overcoming carbon-aholism

The bloke two seats away (there was a spare between us) leaned across, tapped his watch and said; “Its 5 o’clock, you can stop reading now.” I was reading a Report called Prosperity Without Growth, the economics was doing my head in, but it is also about the lifestyles we are addicted to. So there I was, on a plane for the 2nd of 4 times in a two day period, having just hosted a meeting about business and environmental sustainability. Oh to be free of compromises and hypocrisy.

Today I join thousands of other bloggers around the world in discussing Climate Change. www.blogactionday.org The encounter with my fellow passenger raises (at least) two interesting questions for me. What permission do we have to call each other on unsustainable practices? And how do we make judgements about our own hypocrisy?

What’s the relationship between climate change and so called work life balance? Both are related to healthy and sustainable living. Most people I know would say they struggle with so called work life balance. I think the real issue though is not about balance, it is about integrity. Integrity is about making sure the way we behave is aligned with what we say is important. If the people I love the most really are the most important thing, then my behaviour should demonstrate that; now – not in 10 years when I’ve managed to ‘free up’ some time. Too late then. So the problem is not that I work too much, it is that I haven’t cultivated a compelling life outside work.

The bloke in 21D might have thought I was overdoing it (with my heavy reading agenda on the plane while he sips his complementary red). I knew I had some activity planned for the rest of the week that tapped into other passions beside work. But I love that he called me on it. I hope desperately that society will shift in ways called for in the Prosperity Without Progress Report so that being addicted to work will become socially unacceptable, not as a regressive prohibition, but because it reflects an absence of other healthy stuff that cannot coexist with it. And it will be OK to dob in a workaholic.

The problem most of us have, I think, with changing our behaviour so we are part of the solution to damaging climate change, is that we are addicted to an unconstrained-carbon-lifestyle. We are carbon-aholics, without even knowing it, or caring. I think the solution to workaholism is not to coach ourselves to ‘work less’, it is to develop passions that compel us to stop work. In the same way, as carbon-aholics, we must change our view of the world so that we learn to appreciate, like and even love activity that is part of the solution.

For example, we need to learn to love buying local food so we do not perpetuate unsustainability of ‘food miles’, or we need to learn to love riding our bikes whenever possible, or we need to appreciate the discipline associated with turning appliances off, or we need to reset our idea of holidaying to exclude air travel.

We will move to a healthy and progressive carbon-constrained economy via action at all levels of society. As much as it is up to business (shifting the economy) and government (legislative incentive), it is also clearly up to each of us to do our little bit. I hope you can develop an appreciation of some behaviours and lifestyle options that provide incentive to give up some carbon.

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