Don’t expect climate change to get fixed by the governments of the world. Don’t expect that, however noble in intention, the efforts of Gore, McKibben, Stern, and their many cohorts will succeed either. Not on any large scale. It won’t be clean tech or green products saving the day either.
Climate change, like energy scarcity, water pollution, and other serious global issues is merely one symptom of a larger global problem. Tackle the symptoms individually, and at best you might get lackluster results. Tackle the source of the problem, and everything attached to it will be positively affected.
That problem is consumerism. Too many people want too many things on a finite planet with limited resources. The process of obtaining and manufacturing those things is what has gotten us into trouble: carbon emissions, resource depletion, deforestation, species extinction, etc.
The consumer economy is the cornerstone of “democratic” governments worldwide. As a result, governments have no genuine interest in changing the status quo. It would be too problematic, too chaotic, and mean transcending too many vested interests. Don’t count on Copenhagen to come to much.
And while Al Gore and company have some good ideas and rational arguments, the problem is that the arguments are rational, while the roots of consumerism are not.
For decades, the worldwide public both in the U.S. and any country that has emulated the American formula for “success” has had their minds absorbed by consumerism, and their emotions compromised by its advertised promises. At this point, the average consumer is largely driven by irrational motives, advertisers tugging at the heart strings, making promises that products will solve “problems”.
In this emotional landscape and this mindset, at best you might get a few people to change to energy efficient light bulbs. You might get their attention just long enough for a few token actions. As for significant lifestyle shifts, they will be few and far between. Any significant shift will come from reaching people on an emotional, and likely irrational level—just as advertisers have been doing for decades.
What we need is a shift to a new model—for our lifestyle, for our economies, for our livelihoods, for our planet.
A rational argument is not going to bring those about. What will?
Not clean tech, not green products, nor any other model that looks similar to the one we already have. Merely re-positioning “stuff that is less bad” for consumers to consume is just shifting the nature of the problem. As Buckminster Fuller advised, to make an existing model obsolete, one must create a new model worth aspiring to.
Or as Einstein so elegantly put it, “We cannot solve problems using the same logic we used to create them in the first place.”
There needs to be a shift in people’s values and behaviors on a wide scale.
The terrain is there for exploration. Here is a well documented series from the BBC tracing the origins of consumer behavior and how they got us to where we are today. It’s a long series to watch, but incredibly detailed and insightful. If you are serious about wanting to change the way things are, study and reflect on these videos.
As the old adage goes, “Turn the problem into the solution.” In this case, the answer is getting consumerism to quickly consume and snuff itself out. Will it be another banking crisis that does it? Some other social movement rooted in the masses? Some other driver yet undetermined? Who knows, perhaps you will be the one coming up with the next golden idea on that one.
The Century of the Self Part 1
The Century of the Self Part 2
The Century of the Self Part 3
The Century of the Self Part 4
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