Can we really believe that eating organic, shopping ethical and separating our trash makes the world a better place? This video made me think no, not really.
It made me reflect on the purpose and meaning of why I (and all the lovely people at my local bio market) do what we do.
We choose to put an extra effort into the way we live because our consumer (or non-consumer) choices are an expression of our identity, aspirations and values. Sadly, it does not mean that they have the power to change the way in which industry, companies and societies act. Given the strong, emotionally appealing and empowering messages around individual actions, it is not an easy truth to accept. After all, we have been told that choosing biodegradable sneakers is making a world a better place! The truth is probably more like wearing those sneakers allows us to live our values, feel more empathetic to the environment and therefore live a tiny bit happier and more fulfilling life.
However, climate change, social injustice and environmental destruction is unlikely to be stopped by upper- middle-class Westerners separating their waste and shopping ethically. We need strongly defined and effectively enforced national and international norms. We can and should lobby our decision-makers for action, and make our voices heard. This may require us to go and form communities, work with movements and make some noise, as opposed to defining our actions in terms of consumption and non-consumption. I was quite encouraged by the EU finally looking at ways to encourage/enforce sustainable, sweatshop-free clothing supply chains. This will make a much bigger approach than my wow to not shop or wear second-hand items, which at the same time make me happier than the knowledge that an exploited person made my clothes. But it remains often so easy to confuse the difference between working to live our values/become better people and acting for systemic change.
I’d love to hear your opinions!