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