Thursday, January 24, 2008
The Church of Climate Change
Do you remember when everything clicked? When you suddenly realized how your actions impact our environment and how living more lightly could help the Earth, its creatures, your health, your conscience, your family? Are you a different person after the CFL light bulb went off than you were before?
Many of us are. The changes start out subtle and innocuous. We began carrying a canvas bag when grocery shopping or we swap out a couple incandescents for CFL bulbs. In the weeks and months that follow, we spend hours plugged into the Internet, gleaning information, and then fly into action, making change after change. Soon, we are different - unrecognizable to the people who knew us before.
We eat differently. We shop differently. We socialize differently. We read different books and wear different clothes. We prepare for apocalyptic scenarios like Climate Change, Peak Oil and economic collapse and talk about "simple living" or "self sufficiency." We take up knitting or canning. We plan elaborate "victory gardens" and dream of owning chickens. Voracious shoppers become anti-consumers and take up the Compact. Fast food eaters scour farmer's markets for locally grown, organic produce. Some of us trade in boon companions like the Desperate Housewives and Jack Bauer for new friends like Crunchy Chicken and No Impact Man. For those who knew us before but, for whom the light bulb has not yet gone off, it may seem as if we've joined a cult.
Indeed, in many ways, the green movement - or any social movement - bears certain hallmarks of a religion. In addition to the lifestyle and personality changes, we divide people into"believers" and those who are "willfully ignorant." One of the movement's best known leaders, Al Gore, has been labeled a "prophet in his own time" and has a devout following. There is also the talk of converting or "influencing" others. I, myself, feel a bit missionary-ish when I write about inspiring change in others or spreading "greeness".
Is global warming really a religion? Nah. It's an unfortunate fact. Are my lifestyle changes extreme or fanatical? I don't think so. They just fit. Living lighter feels more healthy, honest and honorable. I'm happier this way - even if there were no such thing as global warming or Peak Oil.
But how about you? Are you a believer? Can I influence you to make just a few changes? Recruit you to spread the word?