looking at myself

Here is a question that crossed my mind the other day:  What type of person is worst for the environment?

The person who knows nothing about the environment; they have never taken a class on protecting our natural resources, nor do they care. They live their life in complete ignorance, without a care in the world.

Or. . .

The person who knows a great deal about the impact their decisions make on the environment, and still chooses to live their life without making any changes.

Both types of people hurt our planet equally.

With this being said, to which person do we point our figure?

At first glance, I would want to say that the person who knows a great deal about their impact on the environment is to blame.  These people should understand the harm they are doing, and with this knowledge, they continue to act like nothing is happening.

Then I started to tip my judgment to the other type of person.  If they don’t know what they are doing wrong, they will never be able to fix their habits and behaviors.

As I sat down and really thought about this, I realized that the second group of people can be taught.  Through education they have the opportunity to change and adjust their behaviors.  These people are not failing in the system, rather the system has failed them.

In my opinion, those people who have the knowledge and do nothing are really the ones to blame.  They have an obligation to teach, and should act as they are aware of the problems this world is facing and do nothing.

Upon this conclusion, I looked into the mirror and realized that I am part of the problem.  I understand the impacts, yet I have done so very little to change.  For example, here I am in France going to school.  My behaviors and actions are not really aligned with the values and morals.

Okay, yes I do a lot of good things like recycling, riding my bike to work (sometimes), purchase local products.   But, do the means justify the ends?  My footprint is still something like 4 earths.  What right do I have telling others what they should do, when I can’t even do it myself?

In many ways it would be easier to facilitate a major change if the government put some sort of regulation on consumption behaviors.  Now, I understand that this would never happen.  But imagine if it did?

Your account would have, let’s say, 100 environmental credits each year.  Every time you bought something, a small fraction of that balance would deplete that year.  The larger the impact on the environment, the great percentage of those 100 credits would go down.  Companies would have an incentive to produce products that have less of an impact on the environment. People don’t want to waste their points, thus, those products with less impact would have a competitive advantage.  If you break your “credit” bank, you pay a tax on the credits you exceed.

For me, having something like this would be a motivator, and I think it would be a driver for industry change.

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Posted in ecological footprint, sustainable living
5 comments on “looking at myself
  1. erikapenner says:

    I like your take on this. I feel just as helpless sometimes… It’s easy to feel guilty about your daily choices, but it’s also important to think about the bigger picture. Making a few small changes in a day or week won’t do anything, but how about over a lifetime? Now multiply that by the population of environmentally educated people. Also, consider the people you influence and in turn who they influence and now you have made a difference.

  2. bobbywalnuts says:

    that is very true. good point.

    when you look at the multiplication factors, and the various influences your decisions can make towards others, good things can and do happen.

    I sometimes feel so small. . and I know I can do better.

    I guess the wanting to do better is a good motivator for all of us. 🙂

  3. manitobadan says:

    This is something that I have thought about often, usually in reference to the rural community where my family is from. Recycling is rare, public transit does not exist, and there is no shame in driving an SUV or drinking bottled water. Despite the fact that I like to think of myself as more “aware”, the bottom line is my footprint is larger than most of the people there (largely tied to travelling). I think that many people justify their footprint by comparing it to how big it could be, and take actions to reduce its relative size, but are absolute terms what really count? For example, when you see huge homes that have all the technologies incorporated to reduce power consumption by 50% of what it normally would be, but because of their size they still use more power than small homes, should we support their effort to be more efficient, or point out that they still use more energy than most people?

    I guess my point is that awareness is important, but in the end meaningless if not supported by actions. That being said, with increased awareness, sometimes the action just becomes natural over time, and we don’t even realize it; it is no longer a conscious choice, it is just “normal”. These small changes, when incorporated by large numbers of people, do make a difference.

  4. egitman says:

    Awareness is good but there must be a driver on the seat. What I mean by that is simply reflecting on my personal life.

    I’ve been aware of the environmental issues maybe for over past 2.5 decades. While recognizing their criticality to our future there were times I just shrugged the notion of putting empty pop cans into the recycle bin. Why ? Probably because I was too lazy to take that additional 15 seconds step and dealing with it.
    Not anymore though. Following my marriage there came a driver into my life. My wife was so obsessed with making it happen, i.e. collecting metal cans, glass bottles, papers, you name it. It took her over a year to make me committed as much as herself. Then with my kids coming on board the life had a new meaning for me to help contributing to their future.

    In summary, awareness is good but you need a driver, a champion, to help you join the cause truly…

  5. jeremy says:

    Interesting discussion. I think our ecological consciousness is something that continually evolves. The important thing is not to regress! I am very uncomfortable about my excessive air travel, but as a vegetarian, non-car owning, bike rider, I think I can cut myself some slack from time to time. I know, however, that I can (and will) improve on my ecological footprint.

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