In a way, you could say that I’ve given up.
You see, I was one of those “eco”-people who wanted to change the world, to set it on a path towards a better future. In my teens, I was on Austrian national TV often enough for schoolmates to call me “eco,” and ask:
Why the f*ck should I care about YOUR environment?
Children and fools. I took it as a sign of how much better communication needs to be – or rather, how much more it ought to actually be about people and their lives.
My second wake up-call came when I tried to work with an environmental organization.
It was a time when genetically modified organisms where only just being created, and there was considerable concern about them. The “Flavr-Savr” tomato (meant to stay “fresh” for longer) had only just come out. People didn’t much like the idea. (Austrians and Germans still don’t.)
There was a bit of a struggle between sides. My suggestion:
Cook with heirloom tomatoes, let people enjoy their great taste – and ask why they should want the GMO that doesn’t taste, is meant to keep long so that you can’t tell whether it’s really fresh, and is currently only used in purees.
Make a performance of scientists in lab coats playing God, having a tomatoxic spill and requiring hazmat-suits to clean it up.
Let me say it like this:
Shortly after, Greenpeace ran a spot where the GM tomato suddenly grows like a balloon, pushing the scientists who played with its genes against the lab walls.
Things have been going on like this – with fear and responsibility as one main argument – for a long time. The recently added argument was for the pleasures of luxurious “green” products. Either way, you are supposed to spend (donate, or buy) your way out.
A change in consumerism doesn’t change enough.
The alternative way suggests that you should not “change your lightbulbs, [but] change your politicians.” Well, as we can see in the rise of populism, in the stalled climate talks (or, for that matter, in the continually proclaimed and never achieved-US independence from foreign oil), political change is not going to do it.
The only way forward that I can see is cultural change:
Wanting to live differently, and to have the world – of politics, economics, and technological infrastructure – become different, because people are inventing other ways, and because it’s better for us: it makes lives happier and richer, it makes societies function better and nations more secure, and you can make a living from it.
Obviously, some things are going to be more difficult than others. So, I start where I can: at the small – and sometimes not so small – ways in which we as individuals can live happier and richer lives by connecting with the world that is around us, that we are a part of. It may not change the world immediately, but at least it’s something a person can do, and for his/her own good. I, for one, am sure gonna try.