Moving From Micro to Macro
“Anytime you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is raise your standards.” — Tony Robbins
We are fortunate to be alive during a very interesting period in time.
Somewhere buried in the endless barrage of fake news is a very real sentiment, shared by any scientist who is worth his or her weight, that our only home, Earth, is rapidly approaching an environmental crossroads of epic proportions.
A crossroads that will force human kind to move in one of two very different directions.
With the rapid expansion of knowledge and application of new technologies, we could still set the course straight towards an automated future filled with abundance – something resembling utopian societies of lore.
Alternatively, the possibility exists that a Mad-Maxian dystopia could also prevail.
The only certainty being that monumental change will occur — what type of change really depends on the actions we as a world decide to take, starting today.
But unless you just Demolition Man’d your way out of a time capsule, I’m sure this isn’t news to you.
What may be interesting, however, is how have we as a species have allowed ourselves to fall into to this dilemma, and how the individual choices we continue to make on a micro-economic level will undoubtedly have large scale macro-economic influence.
Ultimately, our environment has been and will be shaped by the aggregation of our choices. In most countries, and especially in America, this can usually be distilled down to how we choose to spend our hard earned money.
If I learned one thing during my time in marketing, it was that people will spend money to satisfy an urgent need or a burning desire, or rather, all spending can be thought of as being influenced by either inspiration or desperation.
Living in the context of a capitalist system, it is logical that markets have sprung up to serve these wants and needs, and as economies of scale offer the best opportunity for sustainable profit, it also makes sense that large scale industrial operations – which exist to bring efficiency to the marketplace – have become the status quo.
The problem I’m addressing isn’t inherent to capitalism, or even industry, but rather how our society has agreed (explicitly or tacitly) to implement industrial solutions.
One alarmingly consistent and readily observable trend that I’ve noticed is that industrial processes and the products they output to millions of people everyday, have long been in direct conflict with health-minded and environmentally conscious behavior.
Historically speaking, the environmental impact and potential long term consequences of an industrial process have been considered to be of less social relevance than the economic profit itself.
This methodology prospered, and subsequently was never seriously contested, prior to and during the industrial revolution when we perceived resources to be virtually everlasting and lacked aggregate awareness of other arising inconvenient truths.
Needless to say, times have changed.
The fact is, this model of business is an artifact, a remnant of a past state. Quite frankly, it has to be.
You see, Earth acts as our host, which means that without it, our species would fail to exist – at least until Elon Musk is officially inaugurated as Martian President.
In the mean time, we can choose to operate as a symbiont, and act as a steward of the land or we can choose to operate as a parasite, allowing short-term greed to prevail, constantly mortgaging the health of the planet and the future of our civilization.
Unrealistic analogy, you say? If incredulity is your leading emotion I strongly encourage you to start with Leonardo DiCaprio’s Before the Flood, and then do some digging on your own to see just how far down the rabbit hole goes.
Wait, but Why?
The reason, I theorize, we are currently in this predicament has to do with our evolutionary make up.
Unfortunately for our species, our survival instincts have not evolved at the same rate as industry and technology. In fact, evolution is a process that is shaped over thousands, if not millions of years.
For the majority of our existence as Homo sapiens, we have lived and thrived in small tribal organizations. The social, sexual, and survival decisions of our ancestors did not affect other tribes who were settled on a different continent. Our ancestors ate what they were able to grow, hunt, or gather on their own. They communicated and reproduced with others who existed only in close proximity.
The point being, our brains have evolved to consider how decisions that we make in our lives affect us on a micro-level.
Applicable to this day and age, think about ordering a hamburger from your favorite restaurant. You may be concerned with how much it costs, how it will taste, the ambiance of the restaurant, etc. Naturally, the focus of your thoughts remain almost entirely on you and your immediate environment.
And why wouldn’t it? That hamburger has been completely transformed from it’s original state, so much so that the global externalities required to bring it your dinner table might as well have taken place in a different dimension.
But because I feel the need to play Officer Buzzkill, it is my obligation to illuminate that the process of producing that hamburger, and many others just like it, requires large-scale confinement operations that act as animal prison camps, essentially force feeding grain to sick cattle that have been deprived of both extended movement and their naturally suited grass-based diet.
Hard as it may be to believe, the consumption of that hamburger essentially leaves a triad of devastation in it’s wake.
In addition to an obvious animal welfare impact and an individual health impact (assuming that the hamburger wasn’t grass-finished, which 97% of beef is not), there is an enormous environmental impact created by the copious amounts of methane released into the atmosphere (cow burps and farts produced by cattle), which is roughly 30 times more potent than carbon emissions.
Not to mention any deforestation that was required to clear space for the aforementioned confinement farms.
While dramatic, I promise you that this globalized scenario is not unique. For instance, anything powered by petroleum (which encompasses a lot of products), has a similarly deleterious effect.
We no longer have the luxury of making decisions that only effect a small number of humans, instead, the reality is that most of the decisions that we make on a daily basis end up having some sort of global significance.
The trillion dollar question then becomes, how can we help to change a society filled with individually focused perceptions into a society of global-minded awareness?
Think Globally, Act Locally
The good news is we all are capable of this evolution AND now have the resources at our disposable to create the necessary change.
It simply requires a shift in consciousness that can be brought about through consideration of our day to day actions, just maybe on a slightly deeper level than to what we had previously become accustomed.
It is my proposition that any change in awareness that is going to occur on an organizational or institutional level must first occur on the individual level.
At the end of the day, industry caters to consumer demand. So voting with your dollar is infinitely more powerful than voting with a ballot.
Everyone lives a different existence, and I don’t dare to tell you how to live your life, but there are tons of ways to create positive change, so implementation is going to differ from person to person based on individual preference.
Do some research, inform yourself on what’s taking place, then explore your environment to understand how your daily habits could potentially have global significance, and start by picking one thing that you can do better.
Here are the changes I‘ve been able to implement, just since this time one year ago:
- I sold my car and now get to work via bike & train. Since I live in an urban area, I’m also able to bike or use public transportation to accomplish most errands.
- I’ve given up eating beef & have cut my overall meat consumption in half.
- After watching Just Eat It, my wife & I have become much more conscious of food waste. Anything that makes it past our Jedi-like defenses, gets composted. Combined with recycling, it’s amazing how “light” our weekly garbage can has become.
- I’ve implemented solar power for all outdoor lighting needs.
This list is far from exhaustive, but rather baby steps into the domain of a more globally conscious lifestyle that I’ve been inspired to adopt.
Let Me Be Clear
After reading this post, it would be fair of you to ask if my life goal is to become the next CEO of Greenpeace. The answer is an astounding no! If anything, I view this post as one small piece of a much larger puzzle.
While I do believe that respecting the environment is an issue that warrants both our attention and consideration, it is the overarching concept of a healthy lifestyle design to which I subscribe. Anything that I feel roughly falls under the umbrella of that purpose will be fair game on the digital walls of which I scribble.
In my opinion, a healthy lifestyle runs parallel to an aware and educated populace as education and awareness are allies of truth and positive change. My soapbox about big industry and its effect on environmental degradation is one issue that I see as relevant to us in our lifetime as it remains a threat to those intent on living a sustained and healthy life.
Thanks for reading, and as always, I encourage any & all comments.