocation of the guilty. That realization ought to clear the smog of self-righteousness that has almost conventionally hovered over these occasions, and let us see the work that is to be done.”
(“Think Little,” from A Continuous Harmony, p.75.)
Fifty years on, and that smog of self-righteousness blinds Vermont’s progressive charlatans, who are so clouded with their “warrior” status that they do not recognize they are the convocation of the especially guilty — what they are doing is worse than nothing. Only in such abject ignorance can “climate warriors” drive miles and miles to condemn dairy farmers for growing food.
Farmers should usurp Vermont’s Legislature and pass a law: energy, and CO2, used in food production is exempt from regulation by fools who order food from Uber while they protest in the park. Farmers feed the stupid urban consumers, not the other way around.
So why, then, are the biggest polluters permitted to employ idiotic logic to attack food producers Answer: because they are arrogant, ignorant, narcissistic consumers. When they get the logs from their own eyes, then they can talk to me about the twigs in mine. But they will never get the logs from their own eyes, and it will always be my personal responsibility to keep my own eyes open.
John Klar is an attorney and farmer residing in Brookfield, and the former pastor of the First Congregational Church of Westfield. © Copyright True North Reports 2021. All rights reserved.