It’s always tempting to dismiss small actions to help reduce your carbon footprint as ‘useless’, based on your small input not being more than a drop in the ocean. I am guilty of this myself, as I am in other areas of life too. But some sincere soul-searching quickly reveals that environmental complacency can be irrational and harmful to humanity.
Let’s first discuss where this lazy and complacent attitude comes from. Our brains have evolved to maximise ease in our lives and, as humans, we often find ourselves having to go against our ‘instant-gratification monkey’ (our lazy selves) to actually do something effortful; whether that is running errands, completing assignments, or going to the gym. If we consider walking to our destination instead of driving (to contribute less towards air pollution), our instant gratification monkey will stop us, because it simply requires more effort to walk than it does to drive. It will then search for a way to ‘rationalise’ driving, to silence your conscious and rational mind in order to allow your lazy self to win. This is a process that will often play out in our minds subconsciously.
It’s easy to curse and blame the human brain for every fault of ours, but that would be falling into the same trap again. When it comes to environmental degradation, we have few options. Awareness and opposition are simply not enough anymore. Forbes, a pro-capitalist magazine, has admitted that, at the rate at which it’s guzzling the earth’s natural resources, capitalism cannot survive beyond 2050. Call me a doomsdayer, but based on climate change trends today, if our lifestyles do not undergo a radical change we may enter a time where natural disasters will hit our homes, food will become scarce and water will either become contaminated, or simply run short too. This could lead to wars: wars over survival. Fertile land could be destroyed, freshwater reserves (glaciers) could have melted, and our population will also be at a record high. Satellite imagery is already showing worrisome images of raging wildfires and melting ice caps. What’s worse is that our generation is the one that will suffer the consequences. Yes, you may want to reconsider having children too.
Again, after reading this, your mind will be overjoyed if someone were to convince you that ‘you will be fine’, simply because biases of the mind will still exist! Another bias of the mind, one that is worth mentioning, is the ‘normalcy bias’. Every time you open a tap, water comes out. If one day it didn’t, however, you’d be shocked into disbelief because it goes against what’s normal; a few hundred years ago, tap water didn’t exist. Unfortunately, the normalcy bias also keeps us complacent. It fends off thoughts of potential disaster on the basis that if things have been fine until now, they will be fine in the future too.
Miami and Texas are already flooded, wildfires rage in Oregon and California, and science suggests that it may not be long until the Thames Barrier ruptures and London is under water. Sadiq Khan’t (or won’t be able to) do anything then, either. Thinking in a more self-centered light, if your actions won’t save the world, they may just save you. Ordinary people who are conscious of the environment are bringing elevated homes into bigger demand, and are making use of garden-space to grow their own vegetables. What’s more, the campaigning, lobbying and protesting by those who weren’t prey to this mindset has already started to deliver promising results. All diesel and petrol-fuelled cars will be banned in Britain by 2040, and China is planning to follow suit too. The renewable energy industry is booming, in Europe as well as worldwide. Tree-planting projects are on the rise, and the organic foods industry is also experiencing growth. Change isn’t a remote idea. The world is a fast-changing and dynamic place, and our voice counts. What doesn’t count, is our silence.