Why we don’t care about the environment even though we care about our environment; or, how to save the world without really trying.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Apr 22, 2013
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eco light switch greenclimate change war hitler oil green eco hybrid poster

Bonus: Waylon’s Earth Day interview with Frances Moore Lappe.


Below, I try to just, you know, figure out everything all in one blog and solve our international crisis of inspiration and environment for us.

The Problem? We all care about our environment but not enough or in the right way and this planet is going to hell in a hand basket but it’ll probably hit our children and grandchildren the hardest.

The Solution? Is us. Leave a comment if so inspired at the bottom of this post. ~ ed.

green eco earth day

The problem:

fiji plastic water bottle eco greenwashingWe all care about the environment, our environment, upon which we all depend. Everyone loves elephants and tigers and flowers and blue sky and green grass and clean air. No one likes cancer or landfills or plastic islands. Everyone wants a beautiful back yard and hikes and parks and efficient cars and dishwashers and clothes made by human beings, not slaves or children. Republicans in the Midwest or the Rockies, for chrissake, have more photos of majestic, god-given nature on their walls and calendars than do liberals in college towns.

So we all care.

But none of us care enough to read up on climate change, or elephants dying, or the cancer that our pesticides on our grass lawns create. Or we don’t have time to cook or garden or bicycle or walk. Or we don’t want to read depressing articles about what’s going wrong.eco light switch

In other words, we all care, but we don’t care enough.

…or, rather, we don’t care in the right way. We want to care in an empowered, effective way. And that’s good. That makes rational sense.

But too often that slacktivism (don’t click that link, it’ll take too long) option doesn’t exist, and awareness is all we’re left with…and awareness of what’s depressing at the end of a long day calls for truly altruistic folks…and there aren’t enough such. And even if we were all bequeathed with bleeding hearts, reading blogs about green and gaining awareness isn’t enough. It’s the beginning, the inspiration, but it’s not the execution, the action, the change we all have been waiting for.

The solution isn’t, quite:

One solution is to, a la Oprah or Jon Stewart or Earth Hour, make the whole do-goodery thing fun, funny, interesting, inspiring, moving, shocking. To coat the medicine with a ball of chocolate, in other words. But that’s only as effective as the seductive powers of said sex, humor, inspiration…and even then, all we’re left with is the first step: knowledge, or inspiration. A good start, but still just a good start, not a solution.eco funny green

Some sites, like change.org or Credo, involve petitions. Enough of us sign, we can show someone what The People want, and then maybe someone will change the world. I like it, but it’s not enough. It needs to be official-like—like the White House Petition site, where we know the folks in charge will do something. Unfortunately, even then, the White House is just saying they’ll look at it and reply, not necessarily do something, and even then, they’re one of five power bases in DC. Just one of five (executive, legislative, judicial, media & now corporations or lobbyists).

So my solution is, well…

eco green kitchen cooking food home house…what Lester Brown told me: media. Media is the key. And by media, he meant communication. So education could be included in that. And politics could be included in that—anything that creates mass awareness, followed by change. So when I see Jamie Oliver focusing about obesity in a mainstream top-rated reality TV show that results in more funding for real food in school lunches, I’m heartened. When I see Michael Pollan on the best-seller lists, and farmers markets triple in number year after year, I’m heartened. When I see Germany at 50% renewable power as a nation, I’m heartened. When I see the sales of bicycles double year after year, I’m heartened.

But it’s obviously not enough.

We’re a crash test dummy, as a civilization, heading for a brick wall, about to die.

So what can we do?frat boy eco green boulder"boy scouts" "norman rockwell" eco greennatural cork eco green environmental forestskarmapa environmental green ecogreen coca cola eco


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


10 Responses to “Why we don’t care about the environment even though we care about our environment; or, how to save the world without really trying.”

  1. Tara Lemieux says:

    In order for there to be change, there must be passion ~ I have always believed that to be the very first, and most important step. I remember in schools ~ our teachers would spend each day talking about our beautiful earth, of course, our school house was very small…15 kids per class. But those lessons, they've stayed with me always—it's become a big part of who I am. So now, whenever I'm out around kids ~ I try to share with them, that same passion. Something as simple having them help to plant a garden, or to drink water from a REAL glass (and not a plastic toss away bottle). We have somehow developed into a 'disposable' culture ~ and that thinking is what most needs to change. My Chinese teacher used to say, "Just because you can't see the glacier moving, doesn't mean it's not forming a new and beautiful valley."

  2. Jacinta says:

    Awesome information in this interview! What resonates with me is “reframe @ a deep systemic level.” Realigning ourselves with natures laws, and to learn by being empowered by courageous people, who will help to change our belief system. I attend community meetings with my local councillor and I get frustrated when I see the same people attend meetings and that people who complain to me about what they feel powerless to change don’t show up at the meetings. What also resonated is the new information re neuroscience etc: This past year I learned a lot about neuroscience, and neuro plasticity, since I had a traumatic brain injury. It is possible to rewire our thought patterns and to turn negative associations into positive ones. So I feel like a possibilist! (note: we don’t need to get hit on the head in order to make this happen though lol).No, no crash needed :)) Finally, I was listening to another radio interview where the speaker explained how First Nations people have deep respect for their land and their lineage. Their belief system holds that, anything they heal in the present will affect (heal) their past (forefathers) as well as their future. So perhaps a page from the First Nations culture, might help with a new alignment. If children (& communities) felt a reverence for their future by and through their land, and their connectiveness to their lineage, I believe it would help release the fear of scarcity (as primary motivator). Positive motivation always makes me feel better because it carries the energy of hope … And that maybe I can make a difference… one step in the right direction, leads to the next ! See! Now I’m pumped !!

  3. katy says:

    When I worked in transportation reform in the 90s, It seemed that promotion of success stories captured/amplified latent desire and empowered those people with the will to wrestle for change to get in the ring and give it a go. Gore's film and other enviro films of similar ilk in that last decade employed that approach. A body could walk out of the theater with a can do feeling. If media is the storyteller who mirrors our transformational aspirations, wouldn't it be nice if all ej readers would come together to pool resources and bid on the Tribune's current chain of newspapers (LA, Chicago, Orlando, Baltimore, Hartford) going up for bid this year. If billionaire Koch brothers of Kansas can, if Murdoch can, why can't the ej community? Or maybe newspapers are not where it's at. Maybe we would do better to buy a hollywood studio? Or maybe as Frances seems to say we need to dwell in possibility and ask ourselves "why not?" and keep talking amongst ourselves and telling everybody about how sexy and good it feels to do the right thing. I don't know. If the govt could sell war bonds why does it not sell earth bonds? Is it enough to dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

  4. J.James says:

    Wow. Trouble is, there is so much misinformation being propagated by the leftist news media, Hollywod celebs, socialists wanna-be's about climate change that many clear-headed factual-based thinkers are really suspicious of the motives behind hipster environmental activism.

  5. KT Armstrong says:

    Loved the video…I think about these things a lot. In answer to one of your questions, "how do you get people to care about the details" ….I think its important to remember that satisfaction and enjoyment are subjective. Washing dishes used to be torture, but after deciding I should love it and turning it in to a "walking meditation" this simple act has become something I LOVE, seriously! Imagine a world where we allow ecstatic joy and recognition for making detailed almost nitpicky decisions regarding our life and how it affects the environment. I've had 3 conversations this week with friends and strangers about the aversion we are seeing in people who supposedly care; or to rephrase, that people shut off or walk away when difficult "real" topics are broached in conversation. While I agree that focusing on the positive and the right decisions is the best way to motivate a population and progress society, I think that sometimes the conversation has to also include the things that needs to be changed….and we need a little thicker skin and more acceptance of discomfort so that we can all "comfortably" talk about the issues and their solutions. I personally enjoy dialing in my life and sharing my new discoveries with friends. I desire a community where Friday night includes a game where we explore the best ways to protect the enviornment, where we spend our freetimes on weekends implement the change, seeing it as our favorite new hobby, so that the routines of our weekly life can be dialed in to the needs of our planet.

  6. KMS says:

    Science has entered the pluralistic phase, which means that it is much harder to convince people based on solid, empirical evidence. Everything is doubted; science is believed by far too many to be "just another" opinion. Of course it is not. But to be truly aware of and motivated by the environmental crisis requires one to be able to read and understand scientific literature. When one understands how to do that, there is no debate, no obfuscation, not even an ability to counter-argue, because the evidence is overwhelming. Alas, though, as the proliferation of bone-headed conspiracy theories reveal people's appalling lack of scientific understanding and critical thinking capacities (from chem trails on the left to global warming conspiracies on the right), it seems to me the likelihood is it will take a crisis that is indisputable before collective change happens.

  7. souldoula says:

    The problem is not so much that we don't care enough, but that truly acting on our concern is too hard. That might sound like semantics, but bear with me… I don't mean to say that we need everything to be easy (though looking at our culture one could certainly make that argument) rather, I am pointing to the reality that everything in our society is structured in ways that are basically life-denying and toxic. We may care very much, and want to try to do better, but our world is engineered such that there just isn't any space. If we want to live in a way that is life-affirming and truly caring of the more-than-human world, the changes that are needed are so profound as to be uttlerly dislocating. So our conversations about environmental activism are dumbed-down to things like light bulbs and compostable Sun Chip bags. In our society, this is what caring looks like. It is absurd and almost not worth the trouble. That's the problem.

  8. neil says:

    The bell curve continues to grow bigger and bigger every year. On one side are those who don't care and on the other are those who do care. As the population grows so goes the bell curve. If people are the problem, as you suggest, then the solution is to decrease the population. The question is – what is the best way to do that?

  9. elephantjournal says:

    Don't forget scientists. All they're interested in is…well, facts.

  10. elephantjournal says:

    Or, decrease consumption; or, increase efficiency.

    I think we have many problems that, at their root, involve overpopulation but are more about peace and contentment, generosity and caring, inside and out, or rather lack thereof.