It sometimes seems that everybody wants change. Who but the terminally insensitive would claim that all’s well with the world? We’d all like an end to poverty, war and injustice and how we perceive the likelihood that these ambitions are attainable is, to a significant degree, reflected in measurable public opinion.
To this end we entrust our best intentions, and not insignificant sums of tax and charitable donations, to compassionate government and non-governmental agencies. For most of us positive change is something we further impassively by way of institutional largess. Being more proactive often means raising money for someone else to spend. Democracy hopefully equips us with institutional compassion, and so it should.
But there are other agencies of change, not overseen by secretaries of state or directors of NGO’s, that are very much in our own hands. Most potent of these is what we do with our disposable cash. Whether it be via fare-trade coffee, freedom foods or the New Internationalist Christmas catalogue, compassion expressed through consumer choice has allowed us to intensify our conscious response to the Worlds woes.
As often as not we can witness the fruits of these choices. Lenny Henry laughing with young beneficiaries of Children in Need. The smiling fair-trade coffee grower on YouTube. It helps us to appreciate our personal, world changing potential on a daily basis.
Unfortunately a far greater proportion of what might be described as normal economic behaviour produces blind spots. These oversights of conscience are especially entrenched when it comes to climate change and the environment.
The recent outlawing of the free supermarket carrier bag was met with general approval but the over-packaging of many of the items we load into those bags at the checkout is an issue yet to be addressed. We might try to restrict our water use by washing the car less often or only showering every other day, oblivious to the 1200 litres it takes to bring us our Domino pizza or the 2 litres needed to manufacture the bottle that a litre bottle of Malvern Spring water actually contains.
The up and coming COP21 climate conference in Paris will hopefully refocus our concerns around climate change. But even if all those delegates can hammer out a meaningful deal, unless we as individuals recognise our own behavioural shortcomings the problem will remain only half addressed. My own local paper last week headlined the falling value of our county council’s pension fund which has resulted from a steep decline in the price of coal. For fossil fuels to be superseded by clean energy such macro-economics adjustments are unavoidable. As much as the value of his or her pension must worry the refuse collector, the teacher and the social worker, such concerns will have to be overridden (and hopefully mitigated by a switch to less damaging investments) if, in the longer term, the bullet of catastrophic climate change is to be dodged.
It can be quite reasonably argued that humanity’s need to repair the atmosphere is its greatest challenge yet, but the level of mindfulness we must achieve, most notably in the realm of our personal economic behaviour, is a prerequisite.
Greens like me quote the adage ‘Think global, act local’. Perhaps ‘Think global, act personal’ might be nearer the mark.
Featured image by polyp – visit his superb website here