Libertarians like the phrase “taxation is theft” – as in, the government is overstepping by enforcing compulsory tax collection, regardless of what that money be used for. Many of them believe that the things taxes pay for ought to be paid for by individuals and companies, including education, fire departments, and road upkeep. I have significant doubts as to the wisdom of such a system – or lack thereof. Maybe my tax money isn’t spent exactly how I might choose to spend it, but on the other hand, I’m also very well aware of how much more likely I am to spend my money on tacos or books than on filling potholes. I haven’t even managed to have the tree in my front yard trimmed, despite what I promised the neighbors three years ago.
So taxes are Very Important. We cannot maintain modern society as it’s been built over the last hundred or so years without them. They touch on the subject in U.S. History class, more or less forgetting to mention all the others reasons for the Revolution, but taxation has always been a sensitive subject. In the reading for the week, Fletcher seems to have a streak of Libertarianism in her, with a strong preference towards states’ rights, but still presents a valid point the role of government in furthering Green design. She acknowledges that morality and personal responsibility are not enough to get the job done. Even when the general population is one possessed of a strong moral compass, it’s insufficient to the task.
Throughout history, people did what was right because they were afraid of the consequences – hell, their governments, whatever – but as a whole, never have had enough incentive to do the right thing on their own. There’s always an excuse. We don’t even recycle unless it’s so convenient as to practically be done for us. Green buildings cost a little more, but we only think about that, not about what it will cost when our homes are under water because we wouldn’t spend those dollars on what mattered the most.
All of that is slowly beginning to change, though. The future without change has become painfully obvious, and there’s a whole new group of young adults that are poised to do something. Making a positive impact has become as important, in its own way, as making money (which could be a side-effect of the astronomical rise in basic living expenses over the last decade or so). These minds are brilliant and focused and have a goal in sight, and I think it will make all the difference. That’s part of the reason why all these sustainability efforts at the university level are so interesting – something I didn’t understand at first.
It’s probably only going to continue to get hotter. The ocean levels will continue to rise, without providing a useful source of potable water. It’s not too late, though. I’ve learned so much about what can still be done. Sustainability efforts are so many more, and often so much easier than I ever imagined. I never considered that food waste in plastic bags wouldn’t decompose properly until it was brought to my attention. But how easy is it to start a backyard compost heap? It’s not as if it’s difficult. It doesn’t even cost anything – maybe it even saves money on bags. So we’re going to start doing that at home. I noticed that the Starbucks on campus uses biodegradable straws now, too. T Boone Pickens was a big advocate for wind power, and gave a lot of money to OSU to make that happen. He even offered to pay for a number of wind farms for Oklahoma, and I buy my electricity from them now (and yes, it does cost a little more, but no one needs THAT many tacos). Finally, I have a secret love for public transportation – busses in particular – and someday Tulsa will get it together enough for me to get rid of my car altogether (I’ve had the same one for almost ten years, and have put about 60,000 miles on it). I’ve also stopped mowing my lawn to the dismay of my neighbors, and will carry on not spraying for weeds. They’re pretty in the spring, and they keep my lawn green when their grass is dead. I’m also going to add buffalo grass seed in an effort to reduce the necessity for water.
I think that most people do feel good about supporting companies that give back (that are social entrepreneurs). Everyone knows that Tom’s will donate a pair of shoes for every pair they sell. Maybe this isn’t as good a deal as they make it sound – it doesn’t cost them very much to make them, and maybe other things are needed more in the places they send them, but they’re trying. I would like to buy a pair, someday, but at the moment I have to consider a new pair of glasses instead. I lack binocular vision to a significant degree, making it difficult to drive in altered light or lack thereof, and my five-year old prescription isn’t up to the task anymore. (My three year old one sadly lives in Chicago now, left behind in the airport.)
Warby-Parker does the same thing as Tom’s, only (in my mind) in a more useful way. For every pair of glasses sold, they donate a pair. They’re not cheap, especially for an online optician, but they take corporate responsibility for their product. Yes, they pass on the expense to their consumer, but… still. I like the idea.