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The 10 Times I Met My Landlord

Originally posted on The Billfold

1

He has an unsqueezing handshake, that’s the first thing I notice about him. He just puts his hand out, and I shake it like a juice.

“Erik,” he says, standing at the door in a bathrobe, a tanktop and untied combat boots. He’s thin, a series of parallel lines and divots up to a starburst of blond hair.

“Michael,” I say. He lets me into the foyer. I look around and realize his appearance isn’t an affectation, but genuine neglect.

The living room bows under the weight of all his belongings. A half-­dozen shelves piled with sci-fi books, stacked in trilogies. Two printers, one in each corner, both shaded by a drift of wires. A balled up blanket under the window, hard angles hinting at something wrapped up and forgotten. Not to mention the souvenirs from Central Asia and the Middle East, making outlines in the dust.

We talk logistics. Sublet, one year. Fully furnished, go ahead and use the neighbors’ Internet connection. Please don’t sit in the rocking chair, it was his grandmother’s.

Everything in the kitchen is old, but the pans are scrubbed and the knives have been sharpened to a suicidal sheen. An espresso machine takes up roughly half the counter space. There are no glasses, only coffee cups.

I tell him this will be my longest period in one apartment. I’m in Copenhagen on a short-term contract that keeps getting extended, and I’ve been living in sublets for two years now. The place I’m living in now has no shower, just a literal water closet, so every morning I walk down the stairs and across the courtyard to a bank of showers in the basement. It costs one kroner for each minute of hot water. Most mornings I gamble, shoving three kroner in the machine and soaping like someone trying to shake a bee out of their clothes. Sometimes on Sundays I spend five.

“OK,” he says.

He seems to have already decided I’m a suitable subletter based on his conversation with Thomas, our mutual friend, and he speaks in whens, not ifs. He walks me through the apartment like a tour guide giving the last circuit of the day. The shelves rattle metallically as we walk.

He shows me a gas mask he got in Bosnia, a sweater from Chinese army surplus, flavored vodka from Ukraine. After a few minutes, he’s not lifting them up, just pointing to piles: “That’s where I keep my barbells.’

We’re back in the foyer. “So!” he says.

It’s too big, too far and too full of the bread crumbs of someone else’s exploration. But the rent is reasonable and I don’t have any other options.

“I’ll take it.”

2

I visit the apartment again to sign the paperwork. I marvel for the second time how a neighborhood with so many apartment buildings can have so few shops or cafes. I bike past a nursing home, then an institution for mentally retarded adults. Most of the cars on the street are minibuses.

It’s the day before he leaves, and some of the detritus has disappeared. The espresso machine is gone, and for a second I suspect he’s taking it with him. The small talk is more like nano-talk. All of my questions come back as logistics.

“So where are you being posted?”

“Afghanistan. So you must forward the mail to my sister in Give. She’ll send it to me.”

“How long have you been in the Army?”

“Since I was 18. I have equipment here, so I may come by every once in while to pick things up.”

When I ask what he’s doing in Afghanistan, he says “the same old thing,” like we’ve known each other for years.

I tell him I’m looking forward to living on my own. Since I moved to Copenhagen I’ve lived with a Norwegian woman who told me I could have friends over as long as they weren’t foreigners, then an old woman whose dog shit on my bed and whose boyfriend told me I should bulk up by eating a bowl of raw hamburger and egg yolks every morning.

He’s looking around the apartment as I speak. He picks up a vintage coffee grinder up from the floor.

“Have you seen this?” he says. “You must grind manually. The electric grinders, they make dust. You should squeeze the beans, not eradicate them.”

3

He stops by the apartment. He e-mailed to tell me that he would do this, but never specified a time. I hear a key in the lock at 7 pm on a Wednesday, and get up from the rocking chair and put it back in the corner. Now I’m standing in the middle of the living room with a book in my hand, like I’m rehearsing a monologue.

He’s training in Aarhus before he ships out in two weeks. There he is in the foyer, taking off his boots and squeezing his hair to get the rainwater out. He’s angry about an incident on the train on the way here. Children talking too loud or something. He only says the word “undisciplined’ once, but that’s the only thing I remember of this conversation later.

He’s picking up his uniform. I’m in the kitchen cleaning up the evidence of my first three days here. He takes a cell phone call, switches to Danish, and tells the story of the train again. He waves as he backs out the door, still talking.

4

I come home from work the next day and he’s sitting in the rocking chair with a takeaway coffee cup.

“Are you picking something up?” I ask.

“It’s impossible to get good coffee in Denmark,” he says, swirling the cup. “All these amazing machines, and it is a 16-­year-­old who is using them.”

“Look, Erik…”

“I know, I’m sorry I came by unannounced,” he says. “I’m leaving in a week, and I just wanted to relax one night before I go.”

“It’s OK,” I say, putting my gloves back on.

As I leave, I ask him whether he’ll be able to find good coffee in Afghanistan. But he’s got his laptop out, and all I get is a grunt.

5

He’s there when I get home at three in the morning, sentried by two pizza boxes and an ice cream tub. Where’s he getting this food? I’ve been shopping near work and taking groceries home on my bike.

He e-­mailed to ask if he could crash at the apartment tonight, since he’s flying out of Copenhagen early tomorrow morning. The apartment is too big for me anyway, and I told him he could stay in the spare room. I can see a duffel bag in there, huge and unzipped like an autopsy. The only thing I see poking out are trinkets he’s taken from the shelves. I wonder if he’s taking any clothes.

It’s November outside, but inside the heat is turned up to an August swelter. This is the first time I’ve seen him in a tank top, and the delta of veins on his arms make him look like an engineering schematic. For all the weightlifting equipment in the apartment, I’m surprised at how wiry he is. The rocking chair could fit another two of him.

He’s watching a movie on his laptop. I can see he’s irritated that he has to pause it while I perform my “how are things?” due diligence.

“Great. Lots of training,” he says with his finger poised to click play. His face asks permission.

“Well, I’m beat. Hope you have a good tour,” I say as the sound comes back on.

6

I thought Danish people, as a rule, spent a few days with their families for Christmas. Yet there’s a text from him at 11 in the morning on Boxing Day: “I’ll be over in 15 minutes.”

He doesn’t have any visible purpose this time. He comes in, baggageless and still jacketed, and goes straight for the rocking chair. He doesn’t sigh out loud, but his body sort of does. He’s lost weight, if that’s even possible, and I wonder if he’s one of those Danish people who won’t eat anything abroad if he can’t find the food he’s used to. Once he settles, he bobs his head and looks around.

“You haven’t done anything with the place,” he says, looking at the bare walls. “You’re not that kind of guy, huh?”

This is the closest thing he’s ever expressed to an interest in my tastes or personality.

“Yeah, me neither,” he goes on. “I like to keep it simple.”

Recalling the two months I have spent systematically banishing his possessions into drawers, under tables and on top of cupboards, I audibly snort.

“How’s your Danish coming along?” he asks.

I tell him I’m taking classes, but it’s difficult to stay motivated with a full-time job.

“Well,” he says, shrugging with his eyebrows. “Either you want to learn it or you don’t.”

7

I’ve been hoping that he won’t make a habit of staging these little drop-­ins, and he doesn’t. The e-mails, however, are as regular as the rain all winter. Was there a letter from an old colleague that I forgot to forward? Is the heater working alright? Have the window cleaners called to schedule?

The medical problems make their first appearance in an e-­mail in February.

“My stomach is acting up again,” he says. “There’s not much food here that agrees with me, so I’ve lost some weight.”

I remember how he kept his coat on the whole time he was here last time, and try to imagine him even skinnier. I stretch his cheekbones out, push his eyes in, thin the hair exclaiming from his head.

Other than the hair, my mental sketch turns out to be pretty accurate.

He’s back in Denmark now, he tells me from the doorway. He has lost a considerable amount of weight, or a considerable-­looking amount anyway. His neck sticks out of his coat collar like a tree growing in a crater, his head gingerly balanced on top. Maybe I recoil when I see him; he apologizes for how he looks.

He’s on his way to Give to stay with his family, and he’s picking up some photographs on the way. His Afghanistan posting has been cancelled.

“Stomach problems,” he says, as if that makes his malady any more specific. He’s angry at the Army bureaucracy, and he answers my questions about his departure from his post with “this bullshit’ or “bunch of idiots,” nothing that yields any real information.

My lease has five months left. I’ve lost three kilos from the long bike commute each morning. I’ve found a grocery store, and a kebab place that serves Turkish coffee and opens early on Saturdays. I haven’t added any of my character to the walls, but I’ve removed some of his.

“I’m not trying to move back in, don’t worry,” he says. “As soon as this is over, I’ll be back in Afghanistan. We might even renew the sublet for another year.”

8

The next time I come home to find him in the apartment, he’s lost even more weight. His eyes have pulled back, peering out from two cavities that reach from his forehead to his jaw. The apartment is so warm that for a second I think he lit a fire somehow.

He’s telling me something about the apartment, something I’ve forgotten to do, but I’m following the vein in his neck past his clavicle, across his shoulder and down his arm. I don’t know if he’s still talking when I say, “Are you … OK?”

He’s losing weight, he says, and no one can figure out why.

“I eat and I shit,” he says. “I never gave it any more thought than that.”

I imagine all the conversations he must have had with doctors in the month since I’ve seen him last.

“They think I’m anorexic,” he says later that night. “What am I, jogging after dinner every night?” He knows his body renders this a rhetorical question.

He’s sleeping here, apparently. He has an appointment at a clinic in Copenhagen tomorrow morning. He tells me this like I already know. I’ve invited friends over for dinner, but I tell them we’ll meet at a restaurant instead. I sleep at my boyfriend’s, and when I come home the next day, the only sign of him is the clanking radiator.

9

“It used to be the girls telling me ‘I can’t figure you out,’” he says. “Now it’s the doctors.”

He’s smiling from the middle of a pillow his gaunt face makes huge. Framed like this, grey skin against the black pillow, he looks like a panel from a comic strip.

I’m at the hospital to drop off his mail. He called yesterday to whisper a request. Was there a letter from the health service? Could I bring it to him? It was important. I could use his bike if I needed to.

I don’t know what to say to him. I was afraid he would look like a stick figure under his covers, but with his legs together and his hands interlocked, he’s more like a mummy. I try not to gawk, but my breathing catches when I see him try to turn over. Shaking his hand is out of the question, so I sort of caress him under the covers in greeting.

“They feed me with a tube, but I’m still losing weight. I show them I’m not anorexic, no?” he says with a thin smile. “They won’t let me drink coffee. No calories.”

I put the letter on the bedside table, under one of the empty milkshakes. His parents are coming soon, and he has to rest before they arrive.

“Thanks,” he says.

“I work nearby,” I lie. “It’s no problem to drop off your letters.”

“It’s good to have friends visit.’

Is that, I think as I reciprocate out loud, what we are?

10

Erik stands at the door, a tortoise in a ski jacket and wool cap, neck all strings in between.

“I gained three kilos last week,” he pants. “Hard to haul all that up the stairs, huh?” I say.

My duffel bags wait, packed, in the foyer. A taxi is waiting for me downstairs. For some reason I’ve put the keys in an envelope and written his name on it.

He leans in and looks through the door. I spent four hours last night cleaning, and the apartment gleams with effort. Behind me the books are 90 degrees in three different dimensions. The souvenirs stand at attention. I even sharpened the knives.

The e-­mails continue after I move out. At first it’s all admin: the deposit, the forgotten socks, the oven needs to be cleaned. Then it’s information: He’s gaining weight, he’s got a new job, he’s thinking of expanding the bathroom.

“Why is it that all atheists claim they are humanists?” he writes in an e-­mail to which an electricity bill is attached. “It just means they will be among those praying the loudest when the boat is going under.”

To the requests, I answer in bullet-­pointed lists of yesses: I made the transfers, I took care of the bills, I’m sorry about the oven. As the admin diminishes, it takes me longer and longer to reply.

“Please come and have a cup of tea,” he writes in the last e-mail I ever receive from him, nearly a year after I’ve moved out. “I don’t get out too often, so knock on the door if you are nearby. If you are hungry, there is food—no gluten, but food anyway.”

I write that I will, and never do.

Here, in the foyer, none of this has happened yet. I lift my duffel bags and Erik and I trade places, him inside, me outside.

He offers to help me down to the taxi. I remember how his leg, sharp under three blankets, didn’t move when I touched it. I tell him over my shoulder it’s no problem, I’ve got it.

“See you around!” I call as I start down the stairs. Through the open door I can hear him take the coffee down from the shelf, and put the water on to boil.

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Denmark: The Exit Interview

I've lived in Denmark for the last five and a half years.

My time here encompasses two cities, eight apartments, one dormitory, six bikes, two trips to the emergency room and twice my body weight in misplaced hats, gloves and scarves.

It's impossible to live in a foreign country without developing a love-hate relationship with it. Anything you spend that much time with becomes like a sibling.

You spend years learning how to navigate and survive it, and you only realize later how the effort has changed you, for better or worse.

Denmark's a firmly admirable place.It's the world's example of how the state can deliberately create a culture and administration around social justice.

There's basically no poor people here. The working culture is the best in the world, and my professional experience here has solidified my commitment never to move back to the US.

The density of the cities and the safety of bike-commuting makes a huge impact on quality of life.

Between social benefits, free healthcare, free education and never having to sit in traffic or clamor for a parking space, there's almost nothing to stress out about. Thank God the weather is so shitty.

That said, Denmark has some serious problems.

The world sees Denmark as a model of 'how things are supposed to work', and Danes see themselves like that too.

This 'we are awesome so we don't have to try' attitude translates into a society-wide smugness that can be hard to thaw.

The ethnic discrimination, for example, which is as severe here as anywhere in Europe, is ignored by the popular and political culture. Domestic politicians are more interested in blocking immigration than developing Denmark's international competitiveness.

Homogeneity and social harmony are prized as principles in themselves, and social engagements sometimes feel like you're living in Pleasantville.

This culture of staying silent unless you can think of something to say that no one could disagree with has created a nation of introverts

People have fewer friends here than in the more small-talk-equipped countries I've lived in, and the friendships tend to be the bilateral, rather than networked, kind.

This means that, as a foreigner, it's not hard to meet friends here, it's just hard to meet your friends' friends.

If you're an extrovert when you move here, Denmark will make you an introvert. If you're already an introvert, Denmark will make you a spinster.

I don't know if Berlin is any different. But at least being in a new country gives me an excuse to pretend I don't know the rules.

And enjoy Berlin while it's still an acquaintance.

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Hypothermia and Consequences 

Yesterday I participated in a swimming race through the canals of Copenhagen. I was talking to my buddy online afterwards.

Dave
What are you up to?

Me
I have hypothermia! And jellyfish stings all over! I did a race in the CPH canals today, and it was a bit more of an … undertaking than I had expected

Dave
Jellyfish?!

Me
yeah they’re everywhere here!
fuckin ridiculous. I was literally the only one without a wetsuit.
The doctors practically had to pull me out of the water, and I sat 2 inches away from a heating unit for 30 minutes after the race, unable to move or speak

Dave
Well…

Me
You know that footage of the cow with mad cow disease, where it’s all popping and locking, but it doesn’t fall over? That was me walking to my towel.
I was drooling and moaning and shit. The doctors made me eat a banana, and I couldn’t taste or swallow it, I was just pushing it around with my tongue and making vowel sounds through it. Attractive stuff.

Dave
And jellyfish?!

Me
yeah my nose looks like a penis, all red and angry at the tip
I got one on my cheek, too, and both hands
This city’s uninhabitable, I tellya

Dave
Just the canals!

Me
it’s nuts, I don’t even remember the race.
I do know that I swallowed a lot of saltwater, though, my throat is all scratchy

Dave
I don’t think you won…

Me
I remember swimming through patches of motor oil and some little garbage-islands, I’m glad I retained that.
I swam WAY faster than I expected though! I wanted to get OUT of that water. Crawl stroke for 2km! Personal best!
Though, the rest of the afternoon has been a personal worst. I literally had peanut butter and whip cream on a fork for dinner because I can’t face leaving the house. 19 degrees outside feels like the tundra.

Dave
But you’ve swum in there before sans wetsuit?

Me
Yeah when the water’s been warmer. It was 16 degrees today. I’m used to like 18 or 19, plus only doing it for like 20 mins at a time. Today was more than 45 mins

Dave
Fail

Me
i feel like its hella win
I beat nature
The only one without a wetsuit! buncha pussies in this country

Dave
Riiight

Me
It’s funny how I totally thought there would be no consequences of this. I literally did not think it through at all. Like ‘of COURSE it’ll be fine swimming in urban canals in late summer with no protection. Having never done this before.’
People in the start line were like ‘you’re gonna get hypothermia dude’ and I was like ‘haha right. High five!’
The bike ride home was particularly drastic. My legs were still shaking, and I could barely steer

Dave
Will you be in bed all tomorrow?

Me
Still, I feel rather badass. In spite of cancelling all my non-couch Saturday plans due to my epic win.
haha, nah I’ll be fine after some sleep

And I am! The stings have faded from angry to irritable, and my muscles seem to work again. See you next year, jellyfish!

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I love Copenhagen

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The inconsequential Samaritan

-

On the way to my volunteer gig this morning, I saw a woman sitting on the sidewalk, rocking back and forth and crying. From the other side of the street, I could see that her makeup was running like she had been there for awhile. There's almost no one up and about in Copenhagen before noon on Sundays, so I crossed the street to see if she was alright.

At the same time I saw her, someone else had too. We asked the woman what her name was and what was wrong. She was barely responsive, and seemed to be looking for something on the horizon behind us.

'Should we call the police?' the woman asked.
'Definitely,' I said.

When I decided to approach the woman on the ground, I assumed it was a moderate to severe case of 'I had too many drinks on Saturday night, some drama went down and now I'm crying it out.' As soon as we tried to talk to her, though, it was obvious that that's not all that was going on. She had clearly been drinking, but she didn't seem particularly drunk. She couldn't respond to questions, and kept mumbling things about missing her children. She visibly recoiled from everyone that walked past.

The police didn't care, or didn't care enough to send someone anyway. The other ladyhelper suggested we take her to a friend's apartment, where she could have some water, sleep for a few hours and regroup. We tried to get her to walk with us, but she could barely breathe. She alternated between scanning the horizon and looking behind bushes and fences, as if she'd lost something. Whenever we asked her something personal ('how old are you?' 'where do you live?') she hurried away from us.

By this point the other ladyhelper had called her friends who lived nearby, and they showed up to help. The woman freaked out at the arrival of all the new faces. She sat down on the sidewalk and started rocking again. She was holding the woman who had found her, and kept saying 'don't leave me, don't leave me.'

Me and the three women who had just arrived made awkward introductions and discussed what we should do. One of them called the cops again. It took two more phone calls before they agreed to send someone. 'We don't know her!' the woman kept telling the 911 operator. That seemed to do the trick.

While we waited for the ambulance, we got the woman's phone out of her purse and called her mom. She was too drunk to offer much assistance, but she did tell us that this babbling, rocking woman was pregnant, and lived with her two children in a suburb at the end of the metro line. Her mom didn't know what she was doing in the city. The woman was still incoherent, and was poking and rubbing the toenail polish of the woman sitting on the ground helping her.

A police car with three police officers showed up after about 10 minutes. They did their Cop Thing where they asked the woman the same questions we had, only louder, and got her ID out of her purse. I asked them what they thought was going on, and they said it looked like a pretty typical case of psychosis. 'Sometimes pregnancy can bring this on,' one of them said. 'We'll get her to a hospital. You can go now.'

I backed slowly away from the scrum of police and Samaritans. This is why we have governments, I guess. You find yourself in situations where you're not equipped to offer the help that somebody needs, and so you call the people who are. They come, and you go, and the person who needs help gets the kind that cop cars and ambulances offer.

Just before I left, I looked at the woman who had also stopped to help. She waved goodbye and gave a sort of shrugging smile. She waved at the woman on the ground, but she was staring at the horizon again, startled every few seconds by the police radio static.

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Sing that can’t be sung etc.

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‘What do we want?’ ‘Not climate change!’ ‘When do we want it?’ ‘Within a reasonable timeframe!’

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Copenhagen: ‘It’s rather like electing a Pope’

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I was talking to my friend Brock, a scientist at Berkeley and the smartest guy I know, on IM last night:

Brock: Dude what's up.

Mike: Brock!

yo

I'm reading nobel speeches! So much nutrition!

what you up to?

Brock: Just shouting you out. How are ya?

Merry Fucking Xmas and all that.

Are we gonna change the world in CPH this week or are we toast?

Mike: I'm going to a big-ass protest on saturday. Though literally no one I've talked to knows what we're actually protesting. It’s the James Deans leading the James Deans.

Brock: Good on ya, man, I admire you.

Yeah, always hard to channel general dissatisfaction.

Mike: seriously. No one knows what the fuck they're doing

I’m just going because I want to be photographed holding a sign that says The Climes They Are A-Changin'

you been following this whole shit?

Brock: Kinda, but it's rather like electing a pope.

All behind closed doors.

Mike: Let's hope this ends with someone from the Hitler Youth as well

Brock: From here, I can only cross fingers.

Write letters, promote discussion, etc, but there hasn't been a whole lot to follow.

Mike: do you particularly care about this issue? Being a scientist and all?

Brock: Fuck it, we need total climate Nazis right now.

I think it's terrifying.

Mike: So you're on board with The Whole Gore Yards

what do you think we should do? Or they should do, or whatever?

Brock: I am pretty convinced that life will change dramatically within our lifetime due to climate change.

And I actually think it's probably way too late.

Mike: Yeah? I defer to your judgement on this, scientifically

what did it for you, originally?

Brock: Hmmmm good question.

I've seen some really compelling data.

If you just measure CO2 levels, that freaks that shit out of me.

Mike: So you're directly convinced by the science . Not through a Bono-shaped conduit, like the rest of us

Brock: It correlates spectacularly well with global temperature.

Mike: I've seen that graph too it's insane

Brock: That it's unlinked is statistically irrelevant.

And if you extrapolate into the future….

That's when it gets really really scary.

Because there is no reason to think that the relationship will change.

Mike: what do you think the politicians should do, particularly?

Brock: Dramatically invest in economic incentives for cleaner living.

That's vague but we need to jump over this hurdle where action for climate impedes economic viability.

Mike: It would be great to point to a country and be like 'lets be like them!' but everyone is kind of dropping the ball it sounds like

you like any particulars?

Brock: Forest credits for tropical countries.

Keep the carbon in trees and out of the air.

oh yeah Brazil's experimenting with that, right?

Brazil is turning their shit around.

If every tropical country did the same it would help.

Mike: any new stuff coming out from the scientific side?

new revelations, new solutions?

Brock: Unfortunately, way too much negative publicity and that's it.

A few dumbasses joking about manipulating data really does a lot of damage.

Mike: Is there a new emerging scientific consensus? Either on the problem side or the solution side?

Brock: Well, I think that's the scary thing, that the scientific consensus is that we really really really fucked up on this.

Solutions seem completely unrealistic at this point.

We need to basically cut in half CO2 emissions immediately.

Mike: no way, it's that bad?

Brock: If you look at the projections, it's really bad.

Mike: Jesus, the Day After Tomorrow is starting to look more and more like a documentary

Brock: I mean, if population change keeps expanding.

It's bad man.

Mike: so as the science emerges, it's actually getting fucking worse? What's the timeline?

Brock: Dunno, I gotta defer on this one.

It's irresponsible for scientists to overpredict.

Mike: true. Especially in these trying times of abundant Palintry

Brock: Yet this causes tremendous understandable frustration on the part of citizens and enemies of science.

Science is not, never has been, never should be, political.

Mike: This conversation helps me know what to protest on Saturday

My sign is staying the same though

 

 

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“The distraction of the ‘go green’ movement”

There's a great op-ed in the Washington Post today that sums why I find it difficult to get enthusiastic about the green 'movement' as it's currently practiced.

Stop "going green." Just stop it. No more compact fluorescent light bulbs. No more green wedding planning. No more organic toothpicks for holiday hors d'oeuvres.

Green gestures […] ("Look honey, another Vanity Fair Green Issue!") lure us into believing that broad change is happening when the data shows that it isn't. Despite all our talk about washing clothes in cold water, we aren't making much of a difference.

For eight years, George W. Bush promoted voluntary action as the nation's primary response to global warming — and for eight years, aggregate greenhouse gas emissions remained unchanged. Even today, only 10 percent of our household light bulbs are compact fluorescents. Hybrids account for only 2.5 percent of U.S. auto sales.

Every time I see some magazine article about Greening Your Whatever, I think shut the fuck up. The consumer-powered green movement isn't very useful, and may be doing more harm than good. For five reasons:

  1. Consumers are fickle. You might be able to guilt consumers into buying reusable coffee filters next time they go to the store. But the next time? And the next time? Climate change is too important to be driven by the same mechanism that got you to buy Crocs.

  2. Not everybody cares. O Magazine and Bono are going to deliver, at best, a tiny portion of consumers.
  3. It doesn't target the fundamentals. Buying florescent light bulbs is great. But if you live in a house with four bedrooms, two living rooms, a three-car garage and a treehouse, all of which are lighted and heated, you're not exactly carbon-neutral. Driving a hybrid is great too. But if you live 40 miles away from work and commute by car every day, you're bad for the environment, no matter what you drive. Consumer-based green messages might be fine for getting people to switch from one form of consumption to another, but not reducing it overall.
  4. We don't always know what we're buying. I'm not saying the 'green movement' is a fad. But it does have fad elements. 
    We all love organic produce, yay. But do we really know that a salad dressing with 'Organic!' next to the cartoon barn on the label is actually good for the climate? Does that definition incorporate methods of farming? Transport? The labor rights of workers? The fact is, you can charge a lot more for something if it's organic or 'Earth-friendly'. Right now, there aren't any incentives for businesses to offer products that are Earth-friendly. There are only incentives to make products that seem Earth-friendly. There isn't watching these labels or the practices behind them.
  5. Consumer products aren't everything. Goods and services sold to magazine-flipping consumers don't actually make up all that much of the economy. Businesses buy shit too. So do governments. Tons of services go on in the background of our economies, totally unnoticed. I haven't heard anyone teaching community-center seminars in how to pick a greener sewage-removal provider. 'Voting with your dollar' only impacts the economy you can see.  

Copenhagen is all climate-tarded this week because of the summit, and it's mostly of the consumer-driven, 'change one tiny habit and we're all going to be ok' variety. I saw a huge sign in one of the city center squares last night that said 'Brad Pitt is Saving The World.'

Because nothing says 'this problem is of the utmost seriousness' like inviting comparisons to a cologne ad.  

Hopefully somewhere in Copenhagen this week, around an oak-paneled conference table, someone's talking about how we can change our options, not just our choices.

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Copenhagen hosts major gay sporting event; heterosexuals spend week indoors

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