Wednesday, June 4, 2008

World Environment Day: The ReCycling of Stinky-thinking?

There is this great comment in Campbell Roberts and Danielle Strickland (2008), Just Imagine that captures some of what fuels my imagination and some of what causes my own sense of dis-ease on World Environment Day. Look at this:

"To fathom the magnitude of what Wilberforce did we have to see that the 'disease' he vanquished forever was actually neither the slave trade nor slavery. Slavery still exists around the world today, in such measure as we can hardly fathom. What Wilberforce vanquished was something even worse than slavery, something that was much more fundamental and can hardly be seen from where we stand today; he vanquished the very mind-set that made slavery acceptable and allowed it to survive and thrive for millennia. He destroyed an entire way of seeing the world, one that held sway from the beginning of history, and he replaced it with another way of seeing the world. Included in the old way of seeing things was the evil idea that the evil of slavery was good. Wilberforce murdered that old way of seeing things, and so the idea that slavery was good died along with it... the idea that slavery is inextricably intertwined with human civilization, and part of the way things are supposed to be, and economically necessary and morally defensible, is gone."
Campbell Roberts and Danielle Strickland, (2008) Just Imagine.

Deep, eh - this is what it got me thinking.
Even though it is good that there is a growing glocal commitment to the down-sizing of our carbon-footprint, a growing concern to keep planet earth "clean and green", and a growing investment in fair trade (even McDonalds, the historical Arch enemy, excuse the pun, of environmental ethics and equity in employment, has now launched a coffee at its McCafes that is somehow more fairer for the growers and somehow more gentler on the planet; good gosh, there is even now a carbon-neutral magazine called "Good" (click on that is cram-packed with good information to help you "make wise choices for yourself, your family and our planet", and is literally stuffed with eco-friendlier or "greener" products to stockpile and fill your home with - its all good stuff, or if you're like me cynical and crusty, its simply more stuff!), there is in my limited frame of sight no honest public challenge or countering of the paradigm of seeing nor of the pollutant-stinky-thinking that has fueled the glocal crisis of over-consumption we’re now facing. Today, if you listen carefully, the loudest commotion you catch in the media is the noise of the newer eco-friendlier sales-pitches and the spin of smart and savvy corporations that are trying to cash in on “green”. Its now "hip", "cool", "in", "sexy" to be "green" (go Kermy the Frog, sorry, a childhood flashback there) and, like the former manipulations of sex in commercials, the label "green" is now what sells. I find that sad and a little troubling. The desire to consume, the greed, the discovery and investment of our identify in and through the purchase of objects, the objectification of life, the pursuit of “more”, the misplaced “theo-capitalism” (Tom Beaudoin) - the faith/trust we place in the market to deliver what God gifts - is simply “greened”, re-packaged, and re-sold to you, only this time in and through the pursuit of the fastest, coolest, latest, and sexiest “environmentally-friendly-thing”. We’re still flirting with over-consumption. The earth is still one giant shopping mall (though, to be fair, in some larger chains the energy-conscious management have dimmed the lights to try and limit the ecological footprint of the stores). The planet is still for sale. We’ve simply gift-wrapped the product in shades of green. We've simply shifted our hard-earned cash sideways. Is that enough? There has to be some critical discernment and open dialogue. Think of the enormous commitments, the massive monetary and scientific investments we're making in agrifuels, a commitment which is in part grounded in our desire to keep our planet "green" and in part in our desire to keep the car-driven-commuter-centric shape of our economies the same, it is a commitment and a desire that is having a dangerous impact on the production and supply of food to hungrier nations. Our neighbours. Some commentators now openly talk of "food wars". Isn't there something seriously faulty in this thinking?

I hear echoes of Albert Einstein who claimed: “Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction... We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Similarly, Naomi Klein in No Logo (2000) insists that today the healing of our planet depends on the decolonization of our imaginations, on somehow freeing and re-claiming our private head-space, on somehow freeing and re-claiming our public spaces from the logic, mindsets, and spin of over-consumption. I’m not mocking the “green movement”, the eating of fair trade chocolate (I still can’t stop at one piece though, can you?), or the donning of organically grown and ethically sown cotton t-shirts (click on and I’m certainly not knocking the hugging of trees. The Creation is simply good and deserves our genuine repentance. The only thing I’m trying to say is this: why can’t we slow down and take a longer harder look? why not chase the tougher questions? what is the logic, the spin, the stinky-thinking, the system that is driving a lot of our dis-ease? where is the “Lordship of Christ” in this? why should we let the market piggyback on and re-sell to you and me our honest need of repentance? why should we let this critical glocal issue simply get the same lame treatment of other passing fads? why not on World Environment Day make a covenant with God and with others to imitate something of Wilberforce and try to create a public conversation, a dialogue that helps people find and live from within a truly counter-cultural paradigm of seeing and thinking? Surely that would lead to something more sustainable.

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