2 degrees more (IPCC), total disappearance of the sea ice and 250 million climate refugees expected by 2050 (UN), multiplication of natural disasters that have already increased by 40% since 2000 … Global warming is proving to be the great challenge of the 21st century. However, faced with the lack of concrete measures at the international level, eco-citizens may feel abandoned and doubt their ability to make a difference. Find out why, more than ever, we must get involved individually for the environment.
Uncivil, irresponsible, disrespectful, unconscious… There is no shortage of terms to define a polluter. Citizens are the first to be targeted by these devaluing adjectives. What about the biggest polluters, the industrialists? While the collective measures of the biggest polluters are often delayed, citizens are regularly incriminated for their daily behavior and are pushed to act at their level. But are our efforts in vain?
Environment: Putting an end to guilt-tripping
Recently, the media Brut shared the very interesting point of view of Sebastien Bohler and his cognitive explanation of our self-destructive behavior. The doctor in neurosciences evoked the striatium, a brain area that would push us to destroy our environment. The striatum sends us dopamine, the molecule that makes us feel pleasure when we achieve basic goals. These goals are the result of our primary needs such as eating, sleeping or the feeling of belonging and social recognition. Today these needs are more and more easily fulfilled “industrially”. Social networks, for example, are a quick way to feel part of a community and to gauge its popularity. The problem? The striatum has no brakes, it has an unlimited appetite for “satisfaction”. It pushes us to produce more and more, no matter if this race to innovation turns out to be destructive for our planet.
Is the extinction of the human species a foregone conclusion?
However, there are ways to counter this vicious circle and make it virtuous. The solution? Change the way we think. In other words, it consists in valuing other characteristics and changing our perception of the factors that we qualify as quality and from which we evaluate the “success” of an individual. For example, one of the most shared standards is a person’s popularity. A dimension quantifiable by the number of acquaintances and especially the prestige of the latter. The number of followers on social networks is also a quantitative way to be perceived as popular. Another norm correlated to success in our societies is money or rather materiality: the more possessions one has, the more one is perceived as successful by others.
“If the social norm values sobriety, altruism, sharing, then the striatum will give us pleasure when we incorporate these values into our habits. But for this to become a social norm, the individuals who embody these values the most must be considered as the leaders of our societies”Sébastien Böhler
To change habits, a complicated and long task but far from being impossible. The proven plasticity of the striatum, that is, its ability to adapt to new messages that it perceives as beneficial to us, further fuels the hope of a change in our value systems. Recently, there is a growing trend and attraction for eco-responsible practices. Multiplication of organic labels, initiatives of communities for selective sorting and recycling, … “A basic trend”, according to Maxime André, of the Foundation for Nature and Man and perhaps the premises of this change.
According to Sébastien Böhler; giving is, contrary to the accumulation of goods, a source of unlimited pleasure: “The pleasure we have in giving is the only pleasure that does not dull, that does not diminish as we repeat it“. A change in our value system would therefore be beneficial to our environment but also to our own consciousness.
We remain the first actors in the fight against climate change and protect the environment
“It’s too late anyway, I won’t be able to change anything by myself”. The pessimistic and discouraging view that one takes as an eco-citizen is perfectly understandable. However, we must reject the idea that individual action is useless. However isolated it may be, it is reassuring to gain perspective during moments of doubt.
“Individual eco-gestures are the first steps to take to join a collective movement, that of citizens committed to the environment”Julien Vidal
Julien Vidal, author of Ça commence par moi; has taken the gamble of adopting 365 eco-gestures for a year in order to demonstrate the extent of our individual power to change the world. Optimistic about a possible collective awareness, Julien Vidal believes that even if our actions may seem isolated or even futile, we must be aware of the collective movement to which we belong on a global scale.
Julien Vidal can be wrongly perceived as a moralizer; but he pushes us to think about our behavior, our actions and their impact on the planet. His doctrine “Let’s be the change we want to see in the world” illustrates his thinking that we are consumers. It is up to us to make choices consistent with the future we want. Thinking about our purchases; putting them in perspective with the consequences of their production and to whom the benefits go; it may seem daunting and too constraining. But the positive consequences are already visible.
More and more, consumers are aware of the consequences of their choices and the scope of these choices for large groups and multinationals. Carrefour has decided to abandon plastic packaging for its products, EDF offers e.quilibre, a free tool to control its energy consumption, H&M encourages its customers to bring back their unwanted clothes for recycling… Brands have had to adapt to new consumer expectations. More transparency and traceability of products; more commitment to the environment, no matter the brand, it will always depend on its customers. It’s up to us to support brands and initiatives that defend a common thought with ours; not turned to the always more but to the always better.