Why Pragmatism Will Save the World

After reading GreenKeen’s post, I felt compelled to weigh in on Blog Action Day.

As someone who has heard many reasons in the last year why people don’t want to become more energy efficient, I thought I would share most of them: “I’m too busy. I’m not interested. That sounds expensive. I don’t like the sound of that. I don’t want to make big changes. That sounds difficult. That sounds inconvenient. I’ll do it later. I’ve had a bad previous experience.”

Top reason for becoming more energy efficient? “Hm. Ok! That sounds interesting. Send me some more information. I’ll think about it. Maybe. I’ll try that. That sounds do-able. It can’t hurt.”

The recession has done a number on our openness to change. We want to batten down the hatches, maintain business as usual with pure tenacity, and for pity’s sake – we don’t want to do anything stupid and be swindled out of our money.

And that’s totally valid. And we environmentalists need to start treating these fears as being totally valid. The sooner we stop blaming people for being stupid and irrational (WHY ARE YOU KILLING THE POLAR BEARS), the sooner we start making real change. A lot of this makes common sense. The more we environmentalists can reassure, the better off we will be. We are so used to selling our ideas with fear (THE POLAR BEARS AND RAINFORESTS AND THE MELTING POLAR ICE CAP). These scary things are happening, but to make them stop happening we need to fight on our home front with gentle persuasion – trust and relationship building and fantastic success stories from unexpected places (um, Dow? Wal-Mart? UPS? OK!).

Environmental activism has served an important purpose, but there is a new place for environmental pragmatism. Purism shuts down conversation more than it encourages change. We need to approach this in a new way. Not all good environmental changes make economic sense, but a whole heck of a lot of them do. Here are some ways to help us move forward:

1. As a customer, tell companies what you think. I’m not good at this – I just get annoyed that Holy Land added way more packaging and that all the restaurants in the skyway use styrofoam cups and plates. Vote with your dollar.

2. As an employee, do what you can. Sometimes this goes well, sometimes this doesn’t. Try. Asking never hurts, and you might inspire somebody and get bonus points for saving your workplace money. If you want ideas, go here.

3. As a neighbor and a citizen, do your part and start some conversations. Peer pressure is the most effective way to encourage energy efficiency.

We need to do this differently – we need to start conceptualizing this differently and talking about this differently – because the current paradigm isn’t working.

1 Comment »

  1. greenkeen said

    ahhh good thoughts! I’m bad with #1, as well. And a lot of times I won’t go back to the store/restaurant because of their non-sustainable practices…but then I wonder if they will they even realize I’m gone? Maybe it’s good to speak up or fill out a comment card/tell a manager why they have lost a customer so they can get inspired

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