|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Back in Black - Eat Pray Love|
I started 21CP because I was and remain convinced that an environmentalism of No is always going to have limited impact, and because I wanted to know what an environmentalism of Yes looks like. I think this is important because the scale of our environmental situation demands that everyone get on board. We need big changes, we can't make anyone do anything to change what they are doing, and our environmental issues are chronic, creeping ones. Why buy into that willingly? It's so much easier to make fun of environmentalists and keep doing what you've been doing and use your mind to justify your behavior than it is to change. You wind up in a world where totalitarian governments like China, who don't need buy-in from a polus, are making all the headway, Europe is earning a strong C and Americans are the assholes bringing up the rear.
The achilles heel of democracy is the fact that sometimes we need to take this extra step of creating a collective moral courage to get the votes to do the right thing, and that's a cultural process. We won't be making carbon expensive in America until we create a culture of environmentalism that is easy to buy into.
Popular environmentalism isn't cutting it because it's mostly organized around:
Looking At The Horror (Disaster Porn)
The Death of Capitalism/Apocalyptic Visions of the Future
And the bottom line is that all of this stuff sucks. I organize my entire life around environmentalism and I can't get behind this stuff. I can't look at the pictures of the oily birds, all they do is paralyze me with guilt. I actually have a somewhat similar lifestyle to Colin Beavan, and every time I read or watch him I want to slap the proscriptive smugness right out of him. Small-bore ecoguilt deliberations about nothing make my head hurt. I feel like every time I talk about the environment at a party, the first thing everyone sets on the table is some Cormac McCarthy vision of our not-too-distant future. Or an expression of sick, misplaced mirth about how much our economy sucks. Or some other nugget of hysterical, unhelpful nonsense that would get you slapped across the face if the emergency felt more acute. More real.
I firmly believe that if we do nothing we will absolutely deliver a Mad-Max future of resource warring, mass-migrations, upheaval and death to our children, and that the endgame is human extinction. I also believe that this dire future only makes it more important to get a fucking grip and see that we are offering up the worst sales pitch for changing course ever! Be an environmentalist: torture yourself with horrible images of faraway things you can't control! Make every choice an incredibly complicated one! Sit in the dark! Have a hot and righteous summer, and a chilly, smug winter! Be an End Times-er without having to buy into religion!
When you're in an actual emergency, and we are, the last thing you should do is keep your mind focused on how huge the problem is, how powerless you are, or how high the stakes are. People who survive actual emergencies, and this is one, remain positive and connected, find beauty and awe in the moment of survival and are incredibly oblique in their approach. They're not bugging about the fact of the plane crash. They're thinking about the sensation of crawling over this one chair, and about how far away the exit is, and noticing how particularly beautiful the stars look in the sky as they flee.
Because this is an actual emergency, the sales pitch of popular environmentalism should focus exclusively on how totally fucking abundant composting makes you feel. You are getting away with something when you turn fifty percent of your garbage into a gardening commodity! Feedlots and E-coli are too dire! Better to skip the feedlot footage and create a culture of dinner parties and farmer's markets. Effective sales pitches craft an environmentalism of Yes. And I think they do that by replacing the hysteria with a specific redefinition of abundance.
Abundance is due for re-calibration anyway. Our old definition of abundance left us awash in plastic crap, gorged on MSG and sugar and salt and fat, so focused on more that we collectively spun out of control. Abundance 1.0 turned out to be donut shaped, with a big existential pit of emptiness in the middle, and everyone kinda knows it. Anyone who's buying Eat, Pray, Love crap on QVC is ready to be gently guided away from that insanity and toward a genuinely abundant life of actually eating, praying and loving, and an economy is already being built around that transition. This economy enables DIYers and hobbyists and curiosity, is experience-based not product-based, and is about closing instead of widening the existential donut hole. It doesn't mention environmentalism by name. But it's laying the foundation of Yes that enables smart environmental choices.