Sunday, January 22, 2012

Radical vs Sensible Environmentalism

When we think of radical environmentalists, we are most often reminded of the Greenpeace activists who board the whaling ships, or the tree-sitters who block logging operations, or even the May Day protesters in London, rioting and looting as an outcry against a malfunctioning capitalist system and its destruction of the earth's resources.

Many of the radical environmentalists gain attention in the world's media, and it is often cast in a bad spotlight. They are portrayed as saboteurs, criminals and even 'terrorists' because of their attempts to bring down a system that is ruled by the big corporates profiteering off their own abuse of the environment.

They may achieve results in raising awareness when the general public sees their actions on the news, but in the long run, are they really achieving anything?

The whaling fleets are still sailing, the forests are still being cut down, and many animal species are heading towards extinction. And the profit-before-people capitalist machine still powers ahead.

So what does someone who cares about our environment stop these things from happening in a practical sense? What would be a more sensible way of going about bringing down the corporate monsters who are eating up the planet's vital life-giving resources?

Some issues of the day are just too big for the average person to deal with, so they just ignore it, or buy into the consumer culture with the firm belief that technology or in some cases, divine intervention, will solve all the problems. There is no quick fix, however.

The sensible approach is to look at what is going on in your own community, things that affect your immediate environment. This way, more practical solutions can be applied at the local level, and are easier to achieve.

For example, if food prices are skyrocketing, you can find out about local farmer's markets, community gardens, or even learn to grow some of your food at home. This reduces the distance your food has to travel, thus reducing carbon emissions, and you know where your food has come from and how it has been grown.

If your local council is putting through a development that could cause pollution, a health hazard and other environmental harm, set up a petition and write to the council to voice your concerns. If you can get your neighbours who are also affected by the development involved, all the better. It is vital to have support for issues that affect the community, so getting to know your neighbours is important when you need to have your concerns heard. Many people don't even know about the things going on in their neighbourhoods that could have adverse impacts on their lifestyle.

For bigger, national problems, many proposals are put on council or government websites, for people to make submissions on. Or if there is something in general of concern, you can write to a politician about any issues and ask them what they are going to do about it, or say that you want them to go against a ruling for example, discharging wastewater into a stream.

The common sense approach means helping the environment and also saving money. Petrol prices too high? Think about down-sizing your car, getting a hybrid, taking public transport, or getting an electric bicycle. Public transport is difficult in places, so an alternative might be to try a car-pooling network in your neighbourhood.

If you are game enough, you could educate others about practical solutions they can do. Setting an example also encourages others to follow suit. This is particularly visible in the 'trendy' gardening scene, where hundreds have realised it's cool to grow their own fruit and vegetables.

You could also set up a local environment committee to meet and raise awareness. One of the most practical things we can do is reduce our spending on unnecessary material goods, and buy locally-made products where possible. Find out where the stuff you buy comes from, and if it is coffee, tea or chocolate, find out if it is Fair Trade, as these products are often from poorly treated farmers who are not paid a fair price for their goods. Also check if the food you buy is organically grown, as this is healthier for the environment and for ourselves.

Many of the electronic items we buy have built-in obsolescence these days, which means continually replacing them with new and updated items, where the old ones often get dumped in landfills and the parts are difficult to recycle. It is better to pay more for a product that will last, which will save money in the long run.

When we pay attention to local issues, grow our own food, use more environmentally friendly transport, and buy locally-made and longer-lasting goods, we are contributing to a more sustainable way of living, which, in the long run just may be a lot more radical than what the 'radicals' do.

No comments:

Post a Comment