Yes, hippies, we know that we can "save the world" by merely giving up all of the things that make modern life worth living. Thanks for reminding us that we can save lots of greenhouse gases by simply walking the 13 miles to work in the middle of the damned summer. We'll get right on that.
Though to be fair, a huge chunk of the damage we're doing to the world is due to things you probably didn't even know you were doing. For instance ...
#5. A Massive Amount of Power Goes to Gadgets You Aren't Using
Most of us have a weird double standard when it comes to using or wasting electricity. You'd never leave your refrigerator open or your front door open in the summer when the AC is running. And you'd be regarded as a crazy person if you left your oven on at all times so you wouldn't have to wait for it to preheat if you wanted to cook a pizza.
"I like to eat a baked chicken every hour, on the hour."
But everything from your computer to your TV to your Blu-ray player does something equally crazy, and they're probably doing it right now.
The Horrible Downside:
Two words: Vampire energy.
Not to be confused with its mortal foe, werewolf energy.
Most modern devices are like your computer -- they don't turn all the way off, they just go into sleep mode, either because it makes them start up faster the next time or because they have little blue lights on at all times to make them look cool. As long as these devices are plugged into a socket, they suck the teat of Mother Electricity, little by little, 24 hours a day.
But honestly, how much power can that really be? It can't really take that much to keep your sleeping computer alive or your TiVo on standby for when it wants to record something. Right?
With all the extra seconds you save not unplugging things, you'll be able to write an extra six Facebook messages per year!
Actually, the "vampire drain" of your various plugged-ins accounts for up to 10 percent of your home's total power usage. That's more than $3 billion per year out of our pockets. "Our" doesn't mean "the government" here, either -- it means you, personally. Experts estimate that the average home loses around $200 per year because of the phenomenon.
And if you think the monetary part is nasty, wait until you see how downright ugly things get on a planetary scale. Vampire drain isn't just sneaking five bucks off your wallet for a Big Mac every now and then. Machines that leak power all the time pollute all the time. Vampire drain is responsible for 100 billion pounds of carbon dioxide emissions every year, an amount that would take 10 million cars to fart out. It is estimated to account for up to 40 percent of the energy used for home electronics ... and it's on the rise. By 2020, some estimates expect the cost of vampire drain to hit 20 percent of our national power use.
That's every nuclear power plant in America keeping your iPhone topped off.
Think about that the next time the government is going on and on about spending billions to replace 20 percent of the power plants with renewable energy by 2020. All of that power will be sucked up by gadgets that aren't actually doing anything.
And that's not even mentioning the other idle energy wasters -- to just name one, think about the many office buildings, where useless nighttime lighting and air conditioning fight a never-ending war that benefits no one, yet manages to piss away 38 million tons of coal every year.
There are three people inside that building right now.
Or those open display refrigerators most supermarkets have. While the ecologically frozen cheesecake we have a hankering for is certainly easier to grab when there's no pesky doors to open, the energy they waste amounts to leaving your fridge open all day -- if you had dozens and dozens of fridges. It's 1,550 tons of carbon emissions per year. Per store.
Oh, and the things cool down the building so much that they force the heating systems to waste even more energy as they try to heat it up again. With the simple act of adding some doors, most supermarkets could reduce their energy consumption by up to 68 percent. But that would be a deterrent to customers who don't like to have to slide glass to get to their frozen pizzas.
"Fuck that noise. Hand me a mallet!"
#4. Birth Control Turns Your Pee into Fish Poison
Hormonal birth control, while awesome and liberating and instrumental for relatively consequence-free sex, does have some pretty serious side effects. We've already discussed how it can fundamentally change who you find attractive, which is weird, but does keep things interesting.
Incidentally, there's another interesting thing about the birth control pill: The way it turns your pee into fish poison.
"But no, hey, those condoms sound like a real hassle."
The Horrible Downside:
That's not some weird euphemism. Birth control pills work by flooding the body with synthetic versions of estrogen and progestin. Together, they stabilize hormones and effectively dumb down a woman's ability to become pregnant, thus saving her hundreds of dollars every Christmas.
Basically, it's this or a week of sex and drugs in your beach house every December.
But all that ingested estrogen creates a surplus, which the body dumps the best way it can: by peeing it out. The jacked-up urine goes into the sewage system, which feeds it into the waterways ... where the hormone eventually ends up in fish.
A seven-year experiment in Ontario, Canada, yielded some alarming results. The good news: The estrogen wasn't quite enough to straight up kill the fish. The bad news: It did bring the followed populations close to complete extinction by giving the male fish some serious gender issues -- and rendering them infertile in the process.
At least unwanted fish pregnancies are at an all-time low.
As fish gonads shrank and sales of fish training bras soared in Canada, studies from Boulder, Colorado, and the Potomac River also showed dramatic increases in aquatic gender confusion. In some instances, the percentage of intersex fish --fish with both male and female traits -- was as high as 80 percent. These were not isolated incidents, either -- a full third of all surveyed rivers show similar symptoms.
Other continents are also experiencing the fishy underbelly of sexual liberation -- five in seven Northern European countries struggle with the phenomenon.
"On the plus side, those of us with working gonads are getting mad fin."
In a world already set to run out of many kinds of seafood by 2048, this creates a conundrum: If we make fewer babies and lower the world demand for seafood, we force the fish populations down. If we make more babies, so do the fish -- we'll just eat them all. So, either someone MacGyvers a solution for the problem pretty damn now, or we're looking at a future of mass vasectomies sponsored by Red Lobster and Long John Silver's.
"For every man at the table who gets snipped, you each get a free order of coleslaw."
#3. Your Lawn Hogs Our Freshwater Supplies
If we asked you what the largest irrigated crop in all of America was, you'd probably answer "corn," "potatoes" or (most likely) "Get the hell out of my house, you clipboard-wielding maniac." But the real answer sits right in front of your house, all green and lush and unassuming.
"This water is nice, but I was thinking something more like your souls."
The Horrible Downside:
Lawns occupy about 50,000 square miles of U.S. turf, which is three times the space taken by corn. Maintaining them costs us roughly 200 gallons of water per person daily. Nationwide, keeping grass green sucks up 50 to 70 percent of our residential water. In dry states like Texas, the percentage can occasionally reach 80 percent.
"The stars at night, are blotted out by wildfires, deep in the heart of Texas!"
Now, "residential water" tends to equal "water that humans can drink." This means that, every day, our lawns are busy shotgunning our precious freshwater supplies into their gaping, bottomless maws.
And we're very, very close to running out.
Each day, New Mexico and Arizona use 300 million gallons more than they can renew. The Southwest largely relies on underground aquifers that can't be replenished, and also we have no idea how much water they have. If they run out, the whole damn continent will get to live out the villain's plot from Quantum of Solace.
"Sure, we could measure it. But then the aquifer wins."
Actually, scratch the "if." It's happening already. The underground river in Arkansas (the one that makes rice growing possible) will be dry in five years. The San Francisco Bay Area is headed for a severe water crisis within the next 50 years. Even Seattle and Chicago, cities that are notorious for constant rain and neighboring the goddamn Great Lakes, respectively, will face shortages within 20 years.
It was a great lake. And when it's dry, it'll be an even greater skate park.
And that's downright peachy compared to what our readers under the Mason-Dixon can look forward to: The entire South is estimated to be locked in a permanent state of drought by 2050.
So while those of us with shiny green lawns have a few more years of regular watering left, we might be better off hoarding our precious sprinkler fuel for the inevitable Water Wars.
Mel Gibson not included.