Sunday, May 10, 2009

Economic Sufferance vs. Environmental Guilt

day 287 - money tree
Originally uploaded by Amadika
So, I was writing a paper on Nietzsche and contemporary problems. When Nietzsche's existentialist philosophies and that "exercise" led me to discover that it is Personal or Individual Economics that is the root issue with Environmental issues.

It goes like this. I figured that herd mentality is a problem with environmentalism and "going green." See this previous post for more information. I basically say that the fad and popularity of environmentalism leads to the labeling of something as environmentally friendly or sustainable when it is actually harmful to the environment.

It is not conducive for humans to constantly tell someone that what they are doing is bad. I doubt that most people are intentionally bad, so when one tries to make someone feel bad for what they are doing, what ultimately happens is that that person is filled with guilt or becomes highly defensive. When we feel guilty we often try to find the easiest way out of that guilt and end up buying the first thing we see that is labeled green(herd mentality). Or by being defensive one grows an aversion to the issues at hand. I'm sure we all know how annoying it is when someone tells you that you are doing something bad.

Besides, aren't people part of the earth and thus really a result of the earth's dynamic changes? We could really just be the opposite of Blue-Green algae which, was the earliest organism to convert our highly CO2 filled environment into a highly O2 filled environment. We very well could be a tool of the Earth (but that is an entirely different philosophical debate altogether, and I'm kind of digressing.)

Here's where I'm going with this. If we were instead to concern ourselves with putting in some extra effort into saving a buck those actions would ultimately supersede all environmental concerns and make them non existent.

Let me explain with a few examples. Driving: Cars cost money. Even hybrid cars. Well, what if the hybrid car is a gift? Then you must ultimately refill that car with fuel. Besides, are hybrid cars "environmentally friendly?" Not really, you're still using petroleum. So instead, save some cash and ride your bike. It takes 2 hours to ride 25 miles and you won't need to spend an extra 2 hours at the gym. Talk about killing two birds with one stone. Of course, this solution should be entirely subjective.

Food. All modern food production techniques are not "green" by any means, even with labeled organic food pesticides are still utilized. What if one were to grow his/her own food? It would cost a ton less AND there would be tons more variety! As we all know monocultures are bad for soils and growing food at home would inevitably provide polycultures.

So instead of feeling guilty about harming the environment, one should instead try to avoid economic sufferance. Not by going to Wal-Mart because crap is cheaper, but by avoiding the desire to go to Wal-Mart in the first place.

By avoiding the sufferance that comes with a culture of consumerism instead of self sufficiency, the ultimate result ends up being environmental friendliness.


Joshua L said...

Nice blog. If you haven't already, read Ecopsychology by Kanner, Gomes, and Roszak.

Claire said...

I like the point that you make. Here's another question: HOW do you approach someone who you have a relationship with (personal or familial) and 'guide' them toward more environmentally conscientious decisions without guilt? I mean, I was raised with guilt being the bread-and-butter in my household and it's true - I have an aversion to guilt. What's the 'right' way to go about it with no hard feelings?

Mona Hsieh said...

come get your cookie. i have some in my office today.

Anduhrew said...

Claire, I would instead appeal to their economic struggle. I would see what types of things they have a hard time with. For example, their water bill may be high so instead of saying "you're bad you're wasting water, plant drought tolerant stuff" I would say "If you want to save some money on that bill replacing your lawn with drought tolerant species and you'll be happier" or if they say "organic fertilizer costs too much" say "it'll cost almost nothing if you make your own compost and fertilizer." I think the biggest problem is that there is a lack of knowledge on how to do these things. we are so dependent on the supermarket that we don't know HOW to grow our own food or how to do anything else for that matter. But I'm also assuming that these people want to save money. So maybe one needs to find what they are trying to do (or something that is a problem in their life) and appeal to that.

Huckleberry Humboldt said...

Too many Fing people

Anduhrew said...

yes, there are too many people. Large cities don't allow for people to sustain themselves. suburbs allow for some land to grow food, but then everything else is too far away. If towns were smaller and grouped as a series of webs with multiple centers and multiple small communities, people could sustain themselves and trade well. But the infrastructure that exists now doesn't allow for that. It is a towering structure that may fall under its own weight.

Akexis said...

I agree with what you say, andrew. I have often thought to myself that from an environmental standpoint, this economic collapse couldn't have come at a better time. Once the notions of "green" and "sustainable" and global warming became part of pop culture there was so much fretting about how we were going to "solve" these global problems. And then the prices of fuel rose and people to started riding their bikes instead of driving their cars to save money. This is just one example, but it's so strikingly obvious that the general public will willing make the right choices when it means saving money whereas they only half heartedly do so when it is out of guilt.

Claire said...

Then I suppose we're just S.O.L. when laziness comes into the picture? Not to have a dim view on humanity, but many people tend to choose convenience over cash, even if they can't afford it. Good suggestion though, Andrew. A focus would probably help tremendously.