Friday, June 1, 2007

It's not easy being green

The environment seems to be on everyone's mind lately, as if pollution and global warming just happened suddenly over the past year without any warning.

Political campaigns all over the world are making the environment the hot topic. (Oops, sorry, that pun wasn't intended...) It's a bit worrying, though, because while the powers that be get us all worked up over greenhouse gases and global warming, they can easily sneak through some more tax breaks for big oil companies or take away some civil liberties that we weren't paying attention to anyway.

In the recent presidential election in France, the extreme right-wing candidate (Jean-Marie LePen) even joined in the discussion about the environment. Of course, he had to do this with his own twist. His campaign was all about kicking out the foreigners, closing France's borders, abandoning the euro for the trusty franc. So, when he said he had a plan to deal with the environment, we all leaned forward to listen to: "Let's kick out all the foreigners and close France's borders. That way, with fewer people living in France, there will be fewer cars on the road pouring pollution into the air and lower demand on France's limited resources." Et voilĂ .

Many departments have also passed laws banning shops from giving out plastic bags. In supermarkets, you have to buy reusable bags. They're also plastic, but they're durable, and since you're making an investment, you're more liable to be more mindful about bringing them with you. Except, of course, if you're me and you tend to realize on the way home from work that you need a few things, and your reusable bags are stored away in your kitchen cabinet. Your choice is to either juggle your purchases as you head out to find your car, or you spend another 10 cents on a bag that you swear you will remember to bring next time.

This being France, there are exceptions to the rule, whether or not they are legal. At my supermarket, the cashiers still have some plastic bags that they give out for free if you are buying meat and you don't want the "juices" to get all over your other purchases. This being France, however, there are not always exceptions to the exceptions to the rule. My friend went to the supermarket and declined the freebie for the chicken she purchased. But, she was also buying eggs, so she asked the cashier for a bag to wrap about the carton, just as a little protection. "Mais, non! Bags are for meat only!" My friend snapped back, "But you were going to give me one for the meat..." The cashier ignored my friend's plea with, "C'est impossible!" and continued to scan the rest of the groceries.

For my part, I drive a diesel car, though I was told that the newer engines burn more cleanly than the old ones; I take longer in the shower than I should, a habit that's hard to break; I leave my TV on stand-by, so I can get immediate access to crap programming. I do recycle all plastic, aluminum (or "aluminium") and glass! But, I also wash the containers thoroughly so they don't make a mess or smell, which is probably not the best use of water.

I just hope my nieces forgive me for the state of the planet when they grow up...