Dealing with ignorance on sustainability

Ignorance is a curse.

Be an example, and make available the knowledge, then let the ignorant choose their own path.

Be an example, and make available the knowledge, then let the ignorant choose their own path.

As you begin to be sustainable you will come across those who question why you are doing it, some may even treat you as a freak.  I had such a conversation with an individual yesterday who appeared unable to appreciate how close humanity was to a tipping point where the systems civilisation depends upon would collapse like a house of cards.  I gave examples, I explained the science, but they failed to “get” what I was saying.  It was late, I was tired and slow, but when I used the bank account example they appeared to “get” it at last: to maintain good cash flow you have to keep money coming in each month to pay the bills, if you take too much money out than you are putting into the bank account the bank will hammer you.

In my view my debate with this person was a waste of time, they may have understood what I was saying, but they did not care, they would continue to tread an unsustainable path holding onto old beliefs that civilisation would always be there for them.

Choice is beautiful, it is the choice of this person to believe and do what they like, even if it means they follow the masses to oblivion.  Control is bad, thus I respect the choice of others rather than force my beliefs and actions upon them.  I only have two options when it comes to persuading others to be sustainable: one is to make knowledge available about sustainability via tools such as blogs; the second is to set an example by showing sustainability in practice.  Arguing with people is a form of control, a waste of time and energy better used on the two methods I have mentioned.


21 responses to “Dealing with ignorance on sustainability

  1. I like the analogy of the banks you used. I agree we can’t make anyone change their behaviors and shouldn’t try. I am reminded of something John Holt stated about education, (I’m paraphrasing) he said you can’t teach any thing to any one unless they want to learn it. What he meant was if the material matters to the student they will learn, but if it doesn’t have a correlation to their experiences you can lecture all you want, they still won’t learn it. All we can do is set the example on sustainability and hope people get it before it’s too late.

  2. I know what you mean- I actually have a somewhat memorized “sustainability speech” of my own that I deliver whenever someone decides to question me / give me grief about being a vegan!

  3. The environment, ecology, sustainability etc are all vague concepts to some; unless they are directly affected by it they’ll disregard it until it does affect them.

  4. It’s such a tough situation… Personally, I also prefer living as an example of (attempted) sustainability and eco-conciousness. I’m not perfect, but I take baby steps! I’m always willing to discuss the choices I make and why, but try very hard not to pontificate. The trouble comes when there are so many people who are unwilling to change… The National Parks movement in the US is a great example of when government control and intervention actually was, in my opinion, a really good idea for the environment. Whereas many people would have (and still would) love to tap into these rich landscapes for fuel or to divert water for a dam, or whatever, enough people stepped in and said no – you cannot do that. The question of control is a tricky one when there is more than one person, hell – more than one creature – involved. Two neighbors share a river – one wants clean drinking water, the other wants a place to dump his or her waste. Who is in the right? I would say the one who wants clean water, and you would have to somehow strong arm the other in some way into ceasing behavior that, while desired by that individual, does not benefit others. It’s what makes the environmentalist movement difficult…

  5. I don’t argue with people. I simply lead by example and hope my good example percolates through them much like osmosis. When I became a vegetarian as a young teenager I felt compelled to preach to everyone who would listen to me. But I rarely convinced anyone to change their ways. So by the time I got to high school I just quit preaching and attempting to convert people. It’s the same with environmentalism. I make an effort to live a sustainable life but sometimes forget to bring my travel mug. I’ve had preachy servers in certain cafes look at me like I just committed a huge sin by not remembering my mug. Well I may have made an error that time but someone being judgmental isn’t welcoming either. I tend to not go to that particular cafe much because the staff are unpleasant a lot of the time. They act better than you if you don’t look like an artsy hippy. Well that annoys me since I am artistic and into ‘hippy’ stuff but don’t dress in hemp clothes and Berkenstocks(sp.?). Sorry I did not mean to write all of that.

    • Hello Anya, your insightful comment is welcome and thanks for providing it. I at one time was into the preachy approach, learning the hard way that it was a failed strategy. Your approach by leading through example is the most effective way to show people the possibility of new ideas and behaviours, leaving them with the choice of adopting them or not. The alternative is to put out on the internet or in the media your ideas which people can consider. Your unpleasant experience at that cafe is the sort of experience people get when being preached to.

  6. I’m learning from you. Others are learning from you. Many of us are in process of raising public awareness and influencing others to make choices of sustainability and compassion. So . . . keep doing what you do. You are making a profound positive difference in the life of others. ~Gerean Pflug for “The Animal Spirits”

    PS ~ Shared a link to this post on our facebook page at:

    • Hi Gerean, thanks for your positive comment. Each individual is a ripple of positive change in the world by sharing knowledge and being an example to others.

  7. Ignorance is bliss, as, if one doesn’t think about how their actions affect not only their lives, but the lives of others, and not only humans, but other species and living things, no effort is required. It takes effort, forethought, to change anything.
    It’s a scary world, so many people live just on the surface of life, like a rolling, dried tumbleweed. They are pointy and dangerous. Really!
    I like knowing that there are others out there, who walk outside of their front doors and actually know that they’re taking in breath, hearing the sounds of life, and treading lightly. Nice post.
    Yes, you were wasting your time. We can never reason with a drunk, and that seems to be who we’re talking to in these cases.

  8. You are right… I often think I am wasting my breath, People have to wake up to events and the way the world is on their own.. We can only point out and show them the ‘Signs’ which are forever growing ever stronger day by day… They will be the ones who will be crying the hardest with their woe is me, what shall I do.. While we are already making our collective choices .. We each choose and will have to make some really hard choices very soon as this world change is happening… The Ripples are already reverberating, But there are still too many who think the Unthinkable will never happen… At least we are trying to prepare others in their ways of thinking and living…If we reach just One person and make them THINK! we have done our jobs Alex.. 🙂

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