…toilet paper?

Rob Lyons

Topics Politics

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Rob Lyons on rock singer Sheryl Crow’s shit idea – that we should try to limit ourselves to one sheet of toilet paper per poop.

The days when all she wanted to do was have some fun are clearly over for Sheryl Crow. She’s gone from being a middle-of-the-road songstress to an out-on-the-road eco-evangelist. And her ideas on how we should live our lives are nit-picking and petty-minded – if not downright wacky.

After spending the past few weeks touring US colleges with environmental activist Laurie David (who produced Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth), Crow noted on her website: ‘I have spent the better part of this tour trying to come up with easy ways for us all to become a part of the solution to global warming. Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating. I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting.’ She suggests ‘only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required’. Paper napkins are ‘the height of wastefulness’, says Crow.

As it happens, she was joking. But her idea was entirely believable (and many have discussed it as if it were a proper proposal) because there is currently a tsunami of lifestyle advice about how to live the ethical life. Is the notion that we should all struggle by on one sheet of paper per trip to the toilet really any more stupid than the idea we can save the world by using low-energy lightbulbs and by unplugging our mobile-phone chargers? Is Crow’s suggestion really any more revolting than wading through our rubbish so that it can be recycled? Today, when the moral imperative is to repent for our carbon sins by offsetting everything we do, every basic activity can be called into question.

Crow’s campaigns seem to be motivated by self-interested moralism rather than being part of any practical political campaign. When she sings ‘A Change Would Do You Good’ (that’s ‘you’ not the world) she means that you don’t actually have to cut your carbon emissions too much – just enough to save your own soul. The new book by her partner-in-crime David, Stop Global Warming: The Solution is You, tells us that it’s not about doing everything, it’s about everybody doing something, no matter how small. So, it doesn’t matter if what you do is actually trivial just so long as you do it.

This isn’t changing the world; it is behavioural therapy for the masses – or at least, the entertainment classes (which includes Laurie David, who is married to Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David). After all, in celebdom we have a layer of society that is ultimately useless, and they know it. Everybody needs a mission in life and celebrities seem to have found it in saving the planet by cutting consumption. And they know more than most of us about pointless consumption.

When Crow preaches to students and politicians about the evils of consumption, she seems to be trying to assuage her own guilt about her excesses. According to the website The Smoking Gun, a normal Sheryl Crow tour requires three tractor trailers, four buses and six cars. When she arrives at the venue, she likes her creature comforts, too. No wonder she’s conflicted about it – and she’s not alone. In fact, from Vanity Fair’s current green issue (where multimillionaire celebrities flagellate themselves over their carbon footprint) to the Live Earth concerts organised by former US vice-president Al Gore and due to take place on 7 July this year, celebrities and politicians are easing their consciences about having so much money and making such a big ‘carbon footprint’ by telling the rest of us to change our ways.

If you don’t think these campaigns are All About Them, and actually believe that they are sensible measures to change the world, then consider that Crow described how her bio-diesel-fuelled tour came together in the following terms:

‘We somehow think that we’re invincible; people forget in our busy, distracted, or possibly arrogant way that we can’t do it without the planet. But when the planet dies, we’re sort of fucked. To treat it with such disrespect, there is a karmic correlation. I’m a woo-woo meditator, hug a tree and all that, and there was a day last year when there was supposed to be some sort of shift retrogradewise, and you could actually state your intentions to the universe. I was in New York and a friend, a brilliant spiritual guy, said, “Well, if you can just sit down on the earth,”, and I was like, “I’m in New York!” And he said, “Okay, go stand next to a tree.” So my manager and I came out of a meeting and literally held on to a tree at 10 after five, which was the exact time [laughter]. I was like, “I have so many opportunities now; where can I be most effective?” And then it was only like a week later that I met Laurie.’

It is striking how a space cadet like Sheryl Crow can get so much attention for her peculiar views. It says a lot about the rise of mystical and anti-human thinking when someone who thinks she can speak to the universe by touching a tree is taken seriously these days. If Crow wants to live her life rubbing up against bark, good for her. But you know where she can put her views on how we must all change our lives? Right where that one sheet of toilet paper goes.

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Topics Politics


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