Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why sustainability is shedding its hippie image.

In North America, sustainability, environmentalism or eco-friendliness are often falsely associated with hippies, poor hygiene and a love of peace. It’s only recently that it’s dawned on me, as I tried to defend my recent interests, that this does not apply all over the world. People in different countries and of different cultures do not associate the environment and its preservation with a skewed stereotype that is meant to put the majority of people off the idea entirely. So how is it that those things were associated to begin with? And why should we change this perception?

If you're not familiar with 'said perception' of a hippie and/or are looking for photo credit click here.

[hip-ee] noun
a person, especially of the late 1960s, who rejected established institutions and values and sought spontaneity, direct personal relations expressing love, and expanded consciousness, often expressed externally in the wearing of casual, folksy clothing and of beads, headbands, used garments, etc.
Thank you,

They may not all wear bellbottoms, experiment with hallucinogenics, refuse to wash their hair and rally in protest of the government but the baby boomers from the 60s and 70s are, for the most part, still around.
I have to pause here and reflect on this image… and how American it is, because to some, it seems like a global phenomenon. My parents, and all those related to me who were alive in the 1960s and 1970s were largely cut off from this phenomenon due to the fact that they were born behind the iron curtain. For this reason, I myself have never quite been able to understand, nor romanticize the notion of hippiness.. or hippihood?
Their purpose was the pleasure of living without the hardships of those who lived through the two World Wars and the Great Depression had to suffer through and maybe today isn't all they had imagined but its definitely different than yesterday.

Okay, so what does that have to do with the environment?

I wanted to bring up that idea of the original hippie, not to wake the one within you, but rather to contrast it with the incorrect stereotype of today. When I bring up the environment in conversation or vegetarianism or pollution or over-consumption, I notice a change in people’s perceptions. Like this whole time they had thought I was someone ‘normal’ and suddenly they’ve discovered I’m one of ‘those people’ who has lost the joy of riding in a car or eating steak: the tree-huggers.

These crazy kids came from here.

The more you disassociate the two, the hippie and the environmentalist, the more likely you are to realize that we're all in the same boat. I simply think that these perceptions are instilled in us for a reason: money and fear (and denial.) Okay 3 reasons, but denial and fear go hand-in-hand.
To put it simply, whenever there have been times of change, there have been those to resist it. The future is unknown to us and so we fear it. The present is frightening with scientists crunching numbers for when we'll destroy the planet and generations to come will suffer and yet we don't know what to do about it. Yet, there are some very powerful people who want to continue profiting from the way we are currently living. There's nothing wrong with profit (most of you know I went/go to business school) when all the externalities have to be accounted for (which right now is not the case.)

So where does that leave us?

Well that’s really up to you. Hippies and those conscientious about the environment do have something in common, and it’s not pants, hair nor drugs. It’s a revolution. But while one set of people took to the streets, protesting the system and arguing against war, the other set is going about it much more silently. Changing habits little-by-little, talking to family and friends, coming up with solutions to help one-another, getting the government involved, revolutions can come in many forms. So although there are similarities, there are also stark differences. Habits and years of them stand between where we are now and where we’d like to be (in terms of consumption, pollution, conservation, sustainability and other big scary issues that need tackling) but we need to start somewhere…

And that’s where this blog comes in.
(And the infinite resources of the internet. But “And that’s where this blog comes in” sounded catchier.)

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