I do adore The Onion.
I'm as guilty of this as anyone - they took away the recycling bins at my apartment, so I no longer recycle the paper, plastic, and cans I use. I live on soda, and, I'm afraid, plastic bottles of water (though I'm trying to remember to use my aluminum bottle, it still makes the water taste funny 'cause it's new), usually mixed with Crystal Light or some such thing that causes a little more garbage (because I can't stand the taste of most water, let alone tap water in suburban Maryland), I turn the heat up when I'm cold, I turn the air conditioning up when I'm hot (this is much more egregious), and I like having the lights on.
Somehow, the fact that I recycle the cans and paper at the farm and have switched all my bulbs to compact flourescent is supposed to make up for everything else, even though each act is unrelated to the other, like saying "I paid the water bill, so now I can use all the electricity I want". Things don't cancel each other out, and you can't make the great Pacific Garbage Patch shrink by buying carbon offset credits. My energy-efficient bulbs don't make the plastic bottles disappear.
I can't even be smug about the fact that we own 60+ acres of trees that we will leave wild; my carbon footprint may be small, but my garbage pile still poisons sea turtles and cute, cute octopongles*.
The trouble with being responsible about the environment is that it takes effort. US Americans (and I count myself among you, having picked up the US lifestyle in the 20+ years I've lived here) have built a life around convenience, and I must admit, it's awesome. It's much nicer to take a shower than it is to wash oneself with a bucket of water, and the same goes for washing dishes and doing laundry, even though the bucket (or small tub) method is much more water-conscious. We use energy like it's going out of style, and we built giant swathes of housing developments that actively discourage walking from one place to another. We honestly live like we need to use up as much fossil fuel as quickly as possible, because Jack Bauer will kill us unless we consume all the oil right now.
(I always laugh when the Natural Gas ad comes on TV - "they say we have 100 years of natural gas in the US alone". 100 years is less than two lifetimes, who are they trying to kid? Congress, I'm guessing. They'll believe anything.)
When I lived in England, I didn't have any money, not really. I was lucky, and didn't have to pay rent, but the other bills were mine, and food took precedence over hot water, phone, and any kind of vehicle. Fortunately, all UK cities and most of the towns and villages have excellent public transportation, and I like walking. I washed my hair once a week or so in about six inches of lukewarm water, and watched TV on an old black and white set a previous renter had left behind at my mother's house. For entertainment, I took old crusts and went and fed the ducks.
My mother is much more thrifty than me, having lived through WWII and rationing - she has the money to have all sorts of nice appliances, but she doesn't bother, because she can get on just fine with the little tiny washer she has, and while she has updated the water heater so that it's more energy efficient (it used to heat the entire closet it was housed in; we'd put laundry in there to dry), it isn't any bigger.
I'm very Americanized now - I adore my appliances of convenience, and even though I love the thought of growing my own food and garden, I still have a huge refrigerator and a great dishwasher at the farm. We'll be getting a big washer and dryer, too - though at least I always wait for a full load before I wash anything. They may all be Energy Star [tm, copyright, etc.] rated, but they're still a lot more resource-consuming than a root cellar, a small fridge, and a plastic tub in the sink to wash dishes.
(I refuse to boil my laundry. I'll wait until the collapse of civilization before I do my laundry by hand.)
My grandmother had a tiny dorm-sized fridge, but she had a pantry that was so cold the mice donned parkas and gloves** before venturing in. In fact my grandmother's entire house was so damn cold, there'd be ice on the windows inside in the winter, and my mother once left a covered pan of sausages out on the cooktop for two days, and they were fine.
It's hard, changing a lifestyle built on the idea that resources are unlimited - like any bad but seductive habit, it's worse having lived richly and wastefully and going back to being careful than it would be having never had the lifestyle at all. It's hard to get us to go back to the farm after we've seen the big city. This is one of the reasons why China and India aren't really interested in the environment - we had our turn to use up resources and get rich, now it's their chance, and they're not going to be nagged by a country that thinks it's their older, wiser sibling, who got rich and is now telling everyone else they can't do the same, since it would be bad for the Earth.
"We don't really care about the environment while 1/3 of us are living in poverty"*** is India's reasoning, and who can blame them?
(China just wants to get rich so it can dominate the world. I'm not sure what their plans are after world domination, and I'm not sure they know either. I'd make an analogy of a dog chasing a car, but that would be stupid and insulting. Let's say it's like the pursuit of fame - the day after you've made it, what do you do? No-one ever plans ahead.)
But. But, but, but - either way, we're going to have to give stuff up, whether by choice or because there's no resources left.
I'll get on it. We'll get on it. Maybe tomorrow.
...the world will be okay until then, right?
*Fuck the dolphins. Flipper is a member of the Illuminati. You heard it here first. Octopus rules!
**teeny tiny little mittens, actually.
***I made this statistic up. I am too lazy to Google it, but feel free to do so yourself.