Green Tips & False Realities

In the fight for sustainability and environmental stability what people belief as good is often the opposite.  Through false information, ignorance and greed man is walking into oblivion by not understanding the full connectivity of the natural system and the affect of his actions.

After zooming into work on my bike I am hot and go for a swim in the city’s river, the Isar, to cool down.  Munich sits on the edge of the Alps and the Isar rushes through Bavaria passing Munich.  A colleague was amazed that I went swimming;  I asked why?  Because of the bacteria; another said because half of Munich bathes their dog there.  I was frustrated because it made me think about things the same people do that are alot worse for human health.  The cheap meat that they buy, full with antibiotics, that causes massive water pollution and pollutes the human body and soul. The colleague that was worried about the bacteria is also a fan of McDonald’s.

So why do people believe act on the wrong information?  Why do lists of eco tips always contain turn off lights, turn off your monitor and recycle but often omit flying, driving and house insulation?  Why are the middle classes outraged by plastic bags but seem to accept massive growth in flying?

Acceptance in Society

Humans are social beings.  They want to be liked in society. Being liked is pretty easy, you accept the social norms and you follow them.  The social norms currently are:  that flying is modern, that plastic bags are bad and you should avoid them, that swimming in a river is less acceptable than tucking into a McDonald’s.

Therefore many eco top ten lists contain the easier actions because you want your reader to feel positive.  You want them to think that turning green is easy.  You want them to accept you.  This is currently a major barrier to the green movement and its greatest opportunity. We need to reach a critical mass where dark green lifestyles become accepted and ever more appealing.

Paradise Destroyed by the Plastic Bag? Image Courtesy of Slantmagazine.com

False Perception Slaying

In an interview set in India I remember vividly an Indian claiming that Planes must be cleaner than trains because of what comes out behind.  The same is true with the dogs swimming in the river.  That is dirty, but the meat pumped with chemicals is ok because I do not see the chemicals being injected.

My own perceptions and beliefs are therefore crucial. Plastic bags are something that people see flying around the countryside, lying in rivers and washing up onto beaches.  The plane that I jump into just provides me with an easy get away.   I leave the pollution behind and it will soon be invisible to the human eye.

Greenwashing

Flying illustrates the last point beautifully.  Some people have a guilty conscious and they should (Read The Greenwash Party).  Flying releases massive amounts of carbon dioxide and injects it into a very vulnerable part of the atmosphere.  When someone finds out that I do not fly and they feel they need to justify why they fly, they scramble for green things that counteract their flying.

Greenwashing is social acceptance.

Therefore we need people to realise how damaging exactly things are.  Swimming in an alpine river is not bad; eating antibiotic meat is.  Using a plastic bag is wasteful but flying is like dumping a lorry full of plastic bags into a pristine ecosystem.

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