Predictions are tough for me — I tend to be hopeful about things other people find ridiculous, though sometimes that optimism pans out: despite my own interest in farmers markets and composting, I never imagined they’d become common currency in discussions around the city. So, instead of trying to come up with things that WILL happen, herewith my list of things that might happen, with the emphasis on the positive.
The Cute Endangered Animal Backlash: Endangered species have been around for centuries, but in recent years they’ve tended to the obscure (insert anonymous titmouse here) and the unpleasant (newts, snakes, insects). But the times they are a-changin’ — the polar bear’s slide toward extinction, thanks to the effects of global warming, began at about the same time we fetishized them in several animated kids’ films. News of problems facing the too-cute-to-live koala is just emerging: apparently climate change is lowering the nutritional value of the little creatures’ only food (say it with me), the eucalyptus. As the creatures we are more familiar with start stumbling, the very real impact of our actions on the environment may have an identifiable face (many cute and fuzzy faces, to be specific).
Rethinking the Economy: Forgive me for saying this, but in a way, the economic collapse couldn’t have come at a better time — for those of us who care about the environment at least. With huge multinationals stumbling and the financial shakeout so clearly illustrating how brutally we and the environment have been used to consolidate wealth for the richest Americans, perhaps it is finally sinking in that the system needs changing. If the auto industry collapses, perhaps they’ll finally listen to consumers and start producing high-mileage and alternative-fuel vehicles. With retail in a tailspin, perhaps we can admit that our crap-consuming ways are unsustainable, in every sense of the word. And with big banks getting all the bailout love while regular, once middle-class people become homeless, perhaps it’s time for the ordinary folks to stop paying for those huge salaries for financial execs, and start finding ways to keep their money in their own communities. Can you say co-op, local currency and credit union? Change-a-lullah!
Transportation Alternatives: MTA hiking fares? When you can get a decent bike for $100, more and more of us will just say no, and turn to human-powered transportation. The bike kids of Williamsburg do it, the Flight of the Conchords guys made it cool and cute, and Mayor Mike has actually started to make this city a bike-friendly place with all those new lanes. More bikes, more bike deliveries, less pollution and traffic. And for the price of two months worth of Metrocards you’ve got nearly free transport for years. Kinda works if you’re jobless, downsized, or lost everything in the market, right? Or even if you’re just watching your budget. Coming soon, greater cargo-carrying capabilities, better storage and parking for bikes, and increased tolerance for weather-gear wearing coworkers.
Reduce, REUSE, Recycle Revisited: Everyone’s spent a lot of time agitating for, and becoming informed about, more and better recycling. And while it’s good and important, it should be seen as the last option, not the first. Reducing consumption is happening as we speak (see economic slowdown, above). Now, prepare yourselves for the brave new world of reuse. I’m still seeing bags of clothes, sheets and furniture in the trash, but reuse’s time has come. Why oh why spend $100 on a crappy sweater when the same sweater can be found at a thrift store? Why buy a gallon of paint for $40 when Astoria’s Build It Green has a huge room filled with fancy paint for $5 a gallon? Even a simpleton can mend a torn shirt or patch a frayed elbow. Are you really going to throw out a $75 shirt because you lost a couple of buttons? And why not offer your unwanted clothes/food/towels/pet supplies to people and organizations and individuals that need them instead of throwing them away? As my grandfather used to say, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” To which I add “or pass it on to someone else who needs it.”
Happy New Year, everyone.