Our Green Future, Seen Through A White Film

Blogger Todd of Blue Collar Philosophy asks, innocently enough, if the reader has “noticed that your dishes are not coming out as clean as they once did?”  Why, yes, I have noticed that.  I thought something was wrong with my dishwasher.  I’ve been doing the dishes by hand, because it’s only a little more effort than the necessary pre-wash. 

Something’s wrong, you betcha, but it’s not General Electric’s fault.  Todd points to a September story in the New York Times, in which we learn 17 states passed laws dramatically restricting the use of phosphates in dishwashing detergent.  Phosphates are the chemical that makes detergents work as well as the people of a better, vanished time remember.  Since selling different formulas in the other states would be impractical, the industry reduced this crucial ingredient on a national scale.  Some products used to have as much as 8.7% phosphate content, but now they all have 0.5% of less.

What’s the big deal with phosphates?  Well, according to the Times, “they have long ended up in lakes and reservoirs, stimulating algae growth that deprives other plants and fish of oxygen.”  Was that really a widespread problem?  Is it a problem in your geographical area?  Is it worse for the environment to be using more water and electricity to wash and pre-wash dishes, compensating for our new weaksauce detergents, as people interviewed by the Times complain about doing?

Your judgment in these matters is irrelevant.  The decision has been made for you.  Seventeen states were pressured into adopting these new environmental standards, and the simple economic reality of distributing products on a national basis forced the other states to accept their command.  You were never allowed input on this decision, and you never will be.

The most efficient method of gathering your input would have been letting detergent companies produce an assortment of normal and “green” products, doing their level best to convince you to buy the more expensive and less efficient “green” stuff, and letting the dollars fall where they may.  But we can’t have that, because you insensitive clods might not follow the path of wisdom laid out by your betters.  “The reality of any green product is that they generally don’t work as well,” said a supplier of janitorial supplies interviewed by the Times.  “Our customers really don’t like them.”

Environmentalism is an ideal vehicle for totalitarian designs, because it provides a moral imperative exquisitely tailored to suppress individual liberty.  Campaigns to Save Mother Earth do not, by definition, allow for dissent.  We can’t afford to put those algae blooms in the hands of unenlightened numbskulls who can’t break their silly addiction to clean dishes, any more than we can leave the sacred global temperature to the mercies of quivering fossil-fuel addicts… at least not those who haven’t made it clear they’ll shoot environmentalists who try to mess with their industrial economies.

There’s some hope for clean dishes in the future, as the New York Times reports manufacturers swamped by complaints have begun to improve their formulas.  Or maybe we’ll just get used to spotty dishes, overcoming what the Times calls “longtime habits and even cultural concepts of cleanliness.”  The power to compel behavior, in the name of the natural world, is even more addictive than the benefits of industrial technology.