Does doom and gloom discourage sustainable behaviour?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the scale and constant reminders of the impending climate and ecological emergency we face. Then there’s the all-consuming eco-guilt that none of us is doing enough. I know that I beat beat myself up over the seemingly insignificant changes I’ve managed to make as ice caps melt, forests burn and species go extinct. It’s just not enough to say no to single-use plastic, is it?

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If you’re reading this, then the chances are you’re already interested in sustainability issues and concerned about your impact on the planet. However, while we are probably both prepared to take some form of action, we’re still very much the minority.

What worries me is that by voicing our concerns, sharing doom-laden news on social media, and going around as if we’re already playing out the end-game for life on Earth; we are causing many people to simply switch off altogether. Nobody wants to be around a miserable kill-joy, after all.

So, what’s to be done about it? Should we back off completely? Stop talking, leave the world to come to its senses - if it ever will - in its own time? Of course not. It’s widely accepted that the time for action is now: today, tomorrow, within a pretty short timeframe.

It is both challenging and refreshing to think in slightly different ways. We don’t have to do anything right here, right now.

What!? I’ve just said that action is needed.

Think about it. Literally.

Many people simply don’t have the tools to take action straightaway. Many more just aren’t aware of the impact their lifestyle is having. What’s more, it’s not their fault (from the tome of much sustainability writing you’d think it was).

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The thing is that it’s all too easy to rush headlong into taking green action without having all the facts in front of you. Stop! You need to know if the changes you are making are actually making things better or worse.

When our daughter was born, my wife and I agonised over what type of nappies to use. Well it wasn’t as if we had anything else to think about. So, we did some research and sourced some ‘eco’ disposable nappies. Claims of their compostability were put to the test in our own back garden; they weren’t, by the way! (and I doubt I’ll be around long enough to wait for their eventual demise). New parents find comfort in comparing the various products they’ve chosen to inflict upon their offspring, and it wasn’t long before we were suffering ‘nappy guilt’ as the Terry nappy brigade pointed out our mistake(s). Well, they’re not perfect, either.

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What this episode highlighted for me was the need to really do your research. So, I’ve learned to commit myself to thinking - properly - about the type of car I drive (fuel economy, emissions), or whether I even need to drive (what are the available options, when and where?); what sort of heating I use in my home; how I get to my holiday destinations (a family flying ban encourages creative thinking about where to go, opening up some interesting, previously overlooked places); whether and what I recycle, and which materials I avoid altogether; if other people can make use of what I no longer want - all these sort of things matter.

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The details aren’t up to me. I’m far from perfect. You decide what concerns you. All I’ll say is that it’s good to have a conscience about these things and try to minimise the damage we are doing. We don’t don’t have to become goody-goodies, but we should be giving it some thought.

Not wishing to be preachy about it, it’s clear that the time for complacency has long past. It really is the time for us to consider the impact we make quite carefully. Once we have considered it, we might actually like to start making a few changes to improve things.

It certainly is the case that if we all did a little bit, it would make a big difference. Unashamedly appropriating a the strapline from a huge global brand - JUST DO IT! (with a bit of humour, too)

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