Sure, improving our individual environmental footprint or buying greener products can help send a message to the world about where we need to go, but unless we seek systemic solutions for the systemic problems we face, we're simply assuaging our consciences rather than tackling the issues.
It's a topic we touched on in our live chat with Annie Leonard. While her classic viral Story of Stuff video exposed the dinosaur economy for what it was—an unsustainable relic built on resource depletion, exploitation and pollution—it was never intended as a rallying cry for consumer activism or smarter shopping.
It was intended as a call for fundamental change.
Her latest missive in the battle for economic and ecological sanity looks at how that change might actually happen.
As The Story of Change explains, there's nothing inherently long with buying greener products. It is, as Annie argues, a great place to start. It's just that it's a terrible place to end. "What would have happened," says Annie, "if Gandhi had simply made his own clothes and then waited for the British to leave India." Trying to live a truly sustainable lifestyle in our present system is, she argues, like trying to swim upstream while everything is stacked against you.
When you look at change makers from a historical perspective, whether it is the example of Gandhi, the civil rights movement or the environmentalists of the Seventies, what is striking is that these movements did not try to tweak people's personal choices, but rather fundamentally change the rules by which the game is played. And they often did so while a majority of the population was against them.
In a time when a majority of Americans support clean energy and climate action, we really have no excuses for not building a movement for real and lasting change. Let's stop bitching at our loved ones and acquaintances for not using a reusable plastic bag. Instead, let's spend the time pushing for real change.
Check out The Story of Change website for pointers on where to start.