Eco Responsibility vs. Cognitive Dissonance

by Francisco G. Gómez

Having electricity at the flick of a switch, running water at the turn of a faucet knob or gas heat by raising the thermostat really makes us subconsciously irresponsible to a fault. Those of us who do this continually would beg to differ, simply because we don’t really care or suffer from something called “ cognitive dissonance.” Webster’s dictionary defines it as: psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes (as a fondness for smoking and a belief that it is harmful).

Do you have that significant other or children who know the truth behind fossil fuel consumption, environmental sustainability and the inevitable economic collapse that is shortly to arrive? You know, the ones that walk through the house leaving a light or two on in every room, as well as the TV, computer or any of the other things that are supposed to make our life easier?

The one that really gets me is my morning tea ritual; I get up and do the normal things that most semi conscious people do at 7 in the morning. I get the kettle going, wait for the water to boil. Meanwhile, I eat a piece of fruit, grab my book or pre-charged computer and get ready to sit down in my customary chair in the living room. Mind you, I’ve done all of this without turning on the ceiling fan that has three 60 watt bulbs screwed into the sockets. Yes, I know, I’ve turned the gas stove on for a period of 3 minutes, but at least give me credit for not using the fan and lights! Along comes the significant other or son and flicks on the light switch just as I put the honey in the tea. I say good morning and why do you have to turn the lights on; answer is always “I can’t see.” Of course there’s a picture window in my kitchen that lets in plenty of light – talk about getting pissed off!

Here’s the other one that makes me absolutely crazy; the dinner dishes must be done, the stack sits on the counter next to the kitchen sink, on comes the water, lever completely open and does not stop until every dish and utensil is rinsed off. I ask, What about water consumption, haven’t we talked about this before and you agree that saving water is wise?” Answer is, “ You do the dishes your way and I do it my way!” I ask again, “What about using less water?” no answer.

Here’s a good one; my son usually has the light and ceiling fan going every minute that he’s in the toxic zone that he calls his bedroom. I constantly complain, but my protestations fall upon deaf ears. The night comes and the temperature can fall to about 49 degrees on average during the Spring. Of course, the fan is still going all night and into the day. The conversation goes something like this:

“Hey, kid, the temp really fell last night, wouldn’t you say? Answer, “ So what are you
trying to say, dad?” Answer, “It was freaking cold last night; why did you leave the
fan on?” Answer, “I was hot” “But you have all the windows open.” Answer, “ Yea, I
know, it’s the sound, it helps me sleep.” I say, “why don’t you record the sound and
loop it for hours? Answer, “It’s not the same, dad.” I say, “ It’s a hell of lot cheaper,
son.” Answer, “Yea I know, but it’s not the same.”

The vein in my forehead wants to explode and my eyes start to twitch uncontrollably
The problem is cognitive dissonance created by years and years of abundance that is rapidly coming to an end, but most of us here in the mid eastern side of the United States choose to zone out to this reality. In other words, you know that the cost of water, electricity and consumer goods have sky rocketed, but you chose to put it out of sight and mind because of your CD!

As Climate Change continues to impact the planet at an alarming rate, we have been fortunate not to see climate migration like some places in Africa, ice melts in the polar ice caps that are displacing animals, or the simple fact that we still have running water coming through our faucets; even if it isn’t wise to drink the water, not even filtered! There’s a water war taking place on our earth; just take a look and see how the Spring and bottled water businesses have proliferated.

We can’t forget that the powers that be in Washington have sold out to the big fossil fuel companies and will attempt to keep an outdated, dirty and very dangerous industry alive. And, now that our government has rolled back small environmental strides made in past years, because of their climate denial, it may become more apparent and frighteningly clear that we must stop over consumption of precious resources and we must relearn what it means to live in harmony with Mother Nature if we are to survive as a species on this tiny blue globe.

It’s 3 o clock; we just finished an early dinner. The dishes are stacked next to the kitchen sink. My significant other says, “Leave the dishes there, I’ll do them.” I say, “no” of course without having to state why. I proceed towards the ceramic heap and a dialogue ensues anyway. I say “Why must you waste so much water when you wash the dishes?” She answers very dissonant and very cognitively, “I like the way all the water feels over my hands!” Go figure………


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