If you are reading this blog, it is likely that you consider yourself “green,” or, at least, you are trying to do your part to be more environmentally minded, environmentally sensitive and environmentally responsible. Whether you are aware of it or not, you are a part of the green movement. And each part makes the green movement what it is — the entity it is — (on the global scale, the national scale, the regional scale, the local scale, and the personal scale).
Throughout the course of our life and our efforts, we have to step back and look at how effective we are at achieving our goals, how far our good intentions are actually taking us, how “green” our lifestyles are. We have to look at how much our green actions are doing to really protect and conserve the environment. At the same time, if we are trying to be a part of this green movement (which is growing in name, in respect, and, to some degree, in overall influence), we have to step back and evaluate the trajectory of the green movement, how effective the overall movement is in making our dreams of a safe, secure, sustainable, lively, and vibrant environment a true reality.
To be honest, I have been involved in the green movement since childhood and am fairly “extreme,” sincere, or devoted in my efforts to be green and to do my part. Nonetheless, I just moved to Poland from the U.S. and I have found that I have habits and ways of thinking that are greatly less sustainable, less environmentally sensitive, than the normal, average Pole who does not have any special care or concern for the environment and may just have the vaguest sense of what the “green movement” or “green living” is.
Why the great disparity in our actions and ways of life, despite the fact that I am the “green”?
It is not an untouched subject, for sure — the basic essence of it is that Poland is a poorer country and has been for a long time and the lifestyles and behaviors of people here are partly a result of that. People live in much smaller spaces, reuse so much more than we (Americans) typically do, buy much less in general (whether it is “green” or not), consume fewer “cheap,” unnecessary, disposable goods, and so on.
Noticing all of this, it brings to my attention (more so than before), how much is invisible and ingrained in our way of life, the great relevance of the society we live in and are surrounded by, and the things outside of us that impress so much on us that they can affect our way of life beyond our conscious interests.
In the end, this brings up the ever-important task of self-evaluation and continuous evaluation of the green movement. What are our specific goals and are we actually on track to achieving them? What do we need to do next to to achieve our goals?
Recently I was having an interesting debate with an ex-patriot friend of mine who was visiting me (in NYC) from Argentina. My point of view was that there is a “current of progress” that runs throughout history and, among other examples, it can be seen now in the mobilized and global response to climate change. His point was that there is no “current of progress” only “change”, and that in some parts of the world like Africa and some parts of South America things have only gotten much worse. Anyway he went on to describe how the gap between the rich and the poor is so much more obvious in Buenos Aries, and that the trend is only getting worse. What came clear from the discussion was that we both saw the world quite differently and very much influenced by our respective immediate life situations.
Since that discussion I find myself taking notice of the little day-to-day things that I always take for granted. I think self evaluation is a must and it must go beyond ourselves and into the fabric of our everyday lives. It’s the assumptions, thoughts and ideas that we hold so close to us that we can’t see them, that hold the most promise for understanding and growth.
I agree with you that there is a disparity between those who consider ourselves “green” on the lower end and or “environmentalists” on the higher end, compared to peoples from “poorer” countries who have better sustainable habits than we do (albeit from not being able to afford as many material goods) As you say, they don’t consider themselves green and don’t really even know what environmentalism is.
I think that one of the things that we need to evaluate (as a western society) is our need to place iconic representations on the things we own as symbolic of our careers, our “making it” and ourselves. When we realize that we can fulfill ourselves with “who we are” compared to fulfilling through ownership, we all will be one step closer to living sustainably.
Thanks for posting this.