We all want simple solutions. It's easier if there are nice neat rules. For instance, I've had global warming on my mind a lot lately. What can we do to help the environment?
When my children were at school they had a speaker on environmental issues who told the children that they should bring their lunch to school in a lunchbox rather than a plastic bag. The thinking of course, was that the kids who used plastic bags were using bags that their mothers had bought, and that were thrown out after one use. My children took their lunch in plastic bags. So the other kids hassled them about it - the simple rule was "use a lunchbox". Actually, I never bought a plastic bag. They used the bags that the bread came in, and folded them up afterwards, into their pockets, to reuse the next day.
Then there's car pooling. It's better to have two people in the car than one, right? Well, on the days I drop my son at university on my way to work, we use more petrol than the days when I drive alone. I have to go a kilometre or so out of my way, and if I didn't give him a lift, he'd catch the bus.
Low energy light bulbs are better for the environment, right? Except that there is the worrying reports that they contain mercury, so what happens when they end up in the landfill?
And then there's food miles - locally grown food has to be better, surely? I don't know. If I want tomatoes at this time of year, should I buy New Zealand tomatoes or those flown in from Queensland? I suspect the Australian tomatoes are grown indoors and the New Zealand ones in glasshouses. Do they use fuel to heat the glasshouses or do they rely on passive solar heating? Unfortunately that information isn't widely available. (If you're in Britain, do you buy local tomatoes or those shipped in from Spain?)
We have kerbside recycling here, and of course I put my paper and plastic out for collection, but I can't help wondering about the amount of fuel used in the trucks that collect it from households, and then the shipping of the paper or plastic to wherever the factories are that reuse it.
I'm not advocating doing nothing. Sometimes things are simple. And sometimes it's more complicated. There are things we can do to simplify our lives - manage on less (less goods and less mindless activity), but there is no substitute for information and critical thought. Thinking is something that we shouldn't try and simplify.
More musings on "simple" at Sunday Scribblings.