Convenient Truths

March 18, 2007

Treehugger has just announced the International Prize winner of their Convenient Truth green video competition- “One Person“. Check it out. It’s cute, it’s very watchable, and it has a great message… “children are the future and as this video explains one person does make a difference in the fight against global warming.”

However it also makes me feel a little uncomfortable. I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking and reading about “green” things lately, and about how to live more ethically. I am reading Leo Hickman’s Life Stripped Bare: My Year Trying To Live Ethically (which I plan to review here once I finish it), and have been browsing blogs such as green la girl, compact and no impact man. Quite aside from the fact that this kind of stuff is hugely guilt inducing, there is something about it all that doesn’t quite feel right.

Then somehow I ended up on Reading the Maps, a kiwi socialist blog, and read the post Don’t blame the Holden. And I had a “light bulb” moment. Maps argues that although groups like the Green Party and Greenpeace (and people like Al Gore) lay the blame for global warming on the consumption choices of ordinary people in the West “in reality, the cause of global warming is global capitalism, not the bloke filling up his Holden at the Swanson BP”. Now I’m not an expert of socialist theory, or on climate change, but this perhaps goes some way to explaining my discomfort. One only has to look back a century or two through human history (or travel to one or two “developing” countries) to see how the rise in global capitalism has gone hand in hand with environmental and social destruction.

This all helps to explain why the overwhelming feeling I get from reading about ethical living- and my own experience of trying to change- is of swimming against the current. It seems to be a perpetual struggle, when really it is something that is in the best interests of all of us. Clearly if the capitalist economy is the cause of climate change then attempting to live in a manner that is environmentally and ethically sound will always cause conflict. The key green messages- such as reducing waste, reducing energy consumption, eating locally and buying fair trade are all out of sync with a capitalist economy which needs free trade and high levels of consumption to thrive.

It is also disheartening to put so much effort into living ethically while watching corporations and nations continuing to pollute and damage our world. While there is increasing pressure on individuals to change the way they live, the worst offenders seem to be able to continue mining, felling trees and burning oil without limits. I guess some of my discomfort with the messages coming from the ethical living and green media is the emphasis on individuals with seemingly little pressure on the big culprits to change.

It is for this reason I will continue to recycle, compost, garden and buy fair trade. I may not be able to overthrow capitalism or change the way the global economy operates, but I can use my limited but surprisingly effectual power as a consumer to influence change. By choosing how, when and where I spend my money I can help encourage companies with better environmental and social records, and push those with poor practices to improve. While I believe that ethical living will always be a struggle in a western capitalist society, I think it is a struggle worth undertaking, if for no other reason than the health of myself and my family, and for the little drop in the ocean (or atmosphere) that I can save for the future.


2 Responses to “Convenient Truths”

  1. […] to do and often it’s hard work pushing against the cultural norms which we live with. Sharon has some interesting insights and I agree with her conclusion that the struggle is “worth undertaking, if for no other […]

  2. Idetrorce Says:

    very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: