1. We are not the world. We are part of it By Antonio Pasolini (Energy Refugee) – Vitória, Brazil.
We count on science to meet the environmental challenges of our times and our uncertain future. Technology is already playing a key role in our transition to a low-carbon economy. This represents a U-turn on past scientific breakthroughs that enabled the coal-fueled Industrial Revolution, which marked the beginning of the anthropogenic global warming that now affects communities all over the world. There are amazing new clean technologies being developed in the field of energy, infrastructure, manufacturing, recycling and several other fields that can make a positive impact on a massive scale.
Technologies are borne out of ideas and these days sustainability is a key concept breathing life into them. Although we have not yet reached a global consensus on the issue, there is widespread awareness that we need to find ways to preserve the planet for future generations. But can the drive towards sustainability in response to concerns over self-preservation be enough to maintain life on Earth, both for humans and non-humans?
In order to make a transition from our current way of life, which values conspicuous consumption at the cost of environmental integrity, we need to bring ethics into the plan. It is wrong to destroy the environment because of its intrinsic value. In other words, the natural world has a value that is independent of our reliance on it. Although many of us are aware of it, we need a whole generation to start acting on it. We need to promote the idea that we are part of the world, notthe world. Everything the environment contains has the right to be and we must respect that, like we respect another human being’s life.
This is not to deny the material dimension of life and the fact that our well-being relies on nature as its source. But if we stop looking at nature as mere resource, in amazement and gratitude, then we may succeed in transitioning from our current model of consumption to one that is viable – and ethical. We need to be in awe of nature, admire it, and commune with it. At some point, we declared war against the natural world. The time has come to make peace with it.
How do we do that? We need to talk about it. We must educate the younger generations. We implement changes in our lives. We demand action from politicians. We change our diets to plants. We want less. We need less. We can do with less. We can be happier. We must move away from the concept that happiness absolutely hinges on a type of material well-being that far exceeds our needs. In fact, there’s evidence that excessive consumption could actually be making us depressive due to several social and psychological factors, such as stress, status anxiety and fear. Consumption has become a kind of religion and we need to lose faith in it.
Our generation has the opportunity to make this choice. It will take determination and bravery to go against a system that is rigged in the opposite direction, seemingly stuck in the tyrannical concept of economic growth. We can’t keep growing forever, though, not in a linear, expansionist way because it’s physically impossible. We can grow in more interesting ways, with more creativity, ethics and appreciation for the planet we inhabit and share. Yes, we can have amazing new technologies and, at the same time, simple, enjoyable lives that respect all forms of life. That’s what we should mean by progress and growth from now onwards.
2. The big shift – adapting our consumption By Bri Johnstone – Melbourne, Australia.
It is astounding how easy it is to consume when living in a western country. According to WWF, 200 litres of water are required to make one latte. Knowing that, imagine what our consumption is on any given day. As a society, are we aware of this? I thought by using my reusable coffee mug I was doing the world a favour. In addition to the resources for the take-away cup, I certainly wasn’t aware it took that volume of water to produce a latte. How do we change our consumption habits?
The first step in shifting our consumption is awareness. There is a great deal of information out there and it can become confusing. Everything uses energy and resources and we can’t live without it. How do we as a society function with minimal impact? What we need is simple, clear information. Calls to action that are achievable at all levels and in varying circumstances: individual, local, regional, national, and international. Motivation for these calls to action need to be individually driven and government mandated.
The second step in shifting consumption is changing our own behaviour. Making more informed purchasing decisions and consciously reducing our consumption. If we buy products that promote sustainable methods we are affecting demand. If everyone made a conscious effort to shift to purchasing products that were, where possible, local, light, durable, made from renewable resources, and energy efficient we would be demonstrating our preference in a supply and demand market. The difficulty with this is the cost. These products usually attract a higher immediate cost. Most people do not have the luxury to make this choice. When I look to purchase a new appliance, a major factor in my decision is the cost. There should be government incentives introduced to assist people in making these decisions – rebates for more energy efficient appliances?
The third step is enforced, fair standards. We need collaborative action at government levels to develop and enforce standards that promote and enable conscious consumption.
I know some people will ask: why should I care about my consumption? Someone recently asked me this exact question and I struggled to articulate an answer. I would argue it will save you money. If we consume less, we will: save money, save time and reduce stress. As Sam Davidson (author, Simplify your life) says, “If it doesn’t add value to your life, dump it.”
We are accustomed to convenience. Shifting to conscious consumption requires a level of convenience and affordability that will make it accessible to everyone. We are fortunate in Australia to have access to clean (free!) drinking water yet we still purchase bottled water. Making tap water more convenient may be one tactic to reduce our reliance on bottled water.
This is an exciting time. Throughout history humans have been inventive and innovative. What we have achieved with medicine and technology is amazing. Understanding what we know now about finite resources, we have the opportunity to be even more innovative and come up with solutions that do not deplete our earth but are part of the cycle.
There is some great work being done already. Cradle to Cradle is a framework developed by designer William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart. It is about design creating a positive footprint rather than reducing a negative one. Companies that have applied the principles of this framework include: Herman Miller , Method and Alcoa.
The issues we face sometimes seem monumental but there are things we can do. I would encourage anyone that reads this to reflect on their consumption during a day, or a week. What do you buy; do you need it; where does it come from; will it be thrown away soon; what would happen if you didn’t have it?
3. Bring Back the Soul (Making the Shift from Conspicuous to Conscious Consumption) By Rajani Mani.
My village is global, and I carry it in a rectangular piece of plastic in the back pocket of my jeans. In my village of excess the cyclical nature of existence has been ripped open and stretched to fit a square – a 1000 sq. ft. fortified patch of urban earth called a flat.
Foldable, compact and more efficient than the ancestral hamlet of my roots which now is nothing but a mofussil dot on the atlas, unless it contributes to my excess, say by growing a crop like sugar which no one can do without, or cotton – for a fabric which never goes out of fashion.
My kitchen is smaller and churns out less food than the kitchens of a couple of generation of grandmothers. This is however no reflection to the size of my refrigerator, which holds food that can last weeks if not months.
But seriously, before we look at the refrigerator as the villain in all of this, we need to remember why we needed it in the first place. I remember my mother hankering for a fridge because it seemed to be a way to avoid food spoilage which was ruining our mealtimes. We could buy, store and efficiently consume every last bit.
That was my mother’s generation; today refrigerator companies are seducing us with happy families in monochrome homes, eating ‘fresh’ food, straight out of a giant double door steel cupboard with ‘intelligence sensor’(?)
Elsewhere scientists and techs and vegetable developers are working very hard, sometimes at the cost of ignoring their families, to come up with new technology that can prolong the life span of our tomatoes, carrots and eggplants. Oddly it even seems right given the state of the village economy.
The village market has a new name – it is called a supermarket – which is like any ordinary market with a cape. Because of it I live life supersized, and cheap. So cheap that I can almost live with the guilt of having one of the largest carbon footprint this side of the world. For most of us our aspirations have changed keeping up with the times. When I was a kid we ate carrots in winter, melons in summer… but now food is not a seasonal phenomena but a hemispheric phenomena. If there’s winter in one part of the world there’s summer or spring somewhere else, and there’s a market for food and all kinds of it, the year around. Its demand and supply… the more you want, the more things there will be to fuel that want.
So how are we going to change that? I see two things that have a strong working potential
- Go back to the textbooks.
- Appreciate the intrinsic value of things.
I was watching this road trip foodumentary by a very wide-eyed fresh-faced chef with a hurried but eclectic cooking style. In the American deep-south he encounters ‘soul food’. During the days of slave trade the African American slaves on the plantations made do with leftovers. So they reinvented and cooked with greens, vegetables and herbs, getting the most out of discarded cuts of meat, and quite literally putting their soul into it.
And I think we can take from that, turn our consumption into a precious and nourishing event. My daughter’s Grade 1 science book explains it succinctly – in order to live, focus on the five basic needs.
And then invest the rest of your energy and resources to set the life button to ‘Restore’ in your happy box. Here’s a peasant-style recipe to use up leftover rice – Pazhankanji, a cooling, probiotic breakfast.
4. The Power of Social Media in Ensuring Conscious Consumption By Charles Immanuel Akhimien – Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria.
Conscious Consumption is a social movement which centres on the understanding that our consumption impacts ourselves, our communities and our world at large. It covers not just choosing what to buy and where to buy it from, but also how to use what we buy and dispose of waste. Simply put, it is becoming aware of what, when, where and how you consume.
On January 28, 2011, Egypt’s President, Hosni Mubarak, took the drastic and unprecedented step of shutting off the Internet for five days across the entire nation. His reason for doing so was simple: to halt the flow of communication and coordinated assembly taking place over social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter. That Mubarak took this desperate step, which cost Egypt an estimated $90 million and outraged the international community, demonstrates the incredible power of social media.
Social media today is an exceedingly powerful tool in the 21st century. It has become more than just a fad, as it aids the starting of trends by influencing people to change their behaviours. In Nigeria for example, since late last year there has been a #teamnatural revolution that started via twitter when someone started tweeting about how potentially toxic hair relaxers are. It garnered a lot of support on twitter and various blogs up to the point that most young ladies I know no longer use relaxers but go with their natural hairs; furthermore everyone is blogging about natural hair and how to care for it, with relaxers and weaves fast going out of use.
An individual’s consumption especially with regards to food usually follows a cultural trend. Today food waste is as much a cultural thing as anything else, and as such it is imperative that in order to tackle this problem people develop a new culture, a new way of doing things. Social media is one such veritable tool through which this can be achieved. It is now the fastest way to send a message across to the younger populace.
The crux of social media is human interaction. Social media affords people the opportunity to interact. Social network sites like Facebook, Myspace and twitter are particularly popular, as are blogs, and they educate citizens on the correct choices regarding their consumptive patterns as well as monitor their progress because conscious consumption is a daily affair.
The Think.Eat.Save campaign introduced by the UNEP and the FAO is one that has spread rapidly through social media and has been taken up by green bloggers worldwide, with the aim of reducing drastically the amount of wasted food around the globe. The task is an enormous one, but it is my hope that in due time when a consumer is faced with the choice of purchasing food; the decision to buy is made consciously. A would-be shopper should ask himself/herself, “Is this food item really necessary? Is the quantity necessary? Is it made in line with my values? As a result, people will find themselves consuming consciously by supporting organic agriculture and avoiding food wastage. They will thus learn that to be consumption conscious is responsible.
Green apps are mobile phone apps that help to reduce waste. AmpleHarvestis one of such apps. How does it work? Often times, crops yield more than expected, leaving you with a surplus harvest. For these times, the app helps connect home gardeners with surplus produce with registered food pantries, thus reducing food waste and feeding families in need.
Mahatma Gandhi summed up the need for sensible, conscious consumption when he said “The Earth provides enough to satisfy everyone’s need, but not every everyone’s greed”.
5. How Can This Generation As a Whole Make the Shift from Conspicuous to Conscious Consumption? By Deja Dragovic – London, UK.
The richest sentence I’ve ever read said that “wealth is not the possession of abundance, rather it’s the freedom from need”. Unfortunately, as long as the pursuit of money drives our society, and is synonymous with success, recognition, and even respect, we will continue chasing materialistic goals.
Lately, green consumerism and eco-conscious movements have been gaining more publicity, although not because of our belief in their ability to improve environmental outcomes, but because we are ashamed of our consumption practices. As we should be.
But just as we individually and collectively drive the forces of supply and demand (into overdrive!), we should also be able – and willing – to step on the breaks.
We need SOLUTIONS.
The problem is not that people are unaware, the problem is that they don’t care because this is ‘normal’, ‘everyone is doing it’, and also, environmental changes are not personal. We are selfish creatures.
Deep and lasting changes can occur on local, community levels, such as showing support for cooperative, collaborative and sharing principles. A slice of it resulted from reduce-reuse-recycle campaigns, but sadly, the rest was due to people’s financial constraints.
Because we are conditioned to think and behave according to what our social circle approves of, the only way to reverse the scale of conspicuous consumption is to shame the people who flaunt their materialistic means by disapproving of their behaviour.
Realistically, while in the developed world we may be getting a bit bored of trivial luxuries, there are millions of people in the emerging economies that are just coming to their means and learning how to channel their newly acquired powers. And it is a horrifying image.
For change to happen on a large scale, to become a movement, something has to drive it, something radical. The Occupy movement was a movement because 1) it was pro-active, 2) it provoked everybody, and 3) it was cool, in a rebellious kind of way.
So, conscious consumption has to become a lifestyle, not a trend, but it should start like a trend because trends help propel ideas. Can ‘moderation’ suddenly become cool? For it to reach a critical mass, the general public has to see a benefit. An immediate benefit. We are spoiled creatures.
Still, the most gratifying activities in life are completely free: a laugh with friends, a morning swim, sex… Instead, we go for a higher ‘high’ and a more intense adrenaline rush: base jumping, heli skiing, swimming with the sharks – all incredibly thrilling, but also incredibly expensive adventures. They are addictive because they create an (artificial) escape from an ordinary routine, eventually becoming a very pricey lifestyle that needs constant upkeep. We are creatures of bad habits.
The fundamental question is: how to find gratification in non-material things, making them equally appealing, and simultaneously dispel the myth that purchasing things make us happy?
Let’s establish a Ministry of Happiness and put it in charge of maintaining a level of contentment by helping the public balance personal development, relationships and career.
This Ministry will ensure that the use of phrase “retail therapy” is aborted. It will lobby for 3-day weekends and 6-week annual vacations. Not to worry, no company or organization is that productive, businesses will survive. Alternatively, they can hire people as fillers, thus reducing unemployment rates: win-win.
It will decrease our salaries accordingly because the aim is simply more leisure time to devote to creative pursuits, not more time to acquire possessions.
On a more serious note, its ‘mindless to mindful consumption campaign‘ will address the fundamental underlying issues: vanity, passivity, the need to escape from ordinary life, irrational consumerist behaviour – in other words, the lack of interest, motivation or energy for a fulfilled life.
It’s a thin line between a problem and a solution, and this line is:
‘no, I don’t need it, I’m content‘.
6. A Simple Tool for a Big Change By Elizabeth Bold – Brisbane, Australia.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the challenge of buying ethically?
I’ve discovered a handy little booklet that is currently helping me switch brands at the supermarket. It’s called Shop Ethical! The Guide to Ethical Supermarket Shopping.
Both the booklet and the smartphone app lists almost every brand available in Australian supermarkets, and it turns out there are environmentally and ethically sound products for every category of product available on the shelves.
The really great news is the booklet isn’t guilty of ‘information overload’. Instead it provides a good introduction to the major environmental and ethical issues of our time in a simple and easy to digest format.
It also provides guidance on how to use your power as a consumer to be part of the solution rather than the problem.
Some of the issues the booklet empowers consumers to fight with their dollar:
- Palm oil industry – responsible for decimating Indonesia’s rainforest and orangutans
- Single-use plastic packaging – for example bottled water, a product only widely available in the last 25 years, and which in that short space of time has infiltrated the stomachs of marine life throughout our oceans
- Buying local – reduce ‘food miles’ to reduce greenhouse emissions created by shipping imported food around the world
- Choosing organic – pesticides degrade the soil, and decimate bee populations.
It feels great to know I can financially support responsible companies and products simply by using my weekly grocery budget!
If it’s true the planet’s environmental problems can be attributed to humankind’s collective consumption, or over-consumption, then our consumption could also be the key to our recovery.
In our current age’s economic modus operandi, the consumer dollar is a powerful thing, and can be used to force companies to change their ways.
Withdrawing patronage of brands and companies that engage in environmentally destructive practices, and switching to brands who are environmentally sound, sends a powerful message to the brands we’ve dumped. After all, a company is nothing without customers.
Conscious consuming needn’t stop at the supermarket. It can and should be extended to any organisation we give our money to such as banks, superannuation funds, share trading, and furniture, clothing, and electronics companies. It’s an ethos that can be applied to any product we consume.
But whilst many of us care about the environment, it’s not always easy to do the research into every brand and organisation we endorse with our cash.
This is where social media comes in. It’s a platform to share our discoveries with our personal community, who then may share information that resonates with them with their communities, and so on. It has the power to take a blog post about conscious consuming and multiple its effectiveness.
Social media is a highly effective way to circumnavigate old avenues of how ‘messages’ are shared with consumers. Advertising, mainstream news, and government campaigns, are all modes of communication not controlled by consumers.
But sharing on social media is. And the way we spend our money is also in our control.
If you’ve found this blog post useful, vote for me on the World Environment Day website for the United Nations Environment Program blogging contest.
Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with the Ethical Consumer Group Inc, publisher of the Shop Ethical! guide.
7. Why You Should Consume By Heidi Beckwith – Omaha, United States of America.
How do we get this generation to move from conspicuous to conscious consumption you ask? I say we don’t. If we stop consuming, society could face very serious repercussions. Here are just a few reasons to keep on consuming.
Repairs are for wimps.
I mean who would want to have something that’s used, that works perfectly fine, that costs less money, is probably better made, and that you worked on yourself when you can have something that’s new. Repairs [ [http://www.ifixit.com/]] are for those who enjoy spending time on worthless pursuits like friends, or new skills, not those who prefer making lots of money. And we all know that money buys us happiness, stability and power. So don’t be a wimp, buy new.
It’s fun to get a reaction out of others.
When you bring home the newer, bigger television you know you want to see it. That look of awe, envy, resentment. You’ve worked overtime for weeks, drudging away at your job, and allowing yourself no free time, not even to watch TV. You deserve it. And when you drive away in a cloud of smoke it’s just so fun to watch other people cough your fumes. And no, there is no other way to get attention.
Ignorance is bliss.
Climate change deniers have it right. What you refuse to believe even though science supports it, can’t hurt you. Nevermind that the Mayan civilization (Yep, one of those who built whole pyramids without the wheel) disappeared in under 100 years [http://www.history.com/topics/maya]. You’ll be dead in 100 years anyways, and heck, only caring about the planet when you are alive is what makes the world economy go round right?
Shepard Fairy [http://www.obeygiant.com/] has it right. If you watch television or read magazines you know what you must do. You need a new car. You need a specific brand of yogurt. You need that body. If you don’t, what will people think of you? And of course, you need to care what everyone thinks. Individualism really isn’t what America’s about, selfishness is.
Reason #5. You don’t have to think about it.
You know you’re too busy, working too many hours to really sit down and evaluate how to be fulfilled in life. So don’t do it. Don’t sit down, and don’t think about what you really should be doing with your life instead of spending money on things your friends already have.
Build capital not community.
Don’t join one of those time exchanges, or collaborative consumption things, or even make friends. Be independent. Why would you want to have a painting party and pay $60 in paint and pizza, and spend an enjoyable hour with your friends playing with pigments and eating when you can pay someone to do that for you? Work hard and make money. You might be lonely, but you’ll be impressive, and that’s worth a lot more.
Save the thrift store fashionista.
Don’t love your stuff! Donate it instead! If everyone got high quality stuff that they then wore out there would be nothing for the thrift store fashionista to wear (Here’s an example of my sister [http://amiable.lookfab.com/post/wiw-red-jeans-lotsa-ways-and-lotsa-pics], I mean, she does look good, but it’s all because of you). How is she supposed to supply her life with perfectly working appliances, furniture, tools, and clothes without your donations?
All nature is meant to make us think of paradise. – Thomas Merton
8. Diamonds are Not Forever By Inka Leisma – Espoo, Finland.
I come from a land of a thousand lakes, dense forests, and practical problem solving. Actually, Finland’s country brand is pretty much built on our problem solving ability. Lend us your problems, and we’ll solve them with interest, we say. And the world has plenty to offer when it comes to daunting global tasks, such as shifting focus from conspicuous to conscious consumption.
What is conspicuous consumption really? I’m not a sociologist, but I’d say it’s somewhere between wasting 222 million tonnes of food per year and investing crazy amounts of money in brands we believe will shape our soul in the eyes of others.
In affluent Finland, ecological and ethical choices may be tools for social status already, whereas in less affluent Laos, one of the world’s least developed countries where I’ve lived and loved for a year, the bigger the car, the better. If we were able to change the global norm towards conscious consumption, it wouldn’t matter where you are or what stage of development your country is in.
Regardless of my dreams of decent work and education for all, I fear our self-indulgence prevents us from changing our ways until a global crisis forces us all to come together and change. Climate change is a top candidate in this terrifying game of chicken. We are all already witnessing the effects, some people more than others.
And yet, the easiest thing in this world is to ignore, to look away and let someone else take responsibility. But we know that change begins with one person – you.
Before we let ourselves and our fellow citizens all over the world drown in the consequences of climate change, this generation as a whole can turn dreams into reality. That’s where social media, moving the masses, changing legislation, and finally, changing attitudes, come into play.
Complex problem solving squeezed simple: remove options that are heavy with environmental and social baggage from both consumers and producers. How to do that? Change legislation and make sure laws are implemented. How to do that? Create enough political and consumer pressure. How to do that? Make your voice heard, and make sure your friends are loud and share your message. How to do that? Start asking questions.
And suddenly, the fact that a person died of silicosis after sandblasting your jeans for a stylish worn-out look, is simply too much to carry on your hips. The jeans become too difficult to sell, and unacceptable to produce. The rules of the game change, and what once was in the margin, becomes mainstream.
The change I want to see is not only about what you wear or what you eat, but also how your food is produced, how you heat or cool your house, what moves you around and drives you forward.
They say diamonds are forever, but they are not – just like the planet and its living beings are not forever. The only choice we have is to not continue with business as usual.
Practical problem solving in its simplest form? Stop looking away and start asking questions. Demand answers. Ask for yourself, and for those who can’t make their own voices heard. It is your responsibility.
PS. You want to know what I did recently to celebrate a small personal victory? I got myself a fabulous new dress. Necessary? Hardly. Ethical and ecological? Probably not. The change I’m talking about begins with me, too.
9. Think.Eat.Save: Lessons From A Compost Boy And His Apple Tree By Ty Schmidt
(My son, Carter, helped me write this piece. I wrote it from his perspective.).
I have a special apple tree. When I was 3, I helped my dad plant it along with 6 other fruit trees in our backyard. Over the past 5 years, I have watched it grow from a wimpy little stick into a beautiful, sturdy tree. I love this tree.
Every year, this tree pours its heart into giving me the most delicious apples. It works super hard. To return the favor, I work hard to take care of it. I prune it. Mulch and water it. And since I grow my apples organically, I use the compost from my pile to feed it.
This isn’t just any compost. This is 100% local compost grown with love in my backyard. I grow it myself using the kitchen scraps from my picker-upper business. I work hard to get it just right. A perfect ratio of “greens” to “browns”. Turning the pile to bring in oxygen and heat it up. I make it nice and cozy to invite worms. This is the best compost with the finest organic nutrients that an apple tree could want. This makes the tree happy.
In the fall, at harvest time, I remember all of this hard work. The efforts of the tree, the bees, the worms, and my work with the compost. I think of all of this as I eat the apple. I savor it. I eat it slow. I eat the whole thing. Core, seeds and all.
It’s the least I can do.
Like Mr. Sendak wrote, “I love you so, I’ll eat you up.”
Of course, this is about more than just an apple from an 8 year old’s backyard. This about all food. Whether you grow it yourself or buy it at the store, all food is precious. All food requires hard work and should never be wasted.
This is why I get bummed to see perfectly fine and still yummy apples in my compost bucket. I hate to pick on my awesome neighbors because it isn’t just them. It is all of us. My family and probably yours too. The facts are overwhelming.
We need to change. The question is how? How can we as a whole move away from the idea of conspicuous consumption to making more conscious food decisions?
I don’t have all the answers but I do believe that there is hope. I have trust in us, the kids, the next generation. I trust that, with a little help from our parents and teachers, we can make a world where the apple, and the compost it’s grown in, is deemed too precious to waste.
So, mum and dad, get those kids outside into the garden. Have them sow the seeds, plant the starts and water the transplants. Show them how to dig in the soil, explore the compost pile, wrangle worms, and play in the dirt.
After they’re done playing, have those kids help with the hard work too. Turn the pile. Weed the bed. Mulch the orchard. Encourage them to become a Compost Boy (or Girl!) and to sling buckets in their neighborhood (pulling 60 kg of kitchen scraps with your bike is not easy!!).
All this hard work will not only help them appreciate the veggies they grow but also the food on their dinner table and in their school cafeteria.
Finally, plant an apple tree this spring. Teach your child to care for it. To nurture it. To love it. And when those apples are ripe, show them how to eat the whole thing. Core, seeds and all.
It’s the least you can do.
“I love you so, I’ll eat you up”.
10. How Loving the Internet can Save the Earth! By Stefanie Hart Neidenberg – Colorado, USA.
I’m having coffee with a friend the other day and a few quiet moments pass…
“I love the Internet,” she says, “it has, everything” We laugh because her sentiment is true in so many ways. There has never been a time before when we rely so much on technology to define our lifestyles. And there has never been such an easy accessible method of learning, staying in touch and navigating modern life.
We seek out Internet cafes when we travel. We carry access with us at all times on our phones and rely on it to inform choices about where we shop and eat, how we travel, how we stay healthy, raise children, how we express ourselves, and the ways we have fun.
Our favorite websites and applications allow us to cultivate relationships and interact with the world in a purposeful manner. If we don’t have a sense of purpose we are likely to feel lost in the cloud of possibilities. We are adept at making choices even if they are sometimes made superficial by the interface of the internet. We like to comment, connect, express our opinions…we love multimedia…video, photos, music, articles, humor, and anecdotes. We have a powerful tool that allows us to self-reflect, define values, and learn about the world outside of our bubble.
For the environmental movement it means that we are able to harness the power of community to raise eco-consciousness in all areas of life.
I tend to operate with assumption that everyone wants what is best for themselves and their world. That if given the choice of greener, healthier options most people would say yes.
However, we may be limited by lack of access to greener products, education about more ecologically sound solutions to everyday problems, or societal prejudices that block thinking about a healthy relationship to the environment. The internet and the social networks we participate in offer a chance to break free from these limitations. We can connect with eco-minded individuals, businesses and educational resources that increase our ability to make smarter choices. We can grow a community online that supports creativity, expression and the power of group thinking for a better world.
From Ant Colonies to the Internet, how do groups organize and behave? Listen to Radiolab’s podcast about “Emergence” http://www.radiolab.org/2007/aug/14/
At greener50.com my partners and I created a specialized social network which seeks to weave these threads together. We are working to foster an online eco-community which will motivate conscious consumers and promote an eco-smart lifestyle. The site has three components:
Find This part of the site includes a directory of green businesses, organizations and individuals where people can find each other.
Learn Individuals can follow businesses, blogs or organizations, ask questions and stay informed with news and updates. Through discussion forums people can share and discuss green living topics.
Connect Through the online community we can move forward in a more sustainable way and make friends while doing it. The goal is to make connecting with one another easier and to unclutter your other social media feeds by using a network with a specific purpose.
We are excited about the potential the site has to bring people together and change lives. It is only one example of how social media can support eco-consciousness. Innovation is everywhere and provides countless opportunities for growth, creativity and learning. Every time you post, comment and share you contribute to change.
Be inspired! Participate! Your love of the Internet could result in changing the world…making it a better place…and maybe even saving it!
The opinions expressed in these articles are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of UNEP.