Overcoming apathy by shedding environmental guilt

“All that self-expression has just created a generation of morons, hooked on an endless appetite for rubbish”

Vivienne Westwood


Did you ever stand there with a piece of trash and feel what I guess you’d call environmental guilt? Maybe it was some excessive packaging for an electronic gizmo you just bought or perhaps the cling wrap from your kids lunch.
Of course you realise that there is no ‘away’ to throw this trash. It will go somewhere and it will be there for hundreds and hundreds of years. Almost everyone is concerned about the cavalier disregard and the environmental callousness of corporate production chains.


Many of us may be conscious consumers that try to reduce harm by avoiding purchasing the worst products from the least green companies. The vexing thing is that no matter what we buy it isn’t going to be a good choice for the environment. The production chains are so entangled so polluting, and so inherently unfair to labour that their aren’t easy ways to live ethically.


No matter how you try you will invariably make significant contributions to the very environmental problems that concern you.


The most unfortunate thing is that the situation can feel so helpless that mere mortals become disenfranchised. We come to feel nothing we do matters. When the learned helplessness of the individual is accumulated into a helpless community and magnified again into a helpless nation then you have the makings of a classic social dilemma.
But, how to overcome the apathy that results when one feels helpless and hopeless?


The first step is to ensure a continual connection with nature. Few individuals can spend time in a natural setting and not feel a deep connection. We are animals after all.


Next we need to begin to learn and understand that environmental concern does not necessarily result in living an impoverished life. Saving energy is saving money. Reducing rubbish is saving money. Upcycling and recycling is making money. Growing your own food is enhancing your wellbeing, minimising oil consumption and improving the soil. Good environmental decisions are often good personal decisions.


Last we need to move away from fear or guilt motives for new behaviour. Positive results seldom come from negative motivations. Given an understanding of the problem and a participatory opportunity many people will do the right thing.
Good information and good intentions need an opportunity for expression. We must create better opportunities and more positive ways to express environmental issues. We all have the power to change ourselves. In changing ourself we change the world.

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