We’ve just come to the end of third week, which means that we are approaching the dreaded FOURTH WEEK. This is when students survive on pizza, candy, and coffee. Lots of coffee.
The end for my class in particular involves a systematic organizing of the concepts we’ve learned. Part of this is asking questions: Have we revolutionized our thinking? How? What possible solutions are there? Can we remain hopeful?
In regards to that last question, sometimes it’s very difficult. A lot of what we’ve read explains that while individual choices can make a difference, that difference is very minor. Minor because we still live in America, which takes way more than its share of global resources. In an article titled “A Future of Less,” David Villano lays it out: Even though we’re just 5 percent of the world’s population, we use about a quarter of its energy and create 30 percent of its waste. This is obviously problematic, but it’s exacerbated by the fact that developing countries want what we have. As Villano puts it, “the world fancies our waistlines.” And what are we doing about it? Distancing ourselves from the problem by buying organic and thereby absolving ourselves of any further contemplation, or worse, guilt.
So I think all my classmates and I have started to feel a bit guilty and hopeless and powerless. It seems that the answer is in changing the system, but as it turns out, it’s nearly impossible to get new environmental laws passed because of corporate opposition. In case you didn’t know, corporations have a lot of money and they support a lot of politicians. I met a small group of classmates on Wednesday, and one of them had decided that the only way environmental change could happen was if we had a dictatorship for six months or so. Also present was an economist and capitalism-lover, who advocated instead for a reframing of the issue.
Reframing could actually be pretty powerful. If we can shift our focus from GDP to a more comprehensive indicator of national welfare, like GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator), we can reconnect ourselves to the negative outcomes of consumption. If we can incentivize businesses to regulate production more heavily, we can also increase corporate social responsibility. Through language and media, we can push ourselves towards more of a global perspective and perhaps incite people to consume less in favor of simplicity. If we work less, we have less money but also much more time for experiences and relationships. I think that’s what other countries have that we’re missing.
This class has opened my eyes to so many things and reminded me that education and awareness can lead to a lot of frustration. But that’s the point of it, right? To become a more informed, wiser person, even if it means I’m a little more dejected about the state of things? It feels better to know more. Knowing leads to planning and troubleshooting and, most important, activism and policy-making! All good for the environment.
So I suppose the conclusion of this post is that sometimes this class makes me wish I could go backward, but when that happens, I think of what Wade says: it would be pretty fun to be part of the last generation on earth. Wouldn’t it? If that thought is still overwhelming, there is also the option of remembering that we’re only a rock floating in space around a large ball of fire. So there you have it.