Saving the planet by changing the culture

I care deeply about this planet we live on.  It’s the only one we’ve got.  Right now, I’m on a bit of a high environmentally.  In part, because of this blog.  But sometimes it’s hard to remember why I care when so many people around me don’t seem to at all.  Or they might say they do, but their actions show they don’t. Then it feels like all my effort is just being squandered away and I might as well not bother.  But when I feel like this I go and read a particular article in The Guardian by Michael Pollan.  In it, Michael Pollan talks about why we bother.  He says that it can be quite disheartening if we worry about having a real impact on say the world’s carbon foot print via our actions.  But, if instead, we see our actions as having a part in changing the culture, then it’s much easier to keep going.  Michael’s idea is that every person who grows their own vegies or buys local food or rides a bike or whatever it is that we decide to do as our part, each of these people is helping to make these activities more normal.  Is helping to make these activities more desirable, more fun, more inspiring to other people. To the people who don’t get it … yet. And I know from experience that this is true. When we lived without a car for 1.5 years most people at first treated us as weirdos.  But by the end of the time, the same people would show interest in knowing what we did in place of having a car or would plan social activities so it was easy for us to get to without a car (e.g. near a train station).  They were thinking and acting differently.  We had changed not having a car from impossible and crazy to real and doable in their minds. And THAT is an important change. I see it too with going to farmers’ markets, using less plastic, composting, catching public transport, bringing lunch from home, using less water….  It works this slowly changing the culture thing, it works.

Don’t Give Up by Michael Pollan.  The Guardian, 6 June 2008.

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12 Responses to Saving the planet by changing the culture

  1. cindy says:

    Keep caring, if you affect just one person every day through this blog, you are doing the planet a huge service.

  2. bagnidilucca says:

    I would like to think that most people try to do what they can to be less wasteful. I walk, rather than take the car, shop at markets, we drive a tiny car, and try to use as little packaging as possible. I do fly though, and I don’t really want to give that up.

    • Bee says:

      Yeah flying I think is a lot of people’s “weakness”. During the time we didn’t own a car we made one overseas trip. We worked out that the flight plus the driving we did on that trip pretty much offset the whole time we didn’t have car (we did drive A LOT on the holiday though).

  3. Nice post, Bee.
    Pier pressure can be a good thing. I’ve become conscious how my actions create changes among my friends and vice versa. It can be powerful and yet I’m surprised what doesn’t catch on or why it takes us so long to ‘get it’.
    Here’s a link to a TED lecture about getting a movement started. When I read your post it popped into my head- it’s also very funny!

    • Bee says:

      Thanks for the TED link Molly. I’ve only seen one TED talk so far and it was jamie Oliver putting a very strong and passionate case for why food, and connection to food, is important. So I look forward to listening to another good one

  4. Yes, yes, yes! Just as we slipped into this culture of consumption and luxury by emulating one peer at a time, we could climb our way back out into a long-term sustainable lifestyle in the same manner. Instead of wondering if we ought to get a TV as big as our friend’s new one, we’ll find ourselves wondering if we ought to get rid of our TVs like our friends did. My wife and I already count ourselves responsible for getting several couples back into gardening, have talked a few others into using farmer’s markets and eating in season, and got my parents to switch to pastured chickens.

    • Bee says:

      Sounds like you’re having fantastic success at cultural change. If you are thinking about getting rid of your TV my suggestion is to go for it. We got rid of our TV the same time as our car. We ended up wimping out on the car but the TV is still gone. And I find I have so much extra time to do the important stuff. Although I do admit to watching some TV on line now and as podcasts – but it is only the good stuff and only when I want to watch it rather than just having the TV on as used to happen before.

  5. Seymour says:

    Keep up the good work! Sooner or later everyone is going to have to get on board with making the changes needed or we’ll all die in our own waste. It is good to be out in front and showing the way so others know where to go – so I encourage you to keep blogging about this stuff.

  6. eremophila says:

    Thanks for the linked article.
    When I hear about people deciding what they will and won’t change in their life, I wonder what they will think when there no longer is any choice about it…….will they have the necessary skills then to survive? Maybe yes, maybe no…..
    Kudos to you for living thoughtfully.

    • Bee says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post and Michael Pollan’s article.

      Good point! We do currently have the luxury of deciding what we will and won’t change about our lives. It’s an enormous luxury that we take for granted at our own peril

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