In the context of present-day developments, it is impossible to underestimate the significance of environmental problems. Every individual is aware of the necessity to adhere to recycling the waste, dividing litter, minimizing different kinds of pollution, and saving water consumption. It is considered that the negative impact of ecological issues may be reduced in case every person contributes to it. Therefore, the idea that personal contribution plays a crucial role in saving the planet and appears to be the only effective solution is widely promoted. Derrick Jensen and Bill McKibben attempt to question this widely spread opinion, highlighting the negative influence of corporations and government activity on the current environmental condition. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to compare their articles Forget Shorter Showers and Waste Not, Want Not and cover how these texts relate to each other.
The Government and Corporation Activity Causing Ecological Issues
Both Forget Shorter Showers, written by Jensen, and Waste Not, Want Not, introduced by McKibben, contain an opinion that personal consumption restrictions are not as effective as they are advanced. The authors state that the waste, which is produced by corporations and government, appears to be more significant and, consequently, more dangerous for the nature. For this reason, the necessity to regulate this process is evident instead of paying too much attention to the contribution of the population, which is not so influential. Derrick Jensen marks: “More than 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. The remaining 10 percent is split between municipalities and actual living breathing individual humans”. Therefore, the government and corporations damage the planet more considerably than the population does.
In Forget Shorter Showers and Waste Not, Want Not, a similar view on capitalism and economic growth is expressed. Jensen and McKibben see the line of economic development as the major reason for the current poor ecological condition. Capitalism encourages people to consume more food and purchase more clothes and other material things. The material side of life is becoming more important, as it presents a way of highlighting the status in society. McKibben provides an illustrative example for this thesis, reminding that people buy huge houses with numerous rooms, which, in fact, they do not use. It should also be mentioned that individuals purchase cars with powerful engines, which are not necessary for driving in a city. Therefore, economic growth contributes to the rapid destroying of the planet.
It should be noted that Jensen and McKibben also admit the use of living simply by every resident. However, the attitude of the author to this measure appears to be different to some extent. Derrick Jensen reckons: “personal change doesn’t equal social change”. He is aware of the impact of living simply by every individual, though he believes that it does not present a “powerful political act”, which implies revolutionary changes both in the short and long run. Jensen refers to the government as a social institute, which has enough power to contribute to solving this issue significantly. According to him, in case this strategy is not followed, personal contribution may appear useless.
As for Waste Not, Want Not, it also contains a question about the effectiveness of personal changes in addressing environmental problems. However, comparing to the article observed in the previous paragraph, the author draws more attention to this approach. McKibben refers to Chris Jordan’s photographies to demonstrate that:
“The 106,000 aluminum cans Americans toss every 30 seconds, or the 1 million plastic cups distributed on US airline flights every 6 hours, or the 2 million plastic beverage bottles we run through every 5 minutes, or the 426,000 cell phones we discard every day, or the 1.14 million brown paper supermarket bags we use each hour, or the 60,000 plastic bags we use every 5 seconds, or the 15 million sheets of office paper we use every 5 minutes, or the 170,000 Energizer batteries produced every 15 minutes”.
Thus, he intends to highlight how damaging wasteful habits are. In addition, McKibben states that this behavior is characteristic for everybody with an insignificant exception, and, from his perspective, this issue should be definitely addressed. People cannot live without particular luxuries and consume considerably more than they need on an everyday basis. Therefore, unlike the previously mentioned author, McKibben does not have a radical attitude to personal change, and admits its importance.
These days, ecological problems and numerous ways of solving them are widely discussed, and Derrick Jensen and Bill McKibben presented their reflections in the articles Forget Shorter Showers and Waste Not, Want Not. The opinion of the authors is similar in the context of the significant contribution of government and corporations on the environmental condition. However, unlike Jensen, McKibben focuses on personal change almost to the same extent and promotes the necessity to abandon wasteful habits. Furthermore, both authors believe that economic growth appears to be the major reason, which leads to multiple environmental issues. Therefore, Derrick Jensen and Bill McKibben are similar in their reflections to some extent, though there are differences as well.