It’s not my fault

Every man and his dog has written an ebook and not even those by the dogs sell all that well. So rather than let one of mine languish in the vaults of Smashwords, here is a chapter from Environmental Issues for Real for your reading pleasure.

Chapter 11

Environmental Issues For Real

It’s not my fault

“I am a weapon of massive consumption. It’s not my fault it’s how I’m programmed to function.”

The wonderful Lilly Allen wrote this profound lyric in her song The Fear and it sums up our situation perfectly. This is our way and always has been. We have been successful because at our core we are driven to more making and we cannot help it. It should be no surprise that over time western society has shunned Dickensian poverty and the conservatism of the Victorians for a more generous way of life. We aspire to live like kings, always have and always will.

Innately we are fearful of lack and this explains our conservatism, but we also believe that there is plenty. We default to the notion that even if it is tough now, tomorrow will be much better and good for making hay.

An observation made by a friend of mine who recently retired from a distinguished career as a public servant in agricultural policy gave me pause. After observing the agricultural community in Australia for several decades his comment was that farmers take up practices that improve productivity and sustainability only when times are good. When it’s tough they just do what it takes to stay viable.

One implication of this logical and insightful observation is that future food production is dependent on how well farmers are doing now, in the immediate.

Another is that sustainability is a challenge. Frugality is a learned response for times of hardship and we don’t like it. Despite our best intentions we don’t show restraint naturally.

This collection of essays on environmental issues with their peculiar takes on what we understand by environmentalism came together because we are missing something.

Our debate has been about how the environment is hurting, that we are to blame and only we can do something about it. Only the environment does not hurt, it just responds. Evolution has come about in spite of all the disturbances, atmospheric upheavals and changing climate. And evolution will be ongoing with or without us and the environment will always be there doing its thing.

Real environmental issues are about us. They are about how we will cope with the notion that perhaps we are reaching the limit, that unlike the experience of our ancestors, today, here, there is not a new fertile valley to exploit just across the next ridge, because today that valley already has people in it.

Of course we have been told about all the environmental issues many times. The natural wonders of the world have come into our lounge rooms to inspire us. Vocal advocates for the environment have shouted at us for our excesses. We are even being forced to dip into our pockets to pay for the hidden cost of resource use (what the economists call externalities) through a carbon price. So we know all about the issues.

What we are missing is the awareness of this reality. We have chosen to ignore the consequences of our success.

Fortunately awareness is just a yoga class or two away. But that is another story.

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