Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Sequel: Tight Jeans and Tipping Points


Thanks to all for the lively debate in the comments on my last blog. It has been very thought-provoking, and has brought me to a new insight - that we all need to do every single thing that we can to help our poor ailing planet. There is no point me saying, “I’m OK because I’m carbon neutral for the 3 months I’m at sea”, or “I’m OK because I don’t buy much stuff because I don’t have a home to put it in” – if I then use this as an excuse to not offset my travel or to eat excessive meat and fish.

Likewise, there’s no point me judging someone else as being un-green because they don’t happen to row across oceans or choose to be homeless. Quite likely they may be doing something else for the greening of humanity, or if they’re not, it’s probably because they don’t know any better.

And the best way to let them know better is to lead by example, and to keep spreading the word in a non-critical, non-judgmental way. I personally respond much better to the carrot than the stick.

Human beings are (mostly!) rational, and if someone is behaving in what appears to be an irrational way it is because they have a different frame of reference – and it is that frame of reference that has to be changed first. The change in behaviour then becomes inevitable – and will be consistent across all their spheres of activity, rather than solely in relation to their choice of food or transport.

This is the true challenge for the environmental movement – to change people’s core value systems, rather than taking a piecemeal approach by increasing recycling or reducing car usage or asking us to eat less meat. These targets will have some initial impact, which is better than nothing, but in the longer term we need a fundamental shift in our thinking. Our planet functions holistically – everything is interrelated – and we have will have to think holistically if we are to successfully tackle the problems that we have created.

Obviously this is no mean task – but it is not impossible. In the past leaders have managed to convince large numbers of people to believe the most outlandish things (look at Nazi Germany) – so might it not be much easier to convince large numbers of people to believe something that intuitively makes sense – that we live on a finite planet, and we have to take good care of it if we want it to take care of us?
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

17 comments:

  1. Anonymous12:29 pm GMT

    Would be great to hear how you relate this blog to flying. How many flights one takes has a huge impact on one's carbon footprint. Is this something you will be trying to reduce and do you think there might be radical new ways you to change our reliance on flights and if so what are they? Maybe you could sail home from your next row.

    ReplyDelete
  2. slowpaddler1:12 pm GMT

    Are we really rational creatures? Or are we just really good at rationalizing irrational behavior?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I would love to fly less. Although all my travel is offset by Climate Clean, it still makes me feel guilty.

    My original plan was to travel nonstop around the world on its surface by eco-friendly transport - but in real life, mothers like to see their daughters from time to time, sponsors require speaking engagements, book tours demand my personal presence, and face-to-face meetings are massively more effective than the alternatives.

    And to sail from Samoa to the UK would take about 6 months.

    For sure, we used to manage without flying anywhere, and hopefully in the future we will come up with low-impact forms of travel, or we will do all our meetings in virtual reality.

    But for now I feel my mission is to spread the green message as widely as possible, and in order to do that requires some flying. Time is running short for our planet, and for me to take 6 months to get to places is not a productive use of my time.

    I alleviate my conscience by getting every last drop of value out of every trip, and I no longer take foreign holidays. Oh hang on, I don't take holidays - period!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm all for less smog, but this idea that the planet is falling apart and will die if we don't all stop taking airplane trips or eating meat or whatever is ridiculous and counter-productive. "Eco-friendly transport" is not realistic and pointless besides. "Time is running short for our planet" is also untrue and typical of the same extremist enviro-agenda I've been hearing about all my 43 years on this "poor planet." Funny how the supposed problems always change (e.g. population explosion; the coming Ice Age; ozone holes; global warming; climate change; etc.) but the solutions are always the same: Back to the stone age with technology.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Anonymous5:29 pm GMT

    A lot of enviros fly a lot.

    Sometimes it makes you wonder whether it is the all about the message or the messenger or rationalizing the unrationalizable.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's one heck of a problem that's for sure, and I don't think finger pointing at individuals is the solution. One thing that I've done that I haven't really heard about other people doing is greening my investments. I used to have my investments in well performing mutual funds. One day I looked at the top ten companies they were holding and my mouth dropped open. I was an investor in oil sands, artificial fertilizer, liquid natural gas facilities and pipelines. I was supporting the most evil companies with a lot of money! I got out of the mutual funds and invested in stock that I pick myself. You have to be careful, if you invest in high interest savings at banks you indirectly invest in oil and other bad environmental companies.

    If other people would do the same thing, I think we could make a major impact. It just takes a bit of diligence and educating yourself. And of course, doing "the little things", that add up.

    Another "little" thing I do that I think makes a big impact is that I broke my addiction to coffee, and then later, tea. The coffee and tea industries are very damaging to the environment, and it's mind boggling how big they are. Fair trade organic tea is very hard to find, btw.

    Keep up the great work, Roz, you are doing a great job of raising awareness!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Well said, Liz - and thanks for the information about investments and beverages. We live in a complicated world and, short of being a breatharian hermit living in a cave, it is almost impossible to be completely above reproach.

    It is not constructive to lay guilt trips on people because we are none of us perfect - and guilt is so very demotivating. It is most likely to make them throw up their hands and say, "If everything I do is wrong, why bother even trying?"

    Much better, as you say, to make people aware of the facts, and encourage them to be mindful of the consequences of their actions.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Anonymous8:04 pm GMT

    Not a matter of pointing fingers & guilt, but there is a lot of "essential" travel that upon the slightest of CO2 & GHG re-evaluations turns out to be entirely "frivolous."

    Guilt can be useful because folks aren't likely to question the framework of their decision-making, until they have to. Otherwise the tendency is to put off such unpleasant "accounting" endeavors endlessly & entirely, with well-rationalized procrastinations and defenses.

    Then, in retrospect, there is that tendency where folks suggest, after realizing the earlier errors of their ways, "if only I'd known the issue was that serious, of course I'd have taken it more seriously, sooner too."

    But we all know now, per greenhouse gases and tipping points, that it is already quite a serious & precarious situation (which is why a large percentage of folks must deny it, along with their lifestyles & choices, outright and absolutely).

    So it falls back to who really needs to fly? And Why? Especially given how these issues are consumer & market driven.

    A breatharian "hermit" rower? Along with some fishing line and bait, anything is possible ; )

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous2:11 am GMT

    When we talk about CO2 emission, we have to take the human emission into consideration.
    It is said that the global CO2 emission now amounts to about 26 billion metric tons annually.
    The world population: 6.512 billon X annual CO2 emission of each person: 0.33 tons (168,000 litres)=2.149 billion tons that comes to 8.26% of the total CO2 emission globally, right?
    We cannot afford to stop breathing, thus we have to try every possible other way to reduce CO2.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Anonymous5:20 pm GMT

    IF THE PEOPLE WOULD LEAD--- THE LEADERS WILL FOLLOW

    ReplyDelete
  11. I just have to point one teensy finger at my brother-in-law who gets airline ticket deals and flies about 10-20 times per year! Just because it's "a good deal", for nothing but frivolity! I find that offensive. The only thing that would make him stop is for flights to be too expensive, or a new law that would put a cap on the number of flights allowed per person. When it comes to the masses, I think legislation/taxation is the only way to reign in destructive behaviour. Wouldn't it make sense to heavily tax people like my brother in law after 2-4 flights per year? It would stop him pretty fast!

    OTOH, I don't think it's such a bad idea for people to fly around and travel even for frivilous reasons. It allows for the opportunity for people to see the world for themselves, and witness things that need to be changed. Take Bahamas for example, you'd expect it to be all about casinos and beaches. When I went there I saw first hand the disgusting garbage washing ashore from cruise ships, and the devasting poverty of the local Bahamians who are denied benefits of the wealth that is pouring in that country. They have no taxes, therefore no social programs. Their children are starving, their old people have to fend for themselves. It's awful! I'd never have been made aware of these problems had I not seen it first hand. Experiences like this inspire many apathetic people to try and make a difference.

    I've come to the same conclusion about animal cruelty issues. It's just on such a massive scale, and people think it's their divine right to kill animals, I just don't think it's possible for everyone to adopt a vegan diet. However, there were two events that gave me hope; 1. the meat recalls after footage of sick cows were being shoved into slaughter and 2. California adopting a law that gives factory farmed animals some basic rights to be able to stretch their limbs on a daily basis. (The food industry fought that one like crazy).

    I think that is the same thing that has to happen environmentally. The problem is that laws only pertain to each individual country. There should be a "global" set of laws, where countries can be charged for their environmental crimes. I think things would change pretty fast if Bush and Harper would personally have to do prison time for all the damage they allow to be done to the environment (Bush for the war in Iraq, and Harper for giving tax cuts to oil sands developers).

    ReplyDelete
  12. Michael, you're arguing that there isn't a serious environmental problem that demands immediate attention, yet you listed some of the most serious problems this plant currently faces when you said this:

    "Funny how the supposed problems always change (e.g. population explosion; the coming Ice Age; ozone holes; global warming; climate change; etc.)"

    You list climate change, yet almost all of the things you listed ARE either symptoms or causes of climate change. Clearly you know the issues, and you sound intelligent. Look at the scientific data. The fact that we have a problem on our hands, that is due to human activity, is indisputable. There's only one Earth, and we don't currently have the ability to live elsewhere, so it's vital to our existence as a species to get it right, and FAST. We ARE running out of time. Things are vastly more dire than they were when you were born. This is a matter of life and death, on the most massive scale imaginable!

    ReplyDelete
  13. ER, that's my point: These are NOT serious problems. I don't even buy that global warming is happening at all, much less on the scale some people claim, nor that if it IS happening, it will somehow destroy the planet. The science is far from indisputable; there are plenty of legitimiate scientists who disagree wholeheartedly with the current "climate change" notion, yet people on the left deride these scientists as bought-off by the evil oil companies, or worse. They never engage, and thus there never has been, nor does it seem like there ever WILL be, a serious debate on the subject, which we all should welcome.

    My point was I've seen scare-mongering like this my whole life, and it's always characterized as dire, urgent, etc. Yet these things always either fade away or turn out to be completely wrong.

    Having said all that, if you want to stop flying or stop eating meat or stop investing in mutual funds, then God Bless You and more power to you. I support you 100%. But forcing others to live your lifestyle, too, is not right.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I apologize if my comments came across as forcing others to live my lifestyle. My intention was to share ideas for things that work for me. I was hoping it would be encouraging, not frustrating.

    About this not being serious problems, I disagree. It would be nice if you were right, that indeed all is well and there is no climate change and we'll all live happily ever after. In the meantime I'll be looking for ways to reduce my carbon footprint, compromising my lifestyle as I can handle. I would like to encourage you, not force you to do the same.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Don't you worry about your comments - I thought you struck a good balance between feeding a lively debate while not preaching - and I know from experience that it's a difficult balance to strike!

    And you're absolutely right - most people respond better to encouragement than force. That is my belief anyway - and we'll see how effective it is when I launch my "encouraging" green initiative for the next stage of my row.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Liz, your heart is in the right place, and your apology is touching, truly. We all, left or right, should respect each other while arguing our cases forcefully, and you do.

    So all I'm saying is I haven't bought into the case as much as others have. And let's be honest, it's no small thing what the left wants us to do to reduce our "carbon footprint." Virtually all our "physical" technology produces some kind of pollution, so we have to curtail all of it? Is that realistic?

    I think the left ought to spend more time arguing that their science is correct and compelling, rather than jump straight into laying guilt trips on people for flying around the country. Look, they won't feel guilt if they don't believe the principle.

    I wrote a post I'm pretty proud of over a year ago on this in more depth, in case you'd be interested: http://kelblogg.blogspot.com/2007/11/lots-of-questions-before-i-buy-global.html

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm just going to throw this one into the mix... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zORv8wwiadQ

    ReplyDelete

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.