In reality I view my values as a green person as relatively meaningless in the scheme of things. I know that at a global level for everyone of me, a person who makes careful choices about what they consume and tries to limit ‘consumption’, there are probably 100,000 people who don’t, many of them because they are simply unable to have this wealth of choice. Half the people in the world still don’t even have access to a telephone ! I know that even if every person in the UK became carbon neutral overnight, it would take China just 83 days to make up the difference in global pollution terms.
I see the greenwash of successive governments who say one thing ‘Yes we intend to decrease greenhouse gases’, and then do another ‘and by the way we are building another runway at Heathrow and building more roads to cope with the increase in travellers’. In reality, my choices are pretty meaningless given the hypocrisy of governments and the mass of humanity intent on unwittingly changing the nature of our planet.
In fact, I don’t believe that my choices as a green person make one iota of difference on a global scale, which begs the question, ‘Why do I bother?’
Well, it’s simply a matter of conscience. When Bangladeshis drown en-masse or hurricanes render millions of people homeless in China or the US because of climate changes, I certainly feel remorse, but because I don’t drive, because I limit my use of money to a minimum, because I am stringent with power and water, because I don’t use a kettle or own a fridge or washing machine, because I refuse to earn enough money to pay taxes, I don’t have to feel guilty, or find ways to avoid thinking about it altogether, and this means that I can get on with enjoying my life and enjoy green hedonism. This, to me, is the most important part of being a green person in the 21st century. I prefer to have a conscience than edit my reality using ‘denial’. This choice allows me to be a ‘whole person’.
Actually, I believe that the devastation of the earth is part of our destiny. Given present circumstances its unavoidable. Because of the processes we have set up, such as money and investment, the system trundles like a leviathan towards total global pollution, unable to change because there are too many people with their status, greed and ignorance invested in the easy profits of planetary abuse.
As Henry Cloud wrote: “We change our behaviour when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change”. When there is a 60 year delay on the consequences what is going to motivate people to change?
Sure, the good consciences of the few or the brilliance of technological invention may delay things a while, but unless we completely rethink how we live on this earth we will eventually be forced to, if we do survive, by the laws of nature.
Given that, I enjoy my life to the full and this is where the green hedonism comes in. The earth is still a fantastic place to live, with an abundance of beauty and nature. I live in a beautiful place and enjoy my garden. In some ways, I have a better quality of life than any other person I know. It seems contradictory to claim to be green, but also to be a hedonist, but the key for me is in making the hypocrisies of my life conscious, and simply accepting, even enjoying them with a clear conscience.
Within voluntary simplicity there are great riches to enjoy. A simple walk in stunning nature with friends, a meal at home made from the purest of materials, picked from my own garden, a hand-made gift to or from a loved one, a cycle ride in the woods, kayaking on the river, spending a winter day reading by a crackling fire – these cost next to nothing and contribute towards a life of amazing quality.