Some thoughts on Change

Derrick Jensen, activist and author: “…Consumer culture and the capitalist mindset have taught us to substitute acts of personal consumption (or enlightenment) for organized political resistance. An Inconvenient Truth helped raise consciousness about global warming. But did you notice that all of the solutions presented had to do with personal consumption—changing light bulbs, inflating tires, driving half as much—and had nothing to do with shifting power away from corporations, or stopping the growth economy that is destroying the planet?…

“…I want to be clear. I’m not saying we shouldn’t live simply. I live reasonably simply myself, but I don’t pretend that not buying much (or not driving much, or not having kids) is a powerful political act, or that it’s deeply revolutionary. It’s not. Personal change doesn’t equal social change…”

You can read more of his article from Orion magazine here. Unfortunately he provides almost no answers other than taking on the system. I seem to remember that An Inconvenient Truth advocated that individuals reduce their carbon footprints and consume less and more wisely, but also that they use political and social power as well.

The reason I’m beating this drum today is that I read an alarming (although not alarmist) article in Business Day yesterday about how climate change is affecting fishermen (and women) here in the Western Cape and how the rainfall in the Southern Cape has changed drastically for the worse. It’s easy to overlook the effects of climate change here in Cape Town. What’s a bit more rain here and there and some hotter days in summer? But for those living a few hundred kilometres away, their lives are much worse off now as a result of global warming.

I also read an interesting take on personal and climate change as part of this year’s Blog Action Day (the theme of which is Climate Change). I’ll be interested to read some more on this so let me know if you have any articles or links to recommend.

As for personal change, that’s a subject for a lifetime’s worth of blogs (and books) itself.

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4 Responses to Some thoughts on Change

  1. litlove says:

    We just don’t talk about this enough. Of course individuals should make whatever green changes they can, but this is nothing compared to what politicians could do if they agreed to restrain the big polluting countries. And that is all about big business my friends, and the insistence on growth economies.

    I was talking to my husband just this morning about the change that took place in the 80s. I’d been reading a book written in 1970 in which wealth still gave a person responsibility towards the community. Money was only ever any good for what it could achieve, what it could do. Then the 80s came along and it was all about personally getting rich, such a seductive message that we cannot bear to question it. At all. Alas, I feel quite sure we will ruin the world before we actually agree to change.

  2. I agree that personal changes aren’t enough. But personal change can also impact social change in terms of voter and consumer expectations. If people vote for politicans in support of regulation, then that will happen, and if people stop buying from businesses that pollute then their behaviour will change. It isn’t a consequence of an individual decision but the sum of individual decisions. We are interconnected and our choices mount up.

  3. Harriet says:

    I read that fishermen in Long Island (New York) have reached the point where they can’t pass their businesses on to their children, because the fishing industry won’t be around when their children get old enough to join the business.

    I read another article saying that fish are basically disappearing off of the face of the earth. I can’t believe how many people I know (I would estimate 90%) who have no regard whatsoever for the current condition of the world and it’s climate. They put their cans and bottles in their blue recycling bin (in my county our bins are blue) and call it a day. My friends and family actually make fun of me for being socially, and climate-ly aware.

  4. Pete says:

    Litlove – Very true. And if only the majority of rich people still ascribed to that view. Here we have government ministers buying themselves the most expensive cars (over R1 million each) while unemployment is soaring and tax revenues are way down. But there is a growing green consciousness (even if the cynic in me says it’s too little too late).

    Lilian – I’m with you on the interconnectedness of things and the sum total of individual choices. I’m still wondering about what a new economic order would look like that didn’t put growth as the be all and end all.

    Harriet – Well here most of us don’t even recycle glass, cans and paper. But we also have a growing middle class who have been disadvantaged for so long that their first priority is conspicuous consumption (with environmental concerns way down on the list). It’s depressing.

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