Don’t push it

I cycle through Aberdeen, a bag of gro­ceries swing­ing from my steer­ing wheel. I have been to the Lidl where you can buy, for exam­ple, cau­li­flower and zuc­chi­ni with­out pack­ag­ing. Shop­ping veg­an and plas­tic-free by bike, it doesn’t get much more envi­ron­men­tal­ly friend­ly. But the warm, fuzzy feel­ing stays away.

Instead, I feel anger bub­bling up. On the road­side where I picked up plas­tic a while ago, lit­ter starts to accu­mu­late again. An air­plane flies by, prob­a­bly half filled with Shell employ­ees. Large SUVs rush past me. Every­one agrees that we have to live with­in the lim­its of the plan­et, with respect for non-human life. Why don’t we do it?

Part of the answer lies in the fact that we are only will­ing to adjust our lifestyle as long as it does not cost us too much. That is also true for myself. I had a job inter­view with an organ­i­sa­tion in the Nether­lands last week. For­tu­nate­ly it was pos­si­ble to do the inter­view remote­ly, but I would have gone by plane if necessary.

Babette Porceli­jn has writ­ten a great book (in Dutch), I high­ly rec­om­mend it. But she describes some­one who choos­es to take cold show­ers and eat veg­an as suf­fer­ing from ‘ecorex­ia’. In oth­er words: Don’t push it. Peo­ple change their habits only when the new way of life is pre­sent­ed as trendy, tasty and comfortable.

I am not a veg­an out of a kind of masochism, but also not because I think it is so tasty, trendy and healthy. For me it is a moral choice. The same applies to plas­tic. Dur­ing these 40 days, I have become aware of the prob­lems caused by plas­tic pack­ag­ing. That is why I am now pre­pared to put more effort into my shop­ping. Once you know the impact that your lifestyle has on the plan­et and the ani­mals, you just adjust your behav­iour, don’t you?

I know that envi­ron­men­tal­ists and veg­ans are often blamed for sketch­ing dooms­day sce­nar­ios and that this is not effec­tive. That is com­plete­ly true. But today I am not rea­son­able. Today I am angry.

What gives us the right to put our own com­fort and enjoy­ment above the wel­fare of the oceans, the rain­for­est, the mil­lions of ani­mals in fac­to­ry farms? It is absurd, it is pride. The beau­ty is that if we find our hum­ble place again, liv­ing with­in the lim­its of the plan­et is not altru­ism or sac­ri­fice. Joan­na Macy calls it “Green­ing of the Self”, iden­ti­fy­ing with all life on earth. I can only hope that we as human­i­ty will redis­cov­er our con­nec­tion to the earth, and that there will be an end to the destruction.

The cri­sis that threat­ens our plan­et, whether seen in its mil­i­tary, eco­log­i­cal, or social aspects, derives from a dys­func­tion­al and patho­log­i­cal notion of the self. It derives from a mis­take about our place in the order of things. It is the delu­sion that the self is so sep­a­rate and frag­ile that we must delin­eate and defend its bound­aries; that it is so small and so needy that we must end­less­ly acquire and end­less­ly con­sume; and that as indi­vid­u­als, cor­po­ra­tions, nation-states, or a species, we can be immune to what we do to oth­er beings.

Joan­na Macy, in: Spir­i­tu­al Ecol­o­gy — the Cry of the Earth