Our choices between saving the environment and saving a bit of time, money or effort present us with constant challenges. How will we be commuting to work this year? Will our next holiday choice be based on the travel brochures we consume or the carbon footprint we leave behind? Do we shop ethically even when it costs us more? Or go without when the thing we want is only available with excessive packaging? Did we boycott new year’s fireworks (and the toxic pollutants they release into the environment) with intention, by accident or not at all?
Of course, our options are not always mutually exclusive. There are exceptions, situations where the easier option is also the most environmentally friendly one. This is why another great challenge is to find, create and popularise the exceptions until they become the default. Germany’s commitment to renewable energy, the phasing out of single-use plastics, standardisation of catalytic converters and low-energy household light bulbs are some examples of how an eco-conscious option is the most convenient or only available option for consumers.
Indeed, the reversing (or at the very least the slowing) of climate change is not possible through our lifestyle and consumer choices alone, nor are we as a collective of individuals able to solve this without radical shifts in commitment from governments, world leaders and of course the most polluting industries. However, in addition to technological developments, global commitments, and the regulatory and legal and industrial changes, we also need to make sweeping cultural changes as a society.
Our first topic of 2020 will focus on the cognitive dissonance involved in participating as a climate-conscious citizen in a consumerist world. We will examine the conflicts and the hypocrisies that come with environmental awareness and how we reckon with our actions (and inaction) in the context of the escalating climate crisis. Also – credit where credit is due – we will also make time to share environmental initiatives that are working well and need our support. There is no pre-reading this month, but please come prepared to examine the good, bad and ugly when it comes to the role you choose to play on spaceship earth.
Image credit: Photo by Li-An Lim on Unsplash