Environmentalism as Religion is a Myth. It's About Practicality and Common Sense.

Sami Grover/CC BY 2.0

It's cold in my recycled shed office this morning. And despite my best efforts at creating an efficient home office heating strategy (yes, I am wearing those ridiculous fingerless gloves!), it sometimes takes a little while for the space to heat up.

Location Impacts Performance
But, thanks to Paul Wheaton's excellent video on heating the person, not the house, I had a little break through this morning. I moved my little space heater underneath my desk. (BTW - the heater was found on Freecycle—for those of you still needing evidence that Freecycle works.)

Sure, moving a heater under a desk is probably common sense to most practical people. But for me, it was a revelation. And it got me thinking about the importance of physics and what I'd call "physical world literacy" in the search for sustainability.

Environmentalism is Practical
You see I've always been more of an ideas man. From the importance of strategy for the environmental movement to understanding the difference between leverage and footprints, I'm rarely happier than when I am musing about some obscure and quite possibly irrelevant aspect of the ethical, moral and political challenges we face. But like many people who spend too much time in their heads, I sometimes struggle with real-world practicality and common sense.

And yet it is this real world practicality that we need more than anything if we're going to navigate a path to a sustainable culture.

How the World Works Matters
And I'm not just talking about practical skills that help us insulate our houses, build a chicken coop, innoculate mushroom logs or any number of other activities. (Even I have managed to do some of those things!) But rather, I'm talking about a deep, intuitive understanding of how the world actually works.

From understanding the basic forces behind climate change (or even just how weather actually works) to grasping what the laws of thermodynamics mean for the efficiency of a meat- versus plant-based diet, most of what we need to know about building a greener, more resilient culture can be expressed in terms of physics.

Sure, there's a role for spiritual experience and emotional intelligence too. But even though anti-greens love to call environmentalism a religion, it is more a study in practical, real-world common sense than anything else.

Which is all a rather overly-intellectualized way of saying that I am glad my feet are now warm.

Tags: Activism | Energy Efficiency | Global Warming Science

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