Why Should You Care, When There are Other Options Out There?

Dana Rassas, ELP 2013, Palestine

This blog is not directed at anyone, but I would like to encourage Americans to take a close look at it and read the underlying messages, even those who label themselves “green.”

It has always struck me that being a self-proclaimed environmentalist is a habit adopted by the rich. It shows by what food they prefer eating, the kind of cars they like to drive, and the carbon-emission calculations they enjoy doing.  However, when you bring the issue to the real world and the people who live it- mainly those who still get lectured about conservation and environmentalism- you can’t help but notice the hypocrisy.  A big majority of the world’s population doesn’t understand the environmental concepts and terminology used by the modern day “tree-huggers” in their science and international sustainable development papers.  Let me explain why I think the way we discuss this issue, has made it less relevant to the majority of the world, and at the same time, made those of us in the developing world think, why should we care, there are other options out there?

First, stop lecturing. End of discussion.  Developing countries practice some bad habits for sure.  Should we stop these habits? Yes, however we can’t stop them using the holier than thou attitude that gives a sublime message, “I am better than you, I know more than you, you should listen to what I say.”  The message the developed world is sending is “do as I say, not as I do, or as I did.”

Second, if you can’t help but lecture, the message that we (developing countries) should care for climate change, biodiversity, global climate change, GMOs, preservation of indigenous cultures, clear cutting timber, exporting toxic waste, recycling practicing, poaching wildlife, and other terminology is lost in translation. This terminology doesn’t apply to everyday life for an average citizen in Africa, or in South-East Asia, or any world with those same standards. There should be a better approach to making these terms applicable to everyday life.   It is like telling an American “Don’t drive your car,” and you expect him to actually listen!  Don’t just tell people to stop cutting timber, show them what will happen if they continue doing so without caution. Don’t tell people to use the 3R principle (reduce, reuse, recycle), without teaching how to do it effectively.

Third, cut down your own consumption to a level that you are uncomfortable with, in order to show empathy to the rest of the world, and to understand what they deal with on daily basis.  You have to realize that eating organic food and driving your Hybrid doesn’t count. The rest of the world will not understand or appreciate the fact that you are paying your way through environmental conservation, and not going through any hardship.  We, in the developing world, conserve water by not taking daily showers because we don’t have water.  We recycle everything we use because we don’t have the money to buy more.  We find creative ways to make anything we have reusable since again, we don’t have the money to go out and purchase everything we want that will make life easier.  We walk. We take the bus only when we can’t walk. We use plastic bags, but we rarely throw them out, because they could be our garbage bag, our storage bag, or used as a hanger in a closet.

In the end, the developed world has to improve their communication, truly humble themselves, and understand that in order to convince people to cut down on their use of natural resources, or stop the abuse of mother Earth, we all have to work as partners.  People have to realize that they (developed countries) created the problems, and we (developing countries) are paying for it. Therefore, they should play nicely and have a better attitude to what it means to be green. You don’t buy your way out of your responsibility, you admit your mistakes, work with your partners to fix them, and make sure that others don’t repeat the mistakes by suggesting alternative options, not by forcing it down their throats.