Sweating The Big Stuff: Get Your Priorities Right

Life involves quite a few sacrifices: I would sacrifice my life to save my children; most parents would sacrifice a night’s sleep to keep checking on a sick baby; many people would sacrifice a friendship to tell someone they were behaving appallingly; some people would sacrifice a meal if they had to get something urgent finished.

Very few people make real sacrifices to ensure the planet will be able to support them in the future.

A few days ago I wrote an article about Domestic Greenwashing, the kind of greenwashing that we each carry out on a regular basis (some people more than others) in order to make ourselves feel better about our intrinsically damaging behaviour. I included a short list of things that I would classify as greenwashing, but look inside and you can see that the number of activities that are potentially hypocritical is huge. Consider the following:

– Turning your air conditioning thermostat up 1 degree
– Swapping a conventional lightbulb for a CFL
– Properly inflating the tyres on your car
– Recycling your plastic bottles
– Using solar outdoor lighting
– Buying organic rather than non-organic meat
– Taking your appliances off standbye
– Offsetting your flights
– Reusing your water bottle at work

I could go on and on, but I think you will see that all of these actions are trivial in environmental terms. Don’t believe me? Ok, here is another list which matches each of the previous “green” activities: but, this time, the things in this list really do make a difference

– Dumping your air conditioning, installing shutters and shade plants, using natural ventilation and wearing appropriate clothing
– Only using lighting when absolutely necessary
– Not driving
– Not buying goods that produce waste, and minimising the overall amount of things you buy
– Bringing any outside space you have back to a natural state
– Not eating meat
– Absolutely minimising the electrical appliances you have, and keeping the ones you do have switched off unless you need to use them
– Not flying
– Getting out of the insane work-earn-spend-work cycle, and doing some work that is actually useful

You might be looking at the list thinking, “Is he serious? I’m not going to all that effort!” And I wouldn’t be at all surprised, because over the last decade, all the time we have woken up to the environmental crisis we have been brainwashed with the idea that all we need to do to make things better is to make small changes in our lifestyles.


Civilization is toxic, but it is desperate to survive, so it convinces the billions of people living under its influence that it’s ok to be “civilized”, that technology will save the day, and that we need corporations, we need governments and we need cities, roads, cars, airplanes, televisions, air conditioning units, Playstations and shopping malls. It convinces people that the big things don’t matter because, and here’s the killer, if we all did the big things (like those in the second list) then Industrial Civilization would become irrelevant; it would become powerless; it would fail.

And then we might have a chance of living in the future.

To read more about these, and other ideas the system would rather you didn’t know about, go to the A Matter Of Scale web site, and read the entire book for free.

2 thoughts on “Sweating The Big Stuff: Get Your Priorities Right”

  1. While I agree that we all must do things on list #2 (and I myself am doing most of them… don’t drive, don’t buy new plastic and minimize all waste in general, don’t have air conditioning, rarely fly, constantly turn off lights, etc.) most people will not start that way. They need a way in. Changing out lightbulbs can be a gateway to bigger changes if folks are constantly encouraged along the way and not made to feel discouraged.

    I try to strike a balance on my blog, Fake Plastic Fish, by standing up for the big changes while commending readers for the steps they are taking right now. I wouldn’t help anyone by being mean. Instead, I’d rather use myself as an example of what is possible.

    BTW, I’m not saying you’re being mean. I don’t know you. I ended up here via a link on Unsuitablog. But for myself, I think I catch more of the proverbial flies with honey.

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