Lately, it seems as if everything is aimed at the “green consumer”. From energy-efficient appliances to hybrid cars, environmental consumerism is in fashion. I’ve always been of the opinion that this evolution of the consumer market has to be a good thing, but my feelings about it are changing. I am now quite convinced that it would be a good thing, if only it were accompanied by a missing ingredient that is essential to creating lasting change: evolution of our society’s ethical values.
Promoting green consumerism as the answer to our planet’s troubles has been embraced whole-heartedly by businesses that have a vested interest in selling more stuff, but there are other champions of this cause, such as environmental groups, who could be more effective by leaving the green marketing to those who stand to profit from it and putting their energy and resources toward inspiring a revival and restoration of ethics.
The marketing strategy is to make “green” a socially desirable quality, increasing the popularity of energy-saving gadgets and hybrid cars. One obvious objection to this approach is that it does nothing to address the serious and pressing issue of consumerism itself, but may in fact actually serve to promote it. The other concerning aspect is that these steps are simply not significant enough, and that over-emphasizing the benefits of these “easy lifestyle changes” is counter-productive, as it teaches people that more substantial change is not necessary.
Emphasizing small changes and promoting them as being significant, without addressing the core issues behind the problems, convinces people that it is possible to ‘make a difference’ without making substantial changes in one’s lifestyle or belief system. In other words, we are training ourselves to be unwilling to make bigger, more difficult changes. With our society and our world on the brink of a major breakdown, it has become imperative that we face up to the need for a radical shift – in lifestyle, behavior and beliefs.
The environment movement stands at a critical point in history, where we are finally in a position to be heard, and for our concerns to be taken seriously. Gone are the days when skeptics could write off the urgent pleas of the environmentalists as being “extreme”. The predictions of global eco-system collapse are coming true, and the urgency grows with every passing day.
It is time now for the environmental movement to turn its attention away from green marketing and toward addressing deeper issues. We need to examine the prevailing lack of environmental concern that has led us to this potentially disastrous situation, and we need to treat the root cause of this problem: humanity’s pandemic of ethical atrophy. This vast spiritual void is isolating us from each other, and from the rest of the natural world.
We need to embrace basic human values: empathy, compassion and respect; for the natural world, for the other animals, and for our fellow humans. By re-evaluating and renewing our commitment to fundamental values, and by calling attention to the need for an ethical evolution, we can create new standards for positive lifestyle choices.
Now is the time for the environment movement – and all movements for positive social change – to converge around the most pressing issues of the day and create a plan of action to offer to the world as a map out of the madness. We need to make the shift from consumerism to conservation, from competition to co-operation, from predation to protection. The keys to a new world of safety and plenty are at our fingertips. What we need is to be open to the necessary changes, to be willing to step into the future that those changes will bring, and to embrace the evolution of values that will illuminate our choices and show us the way forward.
Photo by: Elias Delphinus