Red, white, blue, and green

I don’t generally pay much attention to the election year political conventions, especially as the outcome seems to be a foregone conclusion these days. I don’t know yet whom I will vote for (though yuesterday’s opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal about Obama’s plans for Social Security makes me think perhaps I should vote for McCain just to keep Obama out of the White House), but I doubt either major party’s convention will do much of anything to influence my vote.

I did find yesterday’s article about the Democrats’ plans for “the most sustainable political convention in modern American history” very interesting, however. Sustainable, according to Merriam-Webster, means “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged.” Living in Iowa I have learned something about the measures farmers take to keep from depleting their land. But the sustainability desired by the planners in Denver is much broader, encompassing so many goals that they are finding it difficult to locate products meeting their requirements.

In my recent post about grocery bags I linked to a site showing the drawbacks of using paper bags, which would seemingly be more environmentally friendly than plastic. In a similar vein, one Denver caterer questions the extent to which some of the “greening” efforts will actually help the environment.

Compostable utensils, she says, are often shipped from Asia on fuel-guzzling cargo ships. As for the plates: “Is it better to drive across town to have china delivered to an event and then use hot water to wash it, or is it better to use petroleum-based disposables?” she asks.

Moreover, sustainability apparently also means organic products, union labor, and local vendors. And what do you do if union shops don’t use organic materials? Even if they could find a “union-organic” baseball cap (which they can’t), would it make sense environmentally to purchase them if it meant transportation from the other side of the country, if a non-union, non-organic hat could be purchased locally?

I don’t deride the environmentalist goals. I hate hearing the term “environmentalist wacko” (though I have little use for the brand of environmentalism that sees humans as a disease on the planet). But I thought the best suggestion in the article was, if they really want to reduce the environmental impact of making whatever decisions need to be made at this convention, to have a virtual convention where everyone participates via the internet.

Reduce, reuse, and recycle are good principles to follow. Supporting the local economy is a good thing. And having a celebration is a good thing too, and can justify some splurging (I’m planning my son’s 9th birthday party right now). But reading the article, seeing how these people are trying to score on so many politically correct issues, I find myself rather cynical. (Not that it probably takes much, in today’s political environment, to reach that point.) If people were making efforts on a daily basis to improve the environment, would this showy display of “greenery” be necessary? And if they’re not (making those efforts), is this really the most effective way to get them started?

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