I drafted this post a couple of weeks ago and have been sitting on whether to post it or not, but I decided to go for it… let’s raise the debate, what’s the worst that could happen?
Basically, I was watching The Big Questions (a beeb Sunday morning debate programme) and one of the questions posed was “is environmentalism the new religion?”. Triggered by the ongoing protest by thousands of school children the debate was interesting and nuanced and got me thinking very much about environmentalism (or at least environmental consideration) as a way of life.
I am not an expert in religious matters but worship of mother earth is a feature of many (primarily past) religions. Various pagan religions include elements of polytheism, related to the planet and natural processes. And I could certainly write pages and pages about this, the different concepts and ideologies are fascinating and I definitely think some of them are on to something… if I was religiously inclined it’s fair to say I would most definitely be among the heathens.
Perhaps we should all be embracing environmentalism not as something extreme, perpetuated by hippies, but as simply a way of life. One of the school children on the programme made a very valid point, I’m paraphrasing here, but essentially – we are all on this earth and that makes environmental issues everyone’s problem.
Simple fact is, we are all riding this rock around the sun, and short of inventing warp drive or growing tatties on mars in your own poo, it’s the only planet we have. Therefore we all need to take a little responsibility over our individual actions. I’m not suggesting that everyone should become a die-hard, hemp wearing, vegan… but we can all do our little bit to help.
Diet is one of the hot topics of the moment, and whilst vegan is undoubtedly good for your carbon footprint, it might not actually overall be the best thing for sustainability or indeed health-wise. Not to mention the loss of culture and conservation associated with the rearing of animals for meat and dairy. And sometimes swapping one thing for another merely shifts the problem elsewhere.
What we need is informed and educational news and information on how exactly we as individuals, ought to go about living in a way that ensures a sustainable future for the planet, and big business and policy makers need to buy-in too. Is this an enormous challenge? Certainly. Is it too great? Absolutely not!
I have talked about this before and it is undoubtedly one of the failings of the more extreme of the environmental campaigners, is the constant message of doom and gloom a turn off? We can do all the meaningful science and models until we are blue in the face, but if we can’t communicate them effectively are we actually achieving anything?
Perhaps we all need to make trade-offs, compromises of sorts, like fancy a steak? Crack on but make sure it’s responsibly sourced and eat veggie for a few days. Need to take a flight? Carbon offset. Short on time and have to eat that pre-packed ready meal? Reuse or rinse and recycle the packet. Fact is, if we all did a little bit, all of those individual actions add up to big changes.
There’s also a great deal of debate around whether the students should have been allowed to protest in school time. Not only did one of the kids on the programme make a brilliant point – that if they had done it at the weekend, nobody would have really taken notice – but the right to exercise peaceful protest is in itself a valuable learning experience.
Education is more than the classroom and to see young people engaged in such debate is quite frankly awesome. Not only are they exercising their right to peaceful protest, they are learning about the real world, politics and society. And I for one think that’s great!