So-called “green guilt” appears to be contagious – and I am one of the afflicted.
My research for The Human Race ten years ago prompted my interest in the green movement. Ever since, I have struggled with the green guilt of my CO2-laden life and its impact on our planet. A lot of my friends and family seem to have battled with that same feeling. One or two have even become eco warriors. For many, however, their green guilt appears to have waned over the years. Many friends have, one by one, given up the ghost and returned to their old ways.
As for me: I waiver constantly. Yesterday I realised why.
For the human race, living a green life is, was and always will be about poverty. When I was poor my life was infinitely, albeit unintentionally, greener. Take transport. I caught the bus or cycled everywhere. I didn’t own a car until I was 25. I shared a house with three of my friends and we holidayed in Wales or the Dales. I bought second-hand clothes and taped my music. I shopped at Asda.
However as I became richer, I became more wasteful. My cars became bigger, faster, newer. I moved from a studio apartment to a one bedroom flat and then to a two bedroom semi. Now I live in a detached house and own a second home in The Lakes.
As for cars: I peaked out on a 4.7 litre Jeep Cherokee. At this point I feel obliged to add that I have since swapped it for a Smart car – there goes that green guilt again! I love to travel and I even met my beautiful wife in America. Every year we visit her family in Florida, or they fly here.
Gulp. Even my relationship is non-green.
So it goes on. In all probability, it will only get worse. I can’t help it and I have green guilt in abundance. But I can’t stop. For goodness sake, even the idea for The Human Race came about while I was holidaying in Iceland.
Am I a middle class whinger?
Or am I just human? Don’t we all wish to better our lot in life? To do so means, inevitably, striving to achieve a better standard of living.
It takes a very brave and committed person to stay green as they get richer. Those who do are very few in number and this clearly has an effect on the environment.
I recently read that the combined ecological footprint of humanity is estimated at 1.4 planet Earths. In other words, the human race uses ecological services 1.4 times as fast as the Earth can renew them. Richer countries are naturally worse than others. If everyone lived the lifestyle of the average American, we would need five planets to sustain it. I can’t imagine the UK is too far behind. Crazy, isn’t it?
So where does that leave you and me?
Firstly, we will not stop the human race trying to better itself. It’s part of our psyche, for better or for worse. Despite my green guilt, I am not about to take to the streets demanding change. However I would happily pay higher taxes to contribute towards an effort to reduce global warming, or at least to minimise our footprint.
If the government decided on such a course of action to create change, and it was the only way that change could happen, I would happily cough up or conform. Call it lazy or uninvolved, but I suspect many others feel the same. It would also have the added bonus of relieving some of the guilty twinges that are now hardwired into my subconscious. I just can’t escape green guilt. All my actions have that CO2 niggle.
As any reader of this blog will know, I am a great believer that the same drive pushing us to improve our lot is also pushing us to improve technologically. I also believe that this same drive will, eventually, lead us to solve our CO2 conundrum. If it doesn’t and the doomsayers are right, it’s sayonara for the human race, so there is plenty of incentive here.
And once again I am relying on others to achieve that for me, while I beaver away along with seven billion others, trying to improve my lot in life.
That’s why, despite getting this lot off my chest, I feel so guilty.
Am I alone?
This post was selected for the 23rd February 2011 edition of Everything Home Blog Carnival, hosted by My DIY Home Tips.