Climate Change, Cultural Change

windmill.jpgYou can’t help hearing about climate change these days… It’s everywhere. Live Earth, documentaries, politics. In fashion speech, climate change is the new black.

But what to do about it? We’ve been told we can become more environmentally friendly by making changes to our lifestyle by recycling, walking instead of taking the car, and holidaying locally instead of abroad.

In a turn towards conscious consumerism, people are now also buying ‘green’: ‘green’ food with a low carbon footprint, ‘green’ cars with lower carbon emissions, ‘green’ clothing and bags which are made from sustainable materials. All commendable actions.

However, I fear that the whole conversation about climate changes misses one fundamental and crucial point. That is, that the exponential change in the environment over recent years is due to increasing human consumption. We eat more, buy more, own more, travel more and do everything on an exponentially larger scale these days.

Quite frankly, the solution is not to buy ‘green’, but simply not to buy unless necessary. Don’t buy a green car – get rid of the car. Don’t buy a green handbag –  do not buy the handbag at all.

The real solution to climate change is in going back to basics and focussing on our needs instead of our wants. Does anyone really need a brand new, 5 litre engine BMW? Do anyone really need to fly all the way around the world on holiday in order to spend quality with their kids? Nice as these things are, unfortunately they are luxuries which put an extra burden on the earth’s resources.

Modern-day Western society is a consumerist one. We are encouraged to buy as much as we possibly can. On a daily basis, we are fed messages through advertising and media that we are only as good as our latest possession or purchase.

As other parts of the world – China for example – become more developed, and inevitably latch on to the ‘all you can own’ mentality of the West, consuming will continue to increase and the effects of climate change will become even more destructive. 

In order to combat climate change, there needs to be an about-turn in our cultural and societal values. This will mean a turn towards simplicity, contentment with what we have, with getting the most out of the many things that we do currently own. However, this is the anthithesis of consumerism, which is at the heart of Western society, and is a powerful economic driving force.

I personally do not see consumerism and a healthy environment as being compatible.  Even ‘conscious’ consumerism is still consumerism and results in environmental damage. At present, schemes like ‘offsetting’ – which allow you to ‘compensate’ for your carbon emissions by doing things such as planting trees – are nothing more than ways in which people can continue to live the way that have always done and alleviate their guilt by buying their way out of it.

There has been much talk about simplying lifestyles. That is precisely what needs to be done. But it involves a significant and profound change in our mindsets, which has to be led by those who actually want our money in the first place, since they also spend so much of their resources on convincing us that we are natural born shoppers . The question is – would they be willing to do this since they may experience a direct loss in business/trade over time? I’m not so sure.

I’m no saint believe me. I clocked up over 100,000 airmiles last year and am pretty sure I have a huge carbon footprint. But I have been thinking about this more and more, and living from an ‘attitude of gratitude’ to me seems to be the way forward in doing my part towards saving the earth…

I’d love to see our society adopt an attitude of gratitude anyway, because I don’t think a consumerist mindset is a healthy one simply because it encourages you to feel dissatisfied with what you have, and to continually seek to fill internal needs with external wants.

But until this cultural/societal mind-shift occurs, I doubt any significant progress in reducing the way the climate is changing will be made.  


4 thoughts on “Climate Change, Cultural Change

  1. “Quite frankly, the solution is not to buy ‘green’, but simply not to buy unless necessary.”

    That’s simply not a realistic or practical goal. People are not going to all change our lifestyles so drastically as to live like cavemen or hippies in a commune. So, focusing on something that is not attainable is not a solution.

    Reduction in usage and changes in industrial processing that focus on eco-responsibility rather than just ease and profit, if done on a mass scale would indeed get the job done from all I’ve studied. And thinking about it logically I don’t see why it wouldn’t. I think God has provided humanity with ways of doing most things with in the confines of nature; we’ve just chosen in the past not to search them out; but rather to go with the first or easiest thing that comes along.

    I do agree we need to reduce consumerism and the mentality that leads to it, not just for the environment’s sake but for spiritual harmony; but I don’t think that people were meant to only have what they need and only go where they have to go and nothing more. What a hum drum life that would be. I don’t think life has to be reduced to sitting in a circle wearing sackcloth clothing, and telling stories for entertainment and that’s it.

  2. I think that your view represents the view of most Yobachi, but to be honest I believe that is part of the issue. Unfortunately, people equate cutting back or living a simpler lifestyle on sitting around wearing sackcloth clothes – and who wants to do that?

    But who said that you have to drive a gas guzzling 4×4 to enjoy life? It’s interesting that the idea of consuming less, or living a more simply, is equated with not having a good time.

    What I’m talking about is the excess (the ‘luxury’, the non-essentials) that is leading to environmental problems that could be avoided if the excess were not there. People do not NEED to have 3 cars, for example. It’s not a question of either you have everything you want, or you have nothing at all. There is a middle ground.

    The industrial processes and car emissions that are, for example, emitting so much carbon into the air are on the increase due to our demand for the things that are created through the industrial processes, or for more cars that then go on to release more carbon emissions. There is a direct consequential chain involved here that could potentially be reduced if we, the world, consumed less.

    Earlier this year, over 2000 leading scientists in a UN group, said they believed that over 90% of global warming is caused by human activity.

    Yes, businesses and governments also need to make changes and set targets etc but we too can certainly – and need to – do our bit.

    And until we stop believing that living well means consuming as much as possible then as i’ve said we wont’ see any change. In fact, it will probably get worse.

  3. Unfortunately, people equate cutting back or living a simpler lifestyle on sitting around wearing sackcloth clothes – and who wants to do that?

    But see, you didn’t simply say just cutback. You said not to buy anything unless it’s necessary; which is way more extreme than just cutting back, and that’s what I responded to.

    Technically, people don’t need TVs; people don’t need to go see movies, so shut down all the movie theatres; people don’t need more than one or two pairs of shoes; people don’t need a stereo system. So what’s left be sides telling stories if you get rid of everything you don’t “need”?

    It’s not a question of either you have everything you want, or you have nothing at all. There is a middle ground.

    Exactly, that’s my point! I stated before and I’ll state again that I think excess consumerism is folly.

    If you’re saying people need to reduce their accumulation of stuff, I agree with you. But if you’re sticking by saying only go places and do what’s “necessary”, you won’t get anywhere with that argument.


  4. Ok… I’m playing devil’s advocate with you now…Just for arguments sake and also because I enjoy it!

    You’re right we don’t technically need TVs – so would we really suffer if we didn’t have them? I personally have gone for a whole year without watching TV (mainly because I didn’t know how to tune it! haha) but my life was not adversely affected. I did not turn into a recluse or become depressed, nor was my life boring. In fact, I benefited because there are much better things to do in life.

    I actually only have about 3 pairs of shoes. My life is not adversely affected by that either.

    I also do not own a stereo system. (and that’s for someone who lives and breathes music)

    So, I don’t really see how these things are problematic? I don’t actually do these things for environmental reasons, that’s just the way it is, but I’m certainly not suffering.

    I don’t actually see what the problem would be for people not to have those things if they didn’t need them, apart from the fact they just don’t want not to have them and think life would be boring without?

    I guess ultimately, it comes down to what we want for our futures and for our children’s futures… i think our instant gratification is more important to most of us than the consequences.

    As I said, i’m no saint, but i’m definitely starting to think about these things more.

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