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A Hausfrau Explains Global Warming


Al Gore was just on the front cover of the Sunday magazine of Spain’s leading daily newspaper as “The Prophet of Climate Change” with an interview inside where he talked up his movie “An Inconvenient Truth” (“Una verdad inconveniente”) about global warming and his concerns about the environment.
(That’s how the global news cycle works, by the way. Spaniards get exposed to U.S. trends in books, movies and ideas (at least the ones being well flacked) with a slight delay. Americans get Spanish thinkers on the cover of the NY Times Sunday magazine…um, never?)
It was a “preaching to the choir” interview, in part because Europe is considered a relative good guy for the environment. Or at least better than the U.S. When people are looking for an example of how the U.S. can be less wasteful of resources, some will point to Europe, which has a fine standard of living but is generally less piggish.
So I figure it’s time to look at a few ways this actually translates into daily life. For example, that most basic act of dailyness (well, not daily if you’re lucky) — going to the grocery store. Here, I’m mainly thinking of how it is in Spain, less environmentally conscious than Northern Europe but also with lower income levels so perhaps less wasteful for that reason (which is not to say that some of Spaniards’ bad habits aren’t increasing as income levels rise).
How do you get to the grocery? SUV? Super-sized SUV? Tank? A European might actually – walk.
And what do you have when you get there? Not as much stuff, that’s for sure. Like all the food storage stuff — big baggies, little baggies, throw-away containers, foil, waxed paper – exists, but with fewer brands and styles, so there’s not as much encouragement to wrap up a leftover pea in a hunk of plastic until it rots in the fridge and it’s time to throw it out. Want to save something? Use a plate. Or maybe Tupperware-style stuff (which of course can be reused).
Now what about after you’ve walked home with your little wheelie cart and want to haul your groceries into your apartment? The hall lights are on, right? Nope, try a timer switch that you need to hit when you walk in. Some public bathrooms also have timer-switch lights. Very short timers, occasionally.
Paper products likewise just aren’t flung around as much. I’m thinking about one of our typical meals with kids in the States, where you walk away from the table leaving behind a three-foot-high stack of crumpled paper napkins. Here quite often any napkin dispenser on the table has flimsy little tissue-paper-type napkin things. Parents just don’t leave the same kind of stack. I don’t know what they do. Maybe a cloth from home? You can’t tell me their kids are neater. Well, maybe you can.
The question is, are Americans interested in the small sacrifices necessary to save energy, trees, space in their toy boxes? Who knows?
Here’s one way to save gas. Two of my most car-alert American visitors have each wanted to wrap up one of these cuties and take it home in their suitcase. One insisted we walk in the showroom and get her a brochure, which went with her as a favorite souvenir. The other spent some vacation time on the Internet researching how much it might cost to import the car or to try to buy it in the U.S. Now the Smart car is apparently heading to the U.S., but part of what makes it so cute is the relatively low price in Europe, which might not be the case when it’s in the U.S. But the closer U.S. gas prices get to European levels, the cuter it might look.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 4:07 PM | Permalink

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