Our reflexes have been trained.  We no longer question or think about things.  We avoid disagreements and conflicts.

For Earth Day, Oprah had the mother of a green family switch places with the mother of a non-green family.

In one clip the father of the non-green family showed how he left the kitchen faucet running in the background because he “likes the sound” it makes and it relaxes him and helps him focus.

That was met with a reflexive gasp from the audience and from the people in my living room.  I even caught myself dropping my jaw in horror.  Then I started to think.

Why is that such a big deal?  Why did it seem like a big deal to me?

Then I remembered.  When I was in elementary school, I remember the campaign to “save water”.  I had been lectured many times to “not let the faucet run.”

But, as I got to thinking about it I wasn’t clear at all why it was so bad for this guy to let his faucet run.  Clearly, it violated a standard of etiquette that has been brainwashed into our heads.

But Oprah’s show was about how our actions can effect others and I’m not clear on how this man’s action of leaving the faucet running will effect others.

We have plenty of water in most places.  There is no shortage of it.  The guy pays for what he uses.  It’s cheap.  Sure, it takes some energy to clean the water and get it to his house.  The waste of that energy might be a valid argument, but the waste of the water itself?  Water isn’t wasted.  It’s recycled over and over again.

To those in the room that continued to exercise their brainwashed reflex by chastising me for my uncaring attitude, I pointed out to them they also had wasteful habits like leaving lights on rooms that were not in use, taking long showers sometimes more than once a day, watering their lawns, filling their backyard swimming pools, running their Slip-n-Slides in the summer time, visiting water parks, drinking only bottled water, using dishwashers and so forth.

I’m a big environmentalist.  I don’t like to waste resources and I’m frugal so I see no need to create unnecessary expense.  But, who am I to judge this guy for leaving his faucet on?

I’m open to considering why this is bad if anyone has a valid argument.  It might be.  But, none of the people who gasped, including myself, could come up with a reasonable argument for how his habit was any worse than our wasteful habits.

3 thoughts on “Reflexes

  1. It’s a cultural norm that’s been cultivated since elementary school. There really isn’t any want of water except in the West or what Congress creates.

    I like to turn on the shower and let the water run while I’m doing the first of the 3 S’s. My wife always tells me to stop, but I’m paying the water bill, we don’t water a lawn or have a pool, so it’s small…why shouldn’t I?

    But then again, I’ve heard people start talking about Peak water…..ugh!!! Did you listen to the podcast with Munger, the grab bag one, where he talks a bit about water. If we really cared about saving water, we wouldn’t be using clean water to carry our crap to even more clean water.

    • I do remember that EconTalk podcast with Munger. That was the Jan. 18, 2010. That was interesting. One of the reasons we use so much water is because we treat it like garbage and add human waste to it and then clean it again. He said some places in China keep the waste out of the water and using a dry biological system that produces methane for cooking. That came from a book by Rose George.

      It’s easy to produce a piece on Oprah or a local TV news segment that makes someone who leaves a faucet on seem like a bad person. The funny part is how we all have similar behavior and few recognize it.

      Good stuff.

  2. Pingback: What’s the point of getting a cordless mouse?


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