Thursday, January 17, 2008

Why hasn't everybody turned green yet? (Part 2)

The wind was blowing hard this morning as I set off for my walk. I heard it whistling round the chimneys and sighing in the wires, even before I left the house. It was blowing from the west, as it often does around here. In fact it blows so often and so hard from the west that it has sculpted the trees in all the exposed places into eastward-leaning shapes.

As I set off down the lane, I was thinking again about the rhetorical question I posed in my previous post, about why it is that everybody has not yet turned green.

One of the conclusions I came to was that lots of people have not yet grasped the connection between the way we live our individual lives and the problems we as a species are collectively facing. But why are we all so slow to make those connections?

I turned westwards, and one answer seemed obvious. The market forces driving our consumer society are so strong and all-pervasive that it takes an enormous amount of effort to resist and defy them. As Anne O said in her comment on my previous post, " …it's like swimming against Niagara Falls to Do The Right Thing." Yes, that's how it feels. Or walking into a really strong and persistent headwind as I was doing now, on my walk. The wind was so strong that I had to push really hard to move forward, even when I was walking downhill.

So we have to give a tremendous amount of deliberate thought to the ways in which our own behaviour, our own lifestyles and all the small choices we make, day by day, affect what is happening in the wider world. Where does our rubbish end up? How much carbon are we putting into the air when we take that 'short break' flight to Lanzarote? When we take antibiotics and hormone pills and various other pharmaceutical products and some of that is excreted and goes down the drain, what effect might that have on the watercourses and the creatures that live in them? When we buy those cheap, chemical-sprayed supermarket bananas or that cheap, sweatshop-made T-shirt, whose life are we helping to damage in some other part of the world? How long before the plastic toys we bought for the kids' Christmas stockings end up in the landfill and how many centuries will it be before they break down – if ever? How much fossil fuel did it take to make that new, shiny gadget that we didn't really need and have managed for forty years without? (And on and on ....)

No TV commercials are ever going to remind us of these questions. They are geared to our forgetting, not to our remembering. The headwind of commerce blows relentlessly, day in and day out. Buy, buy, buy. Spend, spend, spend. Use, use, use. Pushing against it takes effort and persistence. Like the trees round here, our own shapes are by now so sculpted and stunted by the forces of consumerism that we no longer stand free and tall. But we are still alive. And we can still resist. If we do, we and all we love can still survive and thrive, and maybe eventually grow straight.

In the third post of this three-post series, I am going to look some of the ways we can resist – and bring greater contentment into our lives at the same time.


Anne O said...

I like that image of us as trees in the headwind of commerce. A little more hopeful than some other images I can think of...

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, Marian--here in the USA, our President urges us to go out and "spend"! I shake my head in wonder at the mounds of commercial goods on display in shops. How many coffee cups does one really need? How many hair clips?

In my own life, my sin is the amount of food I buy--and consume. I need to figure out how not to do that.
Cop Car