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Carl Pope is Executive Director of the Sierra Club. Since Pope’s appointment in 1992, Sierra Club has added 150,000 new members, bringing the total membership to 700,000. Pope has a[…]

Tread a little bit more gently, Carl Pope advises.

Question: How do we live a greener life?

Carl Pope: Well collectively we should just be doing a lot more collectively. We will solve these problems much faster as a “we” than as a “me”. So basically anything we can get people to do together I’m in favor of. Because the more we bring people together, the more they’re gonna find out what they have in common, the more they’re gonna find out what we can do about these problems. So having more “we” is the most important thing “we” can do. Individually I think the key thing is to understand or try to understand that when I do something it has a consequence. And that the consequence . . . try to understand that we’re part of a long connection of causation. Now the fact is you actually can’t do it. If you got up . . . If you got up tomorrow morning, what’s the first thing you do when you leave your house in the morning?

So when you brush your teeth, a little thought exercise. Try while you’re brushing your teeth to think about all of the consequences that flow from the act of brushing your teeth. Where did the metal in the tube come from? Where did the plastic come from? How did the toothpaste get to be white? How was it brought to you? What happened to the workers who made it? Where did the water come from? How was it stored? How was it transported? Where is it going? The electrons that light your face so you don’t just, like, make a mess of yourself, how did that happen? Try to think of all the chains of causation that you’re a part of. You will not be able to do it. If we could all, twice a day, put ourselves through that exercise I think we would be less certain and therefore probably wiser. We would understand that we should tread more gently.


Recorded on: September 27, 2007.