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Why Is Going Green So Hard? Because Our System Isn’t

Why Is Going Green So Hard? Because Our System Isn’t

Jill Richardson

Every year around Earth Day, I’m reminded of papers I graded in an environmental sociology class. The assignment was to assess your values, explain how you thought you would live as an adult (about 20 years in the future), and then complete an online calculator to find out: If everyone in the world lived like you, how many planets would we need?

I stopped using a car 11 years ago - and never looked back. I moved into a small town,have been renting - never bought - bought a backpack and started buying everything second-hand from the local secondhand shops one benefiting a church’s community projects, another that pays a living wage and then donates all profits to community projects. I walk about 2 miles a day - average. Joined the food co-op which also pays a living wage, sources from organic local producers and fair trade international and permits me to recycle my plastics (still being used) in the Co-op system. Iḿ on s.s. and medicare. My compost is indoors with a worm factory and goes into my plants and out on the garden. Don’t own a TV only the computer - was once an artist and … thinking about getting back to that. Life is short - I want to live simply so that others can simply live. There is SO MUCH that exists beyond the patterning here - the planet is sentient as far as Iḿ concerned and homo sapiens is short of sapiens sapiens. How do we make it through this birth canal to consciousness? I hope to make the cross-over with a clear conscience - time to start becoming acquainted with the Bardo of Liberation, otherwise known as the elegant poetry of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Deal being that it’s greatest purpose is here and now.


I don’t know that I am correcting Jill Richardson here, I suspect not. But it strikes me that there remains something in this to be made clear.

Surely, Richardson is correct here that something has to be done besides talking about living green. But it is not correct that these kids ought to take a vow of poverty, and we ought to make this clear. Sure, there is a lot to do. Of course we cannot go on burning oodles of energy, like we have. Yes, there are significant limits built into that. But no, you do not need to go address people and say, “Hey, go solve the ills of the planet, but be sure not to access too much of its benefits.”

It is not like many of the people Richardson addresses receive much benefit from their flagrant waste anyway, still less from the booty that they drag around from it. It is perfectly reasonable that they should be appalled at having to give up more of their lives–particularly because that is not the least bit necessary. They just have to change them.

Likely much of this is not what Richardson meant, but it is a very common sort of attitude. common enough that it should be at least disambiguated here. It is also poor advice. No one is going to be able to make a change without some sort of hand on the throttle. Everyone will have to concern him or her self with his or her own needs, and there is no point imagining that the people who make changes will do so by turning away from the planet.

What we have to do, collectively, is not to ignore human needs but to address them, to arrange for their fulfillment. That is done by supporting the ecological system that supports humans, not by destroying it. People and particularly kids are told so often that they have so much to be grateful by the global economy and its knicknacks that they wonder what must be wrong with them that makes them so miserable. In reality, the system of economy that is presented as spoiling them does precious little to support them. It takes their autonomy away to nurture the power schemes of the few who retain power hoping to free themselves from the results of their own crass actions.

No, better we should show people that it is the Earth that mostly gives, and that the economy that mostly takes away. Show them how to supply their needs without bowing and scraping to government and employers, and many will never edge back towards their chains.

And for those who do, shake it up and present it again. We can use the people who leave successfully, who leave successfully even in small part, even with considerable compromise, as examples.

Money does not grow on trees. But food does, and clothing and housing and tools.


Great post .
I like it when you said “live simply so others may simply live .”
I read that a few years back in one of the spiritual books I have .
There will be many ways that humans choose to live off the grid getting back to community living and not being dependant on large corporations and energy suppliers .
After all Dependence is Humanity’s Achilles Heel.

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You are so right- our system isn’t but we are the system. As long as people truly believe that having two cars, a large mcmansion, and trips to Disney- that is what will be reinforced. More people are going off the system, and living a simple life but but for some unfortunately a “simple” life is giving up one trip to Europe a year. More affordable solar, and actually having a commons in towns so that people do not have to travel far to work is very desirable.

You mentioned that the food coop pays a living wage- that is great, but how does that work? Here, people who want to join a food coop for a fee, and then get food in exchange for that. Also, the car happy culture we live in has to give way to more walking ( like that you are able to do that)! Or biking, and a commons where people work and/or congregate. Also, get rid of the Walmarts and other big box nasties, .and so much else.