I love it when you get the same message from different sources, albeit each with a different part of the puzzle. This has happened quite nicely in the last 48 hours.
A lot of the study and research I’ve been doing recently focuses on sustainability and how we affect change. Some would argue that there are two types of environmentalists, the greens and the browns, where the browns are the people concerned with sustainability in urban environments, rather than the nature conservation focus of the greens. I’d put myself firmly in the first camp, as that is where my interest lies. Not that the other camp isn’t just as valid.
In pondering the problems of urban sustainability I keep returning to consumption as being at the root of the problem, and that there is work and change to be done in this area. The issue is finding out which end of the stick to grasp hold of.
The last 48 hours has landed a bunch of articles in my lap that re-iterate this theme and has given me cause for thought.
The first was the Australian Conservation Foundation’s Consumption Atlas that charts greenhouse emissions, water usage and eco-footprint for each postcode in Australia and charts it against various averages. Burwood area is disturbing. we use 940, 000 L of water per person, per year. The state average is 740, 000 L. If you look at some of the other figures on the site food is the biggest producer of greenhouse gases, consumer of water, and one of the top contributors to our footprint. This got me thinking about my personal food practices, especially as I was in Harris Farm markets, and it was “no meat Thursday”.
The next few pieces in the puzzle came from the following two articles:
Both address the “avoid” and “reduce” part of the avoid, reduce, reuse, recycle waste hierarchy. They question how it is good for the planet to continue to consume masses of stuff, even if it is a “green” product. The compact’s article is a personal story, George Monbiot’s article is a more reflective look at affluence and society and the creation of a new class difference based on eco-consumption. They also explain why I get uncomfortable about the way that eco-shopping is used a sort of feel-good spack filler over the problems we are facing and could address if we didn’t stick our head in the sand so much.
The final one was from No Impact Man on “Why I sometimes drone on about wacky spiritual questions…“. He takes the questions raised by the previous two articles a few steps further and asks about the way that consumption can hide the fact that we are not doing what makes us happy. It’s a challenge, of sorts, to the affluent parts of the world, i.e. us, to work out what would really make us happy, rather than just consuming and irreparably polluting the planet in the process.
None of this is particularly new. It’s just nice to be reminded in a different way, and odd to have so many of these messages hit in 48 hours.
What makes you happy? Is it a shiny new toy? Really? Or is it time spent with friends? Is it walking around your local neighbourhood admiring people’s gardens? Is it the enjoyment of music and dance? Is it the pursuit of knowledge, or curling up on the couch with a good book?Is it the contemplation of the divine (however you define it) and the knowledge that you are loved?
Side stepping these questions slightly is my need to analyse how I am spending money and why, and to examine my food choices. This might have to be the first post in a long time over at the “betterer” blog.
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