Whenever I return to Canada from travelling in an Asian, African and even European country, I experience culture-shock, especially in terms of energy usage – how careful and frugal they are, and how careless and extravagant we have become. Might I add how wasteful, trivial, thoughtless, foresightless, arrogant, narcissistic, habitual, addicted, wanton, matter-of-fact, taken-for-granted, and dangerous, we are in our usage of what finite resources we have.
To put it bluntly, we behave like spoiled brats. Do we really think that we are the global elite, more deserving of Earth’s limited bounty than others?
Even Japan and Germany use only half the energy per capita as we Canadians do. And China’s is a quarter, if that, and India’s maybe less than a tenth. The only country I’ve visited that does not give me any cultural shock upon my return to Canada is the United States, whose per capita energy expenditure is, if anything, marginally higher than ours.
In other countries, I see people turning lights off upon exiting a room, having smaller homes to power, with no lawns to power-mow every week, biking rather than driving, commuting shorter distances, using AC less if they have AC at all, putting on a sweater rather than cranking up the heat, using hand tolls whenever feasible, being more renewable-energy aware, getting their daily exercises by working more physically. Small things like these add up to the cultural character, and make for huge energy savings for the planet and our children, not to mention a less polluted and more sustainable global environment.
To break this pathological cultural habit we must reflect on every thing we do, always with reference to the planet and our kids, and modify our personal and collective behaviour accordingly. If other people can do it and be happy, we can too, with a little inconvenience. Or we will continue to stick up like the sore thumb in the diagram below.
Note: The diagram is of 2009 vintage. Since then, the North American sore thumb has shorted slightly due to the Great Recession of 2009, but once the economy recovers, if it will, the sore thumb will length again. It is the current North American character, unless we take this opportunity to transform ourselves.
Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)