When a driver is stuck in gridlock traffic, changing lanes can be particularly tough. Some drivers are moving at different speeds while others may not be moving at all. Changing lanes when stuck in gridlock can even seem dangerous, so why risk it? When it comes to change with people who are stuck in their own proverbial gridlock, too many would rather just stay in the same, even if it benefits not only the driver but also everyone else. Worse, that one driver may actually be part of the reason for the congestion in the first place. When people are stuck in their own gridlock, similar excuses act as justification against change. This is particularly noticeable when it comes to environmentally-friendly practices.
Take, for instance, single-use plastic bags. Californians are just months away from the single-use plastic ban being implemented at larger grocery markets and big-box stores, but almost everywhere, with exceptions typically found at health food stores, it seems as if no one cares. People don’t want to be inconvenienced with purchasing reusable bags and then having to bring them to the store. So instead, they simply opt not to. In the meantime, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch continues to grow — in 2012, experts found that the patch had grown 100-fold in 40 years to the size of Texas — with much of the growth of the awful mess due to plastics floating around in the ocean, including single-use grocery bags. The consequences of this garbage patch are tremendous on the ocean and the fragile eco-system it supports. (For more information, go to education.nationalgeographic.com and search for Great Pacific Garbage Patch.) Are we so stuck in our personal gridlock that we prefer to remain ignorant and stagnant?
On a more sensitive and immediate subject is water conservation. No one wants to pay more for water, which it has been said will force people to conserve, but then again too few want to change any habits despite all the bad news of reservoirs drying up. There are exemptions for farmers but there aren’t mandates on the kind of water-efficient crops they should be growing. Maybe it’s not that easy to just switch crops, but why aren’t legislators demanding that everyone change? Certainly not all farmers are to blame. We do need to eat, after all. But this is a team effort. Companies that bottle water and oil companies that frack also get a pass. We don’t need any more bottled water. And fracking — sure, oil companies get an exemption. Since so many people refuse to give up their gas guzzlers (nevermind plastics that are made from oil) for more fuel-efficient means of transportation, we demand the existence and work of oil companies. We are perpetuating our own gridlock.
Further, we want to blame agriculture for our dwindling water supply, which accounts for 80 percent of water use, maybe a bit more or less, depending on which study you read. Other experts on agriculture and water then blames it on environmental uses, such as keeping the rivers flowing for delta smelt as well as for reservoirs, dams and aqueducts, which accounts for 50 percent or so of all water uses, leaving ag use at 40 percent. (So which is it? Who do we blame?) On the other hand, homeowners want to keep their lawns green. Business owners want to keep up with their landscaping. Then people demand we stop housing construction because people use too much water and we don’t want more people living in our communities because we don’t have our water situation figured out.
But that’s the thing — we have it figured out but we keep choosing to stay in our gridlock. If we remember that California is a semi-arid climate, that excessive water use in a desert would result in water rationing in cyclical droughts, we wouldn’t be fighting with each other about who is to blame for all of this. But instead, we are stuck in our gridlock because it’s just easier and seems safer, plain and simple.
With Earth Day on the horizon, with events throughout the county spotlighting how to be more efficient with our limited resources, now is the time to ease out of your gridlock. It’s time to make changes now and to stop worrying about the inconvenience associated with it. It is time, however, to start worrying about the point of no return. Climate experts have found that our global temperature has risen 1.6 degrees in the last century; catastrophic global warming is only 0.4 degrees away — the point of no return. Be thankful but don’t take for granted that we are still able to drive.
We are all dependent on each other to make this world just a little bit better, so change lanes, get moving forward, or perhaps, get heading in the direction of progress on the other freeway where the traffic is flowing at the speed limit.