Green Falls Short

September 24, 2010 Opinion

What has happened to our culture? To what depths have our souls fallen that we as a people simply accept the evil justifications and explanations by our leaders who are so corrupt that they do not even realize that their opinions are tainted by greed and fear?

Why have the more noble elements in our society failed to stand up and declare an ideological war against the tyranny of injustice that holds sway over the economics and politics of our times? Why has a hero not emerged from the vigorous arguments that surround our political atmosphere?

There can be no doubt that the cause of environmentalism is a holy and vital mission, another rung in the ladder of humankind’s evolution. All the literature and media culture of our era show that it is always noble and righteous to choose to protect the natural universe.

And yet, in spite of overwhelming evidence, our culture has staunchly resisted the dramatic and necessary changes that will be needed if our civilization is going to survive. Even Rollins College, a liberal arts school, the type of institution that some would say is the very foundation of America’s counterculture, has failed in its duty to rebel against archaic and unjust ideals.

Efforts have been made to support a greener, more sustainable way of life. For instance, Rollins Dining Services has removed all the Styrofoam drinking cups and lids from the Marketplace, replacing them with biodegradable products. Recycled napkins will also be used all over campus. Even the Fair Trade Starbucks at the bookstore emphasizes a greener and more socially responsible way of life.

Many other initiatives and programs have sprung up at Rollins, ranging from official school projects to student-run clubs. Initiatives such as the addition of solar panels on the Bush Science Center and the renovation of Ward Hall in 2007 received national acclaim for increases in sustainability, and Ward Hall was named runnerup in “Dorms of Distinction,” a feature article published in University Business.

It is not the success of these projects we scorn when we say the college counterculture has failed in its revolutionary duty. These achievements deserve respect because they still stand as solid evidence, at least in small part, of our ability as a society to actually engage in positive change. What is being criticized is not the effort of the few, but the laziness of the many. Why has the green movement failed to succeed? Why have the noble principles inherent in environmentalism not inspired the people of this world to new heights of protest? In other words, why have the students of Rollins failed to stand up and begin a campaign for change?

A country’s corruption does not stem from a single source, but from the myriad influences and impressions of its people. As such, what can be said about the students at Rollins? We have been made far more aware than most people of the reality and the dangers of our environmental crisis. In addition to its academic commitment to develop strong moral and ethical principles in the students, Rollins went so far as to assign reading No Impact Man, one of the most environmentally conscious and progressive books in the world, to this year’s entire first-year class.

And what was our reaction? A resounding no. Refusal, denial and excuses. How many people absolutely hated No Impact Man? I could count on one hand the people I heard say it was worth reading.

This has nothing to do with Rollins or its students. While it is true that students failed to rise to the occasion, what this shows is that there is something deep and pervasive in our society, a resistance that is so prevalent and insistent that it even conquers man’s instinct to survive.

The argument made for natural conservation, of living sustainably, is not some liberal initiative to control Capitol Hill. Modern movements for environmental reform are all grounded in legitimate concern for mankind’s survival. Anyone who took No Impact Man seriously would have recognized the enormous problems our civilization faces. Yet there are huge numbers of people who either refuse to believe there is a problem or far worse, who are too lazy and comfortable in their lives to act according to what they know is right.

I do not presume to know what it is about our society that makes us so lethargic about change. While statements could be made about our biased media, corporate corruption, bureaucratic system of government, our culture’s society of instant gratification, or our gluttony of consumerism, no single factor defines our plight. But there is a problem. Unless the people of our world start doing something meaningful to counter our downward spiral, unless we step beyond simply recycling napkins and hiding the Styrofoam, we might find ourselves trying to survive the disasters we were warned about in college.

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