The Ugly Truth About Being Green

In a longish essay in the Wall Street Journal weekend edition, Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, tells a story about why

being green is hard. My wife and I recently built what is arguably the greenest home for miles around. OK, stop. This is a good time to define “green.”

The greenest home is the one you don’t build. If you really want to save the Earth, move in with another family and share a house that’s already built. Better yet, live in the forest and eat whatever the squirrels don’t want. Don’t brag to me about riding your bicycle to work; a lot of energy went into building that bicycle. Stop being a hypocrite like me.

I prefer a more pragmatic definition of green. I think of it as living the life you want, with as much Earth-wise efficiency as your time and budget reasonably allow. Now back to our story.

I recommend you read it. Adams clearly went to great lengths to build his green house, but he has no illusions about the tradeoffs involved, the psychological appeal of being an “early adopter,” and the aesthetics of hippies. The piece is hilarious and spot-on.

If only more environmentalists talked like this.

13 Responses to “The Ugly Truth About Being Green”

  1. laursaurus says:

    I prefer a more pragmatic definition of green. I think of it as living the life you want, with as much Earth-wise efficiency as your time and budget reasonably allow. Now back to our story.

    I wish “green” would just go back to being a color you get by mixing blue and yellow! ūüôā

  2. Pascvaks says:

    Whether is’s buying a house (blue, green, red, or not) or doing anything that costs more than a dime today, the biggest issue is usually one of trust.¬† We’re out of our element, living in a world of strangers, we don’t even know who our next door neighbors are.¬† Most do not even have¬†relationships within a church, or local association/club, or anything to speak of.¬† There’s work and the family and a friend or two maybe, and they’re all miles away.¬† Most of us “let our fingers do the walking” and we’re issolated in a ‘nice’ city or town from everything and everyone –and we don’t know the neighbors.¬† So, when it comes to even getting an honest opinion about Joe-the-Plumber or Fred-the-Electrician, who we gonna call? When was the last time your neighbor knocked on your door to borrow a cup of sugar?¬† The world is getting smaller, but not our neighborhoods.¬† We go farther afield than ever, but have less true friends and¬†real neighbors¬†than ever too.¬† We can talk real-time around the world, but… (you have to know people to trust them;-)

  3. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    The essay is a scream.  I laughed so much I started irritating my wife.
    Definitely worth reading.

  4. laursaurus says:

    Thanks for recommending the essay, Steve!
    Your wife got irritated because you were laughing? PMS? If my husband was reading something that managed to crack him up, I’d be telling him to scoot over and let me read. ¬†It takes a lot to get a chuckle out of him, although he’s usually pleasant.
    He just woke up! I’m going to see if I can persuade him to read it.

  5. intrepid_wanders says:

    Adams in typical form, just awesome.  Reminds me of and article on TAV (Only not as funny, in the Adams way).
    A lot of the contention with policy issues do revolve around this Scott Adams/early adoptor experience.

  6. Eli Rabett says:

    What Joe said.  Adams puts the lie to the claim that people will always pursue self interest economically defined.  Doing so puts them in conflict with their surroundings and community.  There is a large price to be paid for that.

  7. Unfortunately, though, Scott Adams has a history of Dunning-Krugerism.  I think he should stick to cartooning about office politics.

  8. Steve Fitzpatrick says:

    Eli #6,
    Scott Adams is rich.  Being rich opens a range of options that would never be considered by the not-rich.  I have observed a strong positive correlation between someone being very rich and often choosing to not strictly pursue their economic self interest.  I have never found that terribly surprising.
    Nothing against Scott, of course.¬† He is so funny he deserves to be rich, and I don’t care how he chooses to spend his money.

  9. intrepid_wanders says:

    “What Joe said… ker, ker, ker, ker, ker”.
    ” Adams puts the lie to the claim that people will always pursue self interest economically defined…¬† ker, ker, ker, ker, ker”.

    “There is a large price to be paid for that…¬†ker, ker, ker, ker, ker”.

    Is Eli a lich from a South Park episode or what? ¬†Apparently, Scott should attempt the “green dream” only with the Rabbet-lich advise.

    I am sure a donation to the Romm crusade would have been more sensible use of money.

    I am curious what the Rabbet-lich lair looks like.  If it is indeed a cave, that would be the ultimate green (unless he turned the resident bear to stone, or something).

    Lighten up bunny.  You scared the squirrels.

  10. John N-G says:

    Adams: “As a rule, the greener the home, the uglier it will be.”
    Fortunately, this is potentially just a temporary condition.  SUVs did not become ugly (for many) until people recognized the gas consumption and road hazard they represented.  If people start viewing black roofs as an assault on their right to a more stable climate, black roofs will become ugly too.

  11. Yarmy says:

    There’s always a market for the wealthy to assuage their guilt with worthless gestures.
    Perhaps he could have spent some of his money on helping a problem that exists right now like the 1.5million children who die of diarrhoea every year ( But Global Warming is so much more sexy,  I suppose.

  12. laursaurus says:

    Can someone translate? What is “ker” and who are the squirrels?

  13. Hank Roberts says:

    Yarmy, how do you power water purification projects? T0 provide a supply of good drinking water takes power; bringing the cost of photovoltaic down helps those projects in may areas.
    Yes, it’s possible to purify water–a bottle at a time–without a power source.¬† Sadly, people don’t follow directions; it’s not working.¬† “It takes a village”– individualibertarianist notions don’t work for public health; group health and immunity is the bottom line.

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