Instagram, Facebook, Linkedin and on various other social media platforms it is next to impossible to avoid articles and posts about how we are ruining our environment. Fast fashion, single use plastic and now eating red meat are all adding to the ever growing noise about the effects of consumerism on the environment. Some individuals are quick to jump on the business opportunities this chaos of information and misinformation has spread. You need not look too far for proof of this! Check out all the Instagram pages selling eco products, propagating zero waste lifestyles and guilting individuals into living their lives a certain way.
Eco anxiety! Yes this is a condition that is spreading rapidly and being fueled by mediums such as Instagram, Facebook and to a lesser extent Linkedin. The truth is that we are living in times where everyone has the capability to voice their opinion via using the internet as a medium and various social networking sites as their voice. In this environment of constant information overload it is hard to decipher true information from misinformation, marketing from sales, and propaganda from real concern.
What is being said & by whom: It is imperative that we stop reading just the headlines and basing our decisions on it, due to it being shared by some one in authority, a celebrity or someone we look up too. Take for example the massive campaign to stop the use of single use plastic undertaken by various NGO’s and corporates, shifting the onus onto the consumer to either stop buying these products completely or to insure that the consumer plays its part in helping recycle them. On the face of it there seems nothing wrong with this and in fact many might even say that it’s a step towards securing our future! But dive in deep and you will find that many of these NGO’s informing us about recycling and the adverse effects of consumerism are being funded by the same organisations who are responsible for manufacturing or distributing these products in the market at a mass scale. As per companies and their feel good campaigns, where they clean a neighbourhood, donate money to an environmental cause and pledge that they will do away with manufacturing, packaging and distribution of single use plastic, it is just a farce in most cases to change customer perception and shift responsibility onto the consumer. Most of you must be thinking, how the hell do I make time to research and find out the truth about every piece of information being put out there? You are correct its not possible, but what is possible is for us to stop regurgitating information that we have little knowledge about. As more an more people start sharing and spreading the same information across social platforms, it starts to alter mindsets and over a period of time it embeds it’s self in our automatic thinking system. For example when you hear the word plastic what is the first thing that came to your mind? Pollution, recycling, waste, ocean etc! The international best selling author Daniel Kahneman in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow” explains the concept of Priming beautifully!
Priming: Extract from the book (Page 52: Thinking Fast & Slow: Daniel Kahneman)
“What is the first word that comes to your mind when you hear the word DAY? The researchers tallied the frequency of responses such as “night” “day”, “sunny” or “long” In the 1980 psychologist discovered that exposure to a word causes immediate and measurable changes in the ease with which many related words can be evoked. If you have recently seen or herd the word Eat, you are temporarily more likely to complete the word fragment SO_P as soup than SOAP. The opposite would happen of course if you had just seen WASH. We call this a priming effect and say that the idea of EAT primes the idea of SOUP, and that WASH primes SOAP.”
I could keep quoting from the book, but I would prefer that you read it instead as it is sure to make you question your deeper beliefs and profoundly change the way you think. The question that we need to ask our selves is why are companies not changing the way they manufacturer products? Why is production not being looked at from a point of making it circular? And why is the narrative being shifted onto the consumer? There are no simple answers, from economic reasons such legacy investments made in infrastructure which will cost millions if not billions of dollars to change, to convenience both in terms of pricing and packaging from the consumers perspective to policy and willingness of governments to take tough decisions.
In all off this we the consumer have tremendous power to make change happen by voting with our wallet and voicing our opinion (based on facts and proper understanding of the subject matter) to compel companies to change the way they manufacturer and design products. Yes our rapid pace of consumption is to partly blame for the environmental mess that we find ourselves in, but I per say cannot stop living, cannot stop eating meat because the UN decided that doing so is gravely harming the planet, or stop buying products because they are packaged in plastic, or feel guilty every time I buy bottled water! We globally have enough financial resources to rectify and make farming more effective and productive. We have the ability to reduce the use of water, chemical fertilisers and feed our farm bred animals diets that reduce Enteric fermentation (natural digestive process that occurs in animals) that accounts for 40% of the agriculture production emissions. The real question is why are we as consumers not asking the tough questions?
The process starts we us first, and the only way that we can actually change the course of where we are headed is by making educated decisions about our personal beliefs and by putting in the effort to really understand the information that we are consuming.