Monday, June 29, 2009

What's Bothering My Green Conscience?

Theme Song of the Day:
  1. "The Cold Acre", by Augie March - great video clip too!


There has been something gnawing at me for some time now. Here’s what’s been bothering my green Conscience: ever since discovering Canadian Artist Franke James' blog in the Twitterverse:

Sustainability, that buzz word that is so popular now, is often thought of in terms of green; that is, relating to environmental sustainability and the pressing need for better stewardship of our planet. I’ve dubbed my blog theGreenBackpack for just that reason: it represents the sustainable themes I am exploring through my travels.

But the very icon which I have chosen to represent my travels is made of nylon, in a Vietnamese factory [which granted, supports fair trade practices], but is shipped on an oil-guzzling tanker halfway around the world to a discreet shopfront in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

The plane I have ridden to reach this part of the world has spewed, and will continue to spew tonnes of greenhouse gases into the air during its manufacturing, use, and maintenance of its useful life.

The campervan I have been driving, with its greedy petrol tank and noxious rubber steel radials rolling over oil-based blacktop for endless miles are the epitome of the fossil-fuel-consuming-and-carbon-producing-based technologies that are harming our planet.

The houses I stay in, the food supplies, the synthetic outdoors clothes and thermals, even the boots on my feet have been built with more attention given to the economic profitability than with long-term sustainability in mind.

The Bedfords, whom I have just spent 4 days living and sharing with, embody one form of embracing a more sustainable lifestyle: their choice to move into the mountains and live as far off the grid as possible was born more out of a bid to maintain their sanity, and health, than out of a burning desire to save the planet.

It takes a special kind of courage to go completely against conventional wisdom and take a stand for what you believe in: in their case, that their family’s health and happiness was more important than any material possessions could bring.

They have personal experience of the stress, anxiety, and gnawing sense of discontent that a life based on consumption and accumulation will breed... and by focusing on creating experiences and memories, raising their children surrounded by wild bushland, homeschooling and gardening and building with their own hands, hiking the Himalayas with the children and instilling a sense of curiosity, resourcefulness, and adventure ...lay a strong foundation for living the kind of life - of pursuing their passions - that others will write books about.

But even in the Bedford’s house - which out of necessity has been built with efficiency of resources as its topmost priority - sits toilet paper that is likely made from old-growth forest wood.

Who is going to give up using toilet paper in order to save the planet?

How then can I claim to be exploring sustainability, when the very act of my travels are contributing to the problem at hand?

It seems that the more I raise my awareness about sustainability – reading ingredient labels, purchasing local produce, paying the premium for organic and fair trade produce, measuring my carbon footprint so that I can effectively offset them, seeking out others who are embracing and leading the way in the movement towards a sustainable lifestyle – the more overwhelming the odds seem.

Why is it that a pound of locally caught wild prawns are three times the price of a pound of farm-raised prawns frozen and shipped over from Thailand? And why are bananas grown and shipped in from Eucador cheaper than bananas grown right in our backyards?

What good is it to change my lightbulbs when the all-consuming, never-ending-growth-in-the-name-of-progress fundamentals of our society continue unrestrained? There are corporations out there whose environmental impact exceeds that of entire countries – what chance do we have against the ‘wrath of God’ kind of money they control?
"He who has the gold, makes the rules."
The Golden Rule-

Can we really make a difference?

I believe so.

Sustainability is about so much more than saving the environment... it is about all the juicy things that make up this experience we call LIFE.

It is about community, and connecting...

It is about Arts, Music, and Culture.

It is understanding that there is more than enough to go around.

It is about becoming good stewards of the financial, enviornmental, social, and spiritual resources that surround us - rather than 'owners' or 'conquistadors' of the world around us.

It is about serving others: for in doing so, we nurture ourselves, and create a cycle of reciprocity that spirals upwards and onwards ...rather than the downward spiral of decay that a self-serving spirit of scarcity will set in motion.

It is knowing that we are all one family; that when we lash out and hurt another, we are actually hurting ourselves... and that when we lash out and hurt ourselves, we are actually hurting others.

What good is it to save the planet.... if we can't all get along? What good is it to get along....if we destroy the planet that we live on?

It is about playing for the best in the other person, and always seeing another bigger than they see themselves.

It is about leaving the world a better place for you having walked upon it.

It is about pursuing what makes your heart happy and your soul sing...


It is about sharing and enjoying the resources we have been blessed with... the simple things in life: good food, good people, and great conversation.

...And so I will continue to wander the planet, in search of people, places, and projects [and do my best to minimize my impact along the way]...
...that are making a positive difference in our world.

So that I too, can do my part to make a positive difference in our world.

Question of the Day: What's Bothering Your Green Conscience?

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  1. Thanks for this wonderful post on what's bothering your green conscience. It's terrific -- rich with insights, humour and humanity. I was nodding my head when I read your struggle with living a sustainable lifestyle -- the more I learn the harder it seems for me too.

    But when I feel overwhelmed, I like to think "Do the hardest thing first." If each of us could pick one or two green things to do that were a little hard to do -- but that we'd feel proud of, and tell other people about -- I think many people would raise their sites higher than just changing a lightbulb.

    Speaking for myself, doing one or two big things "right" helps to offset the guilt that I'm not perfect in being green. Going green is a personal journey that takes time.

    Keep up the great writing. That is your big hammer in motivating people to take action on climate change!

  2. Nice post Matthew. I reckon a lot of people will be nodding their heads as they read this. No matter how much we do, there is always something more that can be done (and there will always be that person doing more than you). So it's easy to feel guilty, but we can't let that make us throw up our arms and claim "what's the point?"

    As you say, if we can realize what it is that truly makes us happy (and no folks, it has nothing to do with anything you own) that in itself will go a long way in helping the planet and humanity.

  3. Hey Matt! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
    I think about that never ending chain of
    un-intended negative impacts, too. And have come to similar conclusions about how one lives a sustainable, joyful life in the present.

    I haven't always been able to walk my talk...but even mindfulness of those lapses and gratitude for even the awareness of it all supports a bigger shift. Latley, this is what has been bothering my green conscience:

    Thanks for posting!

  4. its so great to see like minds connecting and discussing about questions like this... love your honesty, thank you!