The ongoing climate conference COP26 as well as the popular theme of sustainability calls each and every one of us to take an honest inner inventory. I mean, we’re all rational intelligent human beings right? So where’s the problem? What is the challenge of building a more sustainable world REALLY about? That is;
WHY IS IT SO DIFFICULT TO COMMITTING TO SAVING THE PLANET?
“You’re the change”. The new slogan of my friend’s company got me thinking that this is the truth environmental activists have been trying to get across for so long. Why haven’t we been able to take it in?
A couple of years ago I was in a business meeting where we started speaking about the environmental effects of ordering, and later returning, clothes from online shopping. We got into a debate in which a person in the room said “I don’t care about the effects, I just want my clothes at the best price”. My jaw dropped open. Not only because this person violated societal norms but because they really meant what they said. It also summarized the entire problem so clearly in one plump sentence; “I just care about me”. And it became obvious that this was what most were thinking but weren’t willing to say.
This was clearly the root. ME. You. Not us. Separation, division and with it; competition and conflicts of interest. I have my needs, my desires and I also have my dislikes. Protecting the sum of these which is the ME is what takes providence before everything else. It’s all rooted in fear and when it comes to that there’s no room for you or for us.
This way of thinking takes its expression in every political debate, causes every war, is what our fundamental economic structure is built upon and is also what now prevents us from committing to stopping a total environmental crisis. This is the roadblock from building a more sustainable world and it is cemented in every one of us.
No, this is not something new. In the bible, (which I interpret as a series of allegories) the ego is illustrated as the snake in the garden of Eden. What would have happened if Eve had resisted listening to the snake? Are you wiser than her? Have we really evolved that much since the dawn of man when this story was portrayed? Have we or do you just want your clothes at the lowest price possible?
My aim is not to point fingers but rather to increase awareness of where the challenge lies, which is in each and every one of us. We all have this tendency. Perhaps that’s the entire point with the allegory of the snake in the garden of Eden. The snake lives there but like Eve, we need to make a conscious decision whether to listen to it or not. First though, we need to learn what type of an animal a snake is, what its arguments of trying to get us to eat the apple typically sounds like. That’s how we’ll learn how to recognize it and only then do we have the foundation on which we can begin to create something sustainable.