We’ve all heard of Greta Thunberg, at least those of us who are paying even the most minor bit of attention to the news have. She’s the latest environmental activist who’s acquired the main-stage of the media to promote sustainability and environmentally friendly choices and ideas. Ok, great, what’s new?
Before I get into the meat of this short piece I’d like to say something, there’s been a strange focus on Thunberg from both the left and right which is downright cringe. Think back to your own political views at 15 and see if you don’t wince. If you don’t, you’re either lying to yourself or have your head buried so far in the sand you’ve attained a level of ignorance I thought unachievable. Now, that said, it doesn’t make her ideas void of criticism. But that doesn’t mean people should prey or use her autism as some kind of sticking point or area of aggression. Besides, by the end of this you’ll probably be thinking ‘Eh, she’ll be gone soon anyway, another young activist to be dragged out on occasion like the media’s finest china.’
This leads me to my first point. Everyone seems to exist in some kind of present-tense dump, where memory and knowledge cease to exist. People are acting as if both Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion are the first of their kind, people aren’t thinking back even a few years, they’re acting on emotional impulse and believing that now is forever.
Remember Earth Day?
The Limits to Growth?
Only One Earth?
A Sand County Almanac?
Club of Rome?
The Green Revolution?
A Blueprint for Survival?
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society?
Rainforest Action Network?
Endangered Species Act?
UNEP, EEA, NAFTA, IPCC?
…remember Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg, because you wont very soon.
Let me explain to you why you’ll forget all about ER and Thunberg very soon. You don’t care. “Oh my God! How dare you, I care about the Earth, I love nature, I love the environment!” No you don’t. If you’re like the average person in the Western world – and there’s a reason averages exist – then you pretend to give a shit just to look good. I imagine you have the latest smartphone or latest electronic gadget, you drive a car miles to work everyday, you purchased some clothing recently from a cheap retailer, you took a holiday in the last 6 months via airplane or did one of the tens of thousands of things one does which increases one’s carbon footprint, many, if not most, of which can actually be avoided. I’ve written about how you can do this elsewhere, so I wont bother with that here, but I will briefly comment on why you wont…
Once again, you don’t care. In the same way people fake emotional distress when they see those ‘Save Africa’ adverts on TV, or how people spout banal platitudes regarding animals, nature and love and yet they still live in an entirely selfish manner. I’ve met people that genuinely care about this or that cause, and guess where they are? Where that cause is, not in some cushy office job within a Western city thinking about which material desire to fulfill next. You might state that you recycle, try not to use plastic, walk most places, buy ‘green’ products or donate to the National Trust, but the truth is, unless you were told to do those things by popular opinion, you never would have done them. Mainstream discussion around climate change and activism has resulted in little more than political bickering and games of one-upmanship. It just so happens that – thus far – the entire spectrum of contemporary popular ‘lifestyle changes’ which can ‘help the environment’ are convenient, easy and accessible, coincidence, I think not. It’s just more virtue signalling wrapped up in that which you can’t criticize, care for the Earth.
Those who grow frustrated at my constant jabs at the average Joe will more than likely wonder what they can do. Well, I imagine they already know what they can do, but they’ve just found excuses for why they aren’t. You care about the Earth? Ok then, don’t buy a new phone ever again, you know full well this one will last the rest of your life. Find a job within walking distance and live within your means. Don’t buy any new clothes, the ones you have now serve a purpose, so why buy more? Visit the local markets and buy local produce and meat from sustainable farms. Use hand-me-downs and secondhand items where possible. Use the library. Ah fuck, these things are all…awkward and not…nice, oh no. But what about your status, your popularity, your possessions…your identity! And there’s Extinction Rebellion and all the protestors, driving to and fro from protests, producing banners, buying tents, producing merchandise, felling trees for manifestos, photographing everything with their new smartphones, uploading it onto their individual laptops and generally serving themselves. See, what these people want is the convenience and reality of techno-capitalism without the Earth-destroying industry which allows it to be. These people quite literally want to eat their cake and have it too. They want everything to change without any personal sacrifice.
You don’t care about the Earth, you only wish for others to know you care for the Earth. It isn’t the virtue in itself which matters, you couldn’t give a shit if the rainforest burns or not, what matters is the opportunity to signal that you cared when it was still there, and that you cared when it was gone. If the rainforest burns down and no one’s there for you to signal that you care to, did it burn down?