Environmental hypocrisy and why that's okay.
I feel like 99% of the people that care about the environment are also hypocrites. There. I said it and that also includes myself.
But wait, please let me explain.
In today’s world, unless you are living completely off grid and somewhat removed from society it’s hard to live completely green – and sometimes, yes, we fail.
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, wherever you fall on the spectrum of making an effort.
This is something I think about a lot and that my partner and I discuss frequently in terms of how we make decisions and try to steer our lives. How can we be active, functioning members of society and enjoy all that life has to offer while also minimising our impact on this planet?
I consider myself an environmentalist and passionate about sustainability, it’s one of the reasons I co-founded bettercup. Yet, I bought a new car less than a year ago which is arguably one of the most polluting devices in modern day life. I advocate for improved public transport and encourage others to walk, bike, bus and train but I also needed to commute 64km each way from a rural area, 5 days a week.
Sometimes I leave the lights on when I shouldn’t, I don’t always air dry my clothes and I have the latest phone. *sigh*.
I know people that are zero waste but eat vast amounts of meat. Vegan and cruelty free advocates that regularly purchase fast fashion. Mates that focus on buying locally made food but are always travelling to far flung destinations via plane. Look. There are so many examples. The list is endless.
Perfection is impossible guys. And that’s okay.
To be honest, making a choice to live a more ethical or sustainable life takes time, considerable thought and effort and I applaud everyone for all efforts they make. Big or small.
Anyone that does, juggles a kind of hypocrisy that is an inescapable necessity but a delight for any critic. Trying to live the perfect green lifestyle in an economy that was structurally designed to promote fossil fuel dependence, vast amounts of waste and consumption is trying to swim against the tide.
Every effort makes a difference. We can’t hold ourselves nor should we hold others to an impossible standard and there’s no logic in the all or nothing kind of thinking. It’s not like “Oh, I’ll never be super rich so I won’t bother getting a job” or “I’ll never own a multimillion dollar mansion so I might as well be homeless”. That’s absurd.
There are many people out there who are torn between the change they want to create and the ability to do the things they need and there are circumstances that also make our choices limited, whether this be location, financial or personal responsibilities. The hypocrisy is a delicate balancing act and to avoid it, you would need to run off into the bush and go off grid and leave society, you would certainly subtract a lot of your environmental impact by doing so. However, for most of us, this isn’t an option, nor do we want (or should have to) to leave our community of family and friends.
If you begin to make small changes such as using reusable bags, cloth nappies, composting your scraps, eating more vegetarian meals you’re dipping your toe into an often-mocked world. On one had you’ll get criticised for trying at all and on the other for not doing enough. By making changes you will open yourself up to critique and sometimes be asked to justify your decisions to change anything when you’re not committing to change EVERYTHING. This can be intimidating, and you may suddenly be expected to have all the answers about a variety of environmental topics (speaking from experience). Don’t let others discourage you.
We can either accept the status quo or work towards something better and if someone is trying to do even one good thing, let’s not berate them for not doing another thing as well as or instead of. Instead let’s work alongside and encourage, educate and inspire in a positive way. Doing good often looks less like living in a bush hut and more like trying to exist in an uncomfortably unsustainable society while also trying to change it.
Look at what has happened with single use bags as it became more and more of a talking point around the world? All that change started at the individual level and created large scale impact.
Let’s embrace anyone and everyone who is making a stand in their own way.
Because all of us are hypocrites. And all of us are agents for change together.