Unsustainable: People won’t even take small steps to help save the planet

By Michelle Hermann | My main problem is how to avoid a planetary catastrophe. Everything else is a subset: traffic and transit, bike lanes, and the strange disparities between the way the rich and the poor live.

I want you, elected officials, to move the needle. I want you to resist the indolence and fate I see around me. I want you to appeal to the best angels of your constituents. I’m optimistic enough to believe that many are secretly waiting to be asked.

Judging by what I see here in the West Village, the most comfortable people don’t yet see that their habits and assumptions are part of the problem. Gut renovations to apartments that have already been renovated: Not sustainable. Huge apartments for one or two people with 24/7 air conditioning: not sustainable. Washers and dryers (with a shorter lifespan) in each unit: Not sustainable. A new smarter, cooler smartphone every 2.6 years: not sustainable. Even those vibrant cascading flowers (no doubt shipped from Chinese factories) that decorate every dining hut: are not sustainable. Instant food delivery is made possible by the noisy underclass on electronic vehicles speeding in lawless bike lanes: neither sustainable nor humane.

Here’s a typical story from my neighborhood: The spacious lobby of an apartment building grew so impassable with Amazon boxes that the condo had to buy an apartment on the first floor to contain it.

Here is a story from another building: a resident volunteered to buy a small compost, maintain and clean it, and teach the residents how to use it. The board wouldn’t even try it – it could be unsightly, you might smell it, and it might attract pests. Then came the city composting pilot in a big way, introducing a closed bin and regular hauling. Participation was entirely voluntary for residents. Council voted not again. The only reason given: There is no upside for us. Do not bother with the fact that the same garbage, which is not currently sorted, goes directly through the chute in the walls to the basement.

This is what the world is facing: Even one small, easy step in the right direction feels threatened by people’s property values, aesthetics, and expectations for well-being. It’s not hard to understand or do: just look back at how people lived before this disaster, before the post-war boom and cheap oil. Aim to have a small paper bag of trash each week. Clothes were dried on a rope and fixed to extend their life. Small electric fans. Winter sweaters. Home cooked meals. modest housing. vegetable gardens;

Not half a mile from here, thousands live in poverty on New York City Housing Authority projects plagued by years of delayed maintenance. Within an apartment building, hundreds live in dwellings, and no doubt many of them live in quiet poverty. These are not people who use more than their share of resources.

Rich or poor, we all live in a flood zone.

I remember the famous JFK speech, the speech that urged Americans to ask what they can do for their country. Naive, attractive, isn’t it? I want politicians to make a similarly bold request, to paraphrase the entire conversation, and to ask all of us to look at our wonderful and unprecedented relief and begin to find it hideous.

Hermann is a writer living in West Village. Her new novel “Save the Village” (Regal Publishing, February 2022, 289 pages).

The Village Sun is among six New York City community newspapers to partner with WNYC Public Radio in an essay project that asks readers what issue or issues are most important to them in the upcoming midterm elections for Congress. For more information and application instructions, click here.

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