So, despite yesterday's survey being quickly thrown together with little planning and some questions that may be difficult to understand, I found the feedback helpful. In particular:
I was happy to see that no-one answered "yes" to any of the "I just don't care" questions. These questions were based on nothing but my suspicious, or feelings as to why so many people continue living as if there is no problem. Of course I have no idea who answered the survey, and I guess those who would have answered "I don't care" are the most likely not to have answered at all, but seeing that for the most part people do at least care rules out general apathy.
Likewise, no one thought that global warming is a myth. From listening to radio programs and reading some web-sites, I get the impression that there are more people out there who trust their leader more than the science. I'm happy that at least of the few people that answered, everyone was intelligent enough to accept the scientific truth.
The replies to number 3 ( I am unsure about global-warming], but willing to risk-it? ) are a little frightening. 38% said that they are "willing to risk it". Of course I have no way to know why they are willing to risk it, perhaps they have nothing to put at risk... which is why I asked the next question about who has children that will be alive when it really starts to get bad. I was thinking that perhaps one reason some people don't care is that they don't have such a stake in the future. Out of those willing to risk it, only one said that they will have children alive then.
Everyone agreed that we consume too much, and a few people answered that they have not really thought about it too much. This is actually encouraging and discouraging. I would rather have seen more people answer that they didn'T think about it... if that is the case, we simply have to get them thinking about it... but if people already think about it, and still we consume as much as we do, what hope is there? (Granted, I don't know anything about the consumption habits of the people who do think about it)
Most people were aware of the rate at which the human population is growing. And most of them have spent some time thinking about what that means in regards to how much we consume. The reason I asked those, is that I feel that we often look to history and judge our own actions based on what people have gotten away with in the past. Fifty years ago people consumed a lot as well. I thought perhaps people are looking at their parents life, and feeling that they are not much different, or even worse, thinking that "at least now recycle, so things are getting better". Yeah, recycling is better than not, but one thing they are missing is the fact that there are billions more people now than there were then. Even recycling can't make up for that.
I'm really glad that no-one felt that technology was going to save us, but I was also really surprised, especially given the tech-minded nature of many blog readers. Too often I see people and companies promoting the latest greatest technology, failing to mention the environmental problems, but gushing about how this technology will do so much to help society. I think it is a very rare case where consuming more of a technology, or living an unsustainable lifestyle in the name of promoting and developing a technology will do more to save the planet than consuming less. I'm all for technologies that will help, but we still have to make sure that we are not doing more damage than good.
Three people thought that helpful technologies would be available in the next twenty years, but (due to a very poorly worded question) most people didn't realize the extent of biodiversity lost in the past twenty years. Couple that with the increase in population joining the consumer class between then and now, and twenty years out, and I am not surprised to see that many people have not thought about these are related. Basically, I feel that twenty years is too far away. So what if the technology is there, we will have already lost too much... main point we can't rely on techonlogy.
I was was both sad and happy to see that only one person thinks their children's life will be better than their own. Perhaps that one person has a horrible life. I have recently been even wondering if I can even justify having a child. While Tomoe and I both agree that we would like children, it seems selfish and counter-instinctive to bring a child into such a situation. Of course, adoption is always an option, but I don't have to think about that seriously for another couple years :)
28% say that they have faith in human's ingenuity and the free-market economy to handle such problems. I must admit. I am one of them.... BUT, and that's a big BUT, I mean this in the sense of "true" free-market. I don't believe we have a free-market now. As a conscientious consumer my choices are incredibly limited, and I don't believe it is because I am in a minority of people who want better choices (see the results of #30 and #31) Unfortunately, better choices are less abundant because companies are allowed to sell their goods below true-cost. If we were charged the true cost for a new car, suddenly public transportation looks a lot better, and more cities in the US would have it. If there were no mega-highways connecting the suburbs and the workplace, suddenly living in the city is a lot more attractive.
I was actually under the impression that a lot more people believe in good old capitalism to save the world. (I don't know my demographics... maybe not too many americans read my site). I also thought that one reason so many people might be against changing our behavior, is that they feel that the market economy always works out for the best. I'm glad I'm wrong.
But for those people who do believe so strongly in capitalism and human ingenuity as the saviour of the world, I wondered if they also believed that capitalism relies on government subsidies, or if they were confident enough in their religion that they could throw away the government funded crutches let true capitalism, where goods are priced according to their true cost, take over. That is why I asked if people believed that if we made a radical change now, and cut off oil and highway and factory farm subsidies, that we are so weak and helpless, so as to never be able to recover. Obviously there would be a period of discomfort, but do they think it is worth it... I guess this depends on if they have kids who will be alive 50 years from now.
I'm glad that people feel good that they recycle. They should. I had a suspicion though, that they recycle (which does some good) and then turn around and fly to Thailand for vacation (wipes out their recycling good). Of course, it is impossible not to fly in this day and age, so I randomly put the number of flights a year at three. I have to fly too... I never looked into taking a boat to Sweden in the fall, but I suspect a month long boat ride is not doing much to save the earth either. The point though is less that we should do away with airplanes, but more that we should think about it before we hop on a plane to the Caribbean for a weekend. If there is an alternative (say, taking a train to Hokkaido) Do it. If you have no choice, (the only way you can see your family is to fly home once a year) go for it. If you fly all the time for work, think about that work... is it really doing more good than damage?
Everyone was in agreement that the biodiversity of the rain-forests must be preserved, less people knew how the consumption of beef is contributing to their destruction, and, as I feared, even less people have cut back on their meat consumption despite the fact that they think we should save the rain-forests (of course it is not a rain-forest specific issue). Two people actually know the damage it does, but wont cut-back (I didn't say "stop") because it tastes too good.
This is one of the issues that gives me the most stress. It is so easy to do compared to say, quitting your job that promotes unsustainable lifestyles, or cutting down on the number of hours you spend flying (especially if you don't fly much already). Yet, despite how easy it is to decide to only eat meat once a week, people seem so reluctant to do it.
I was afraid that many people saw eating meat as natural (64%), and saw no problems with it. I don't argue. I am not saying that people should quit for animal rights (though I do feel that by now we should be civilized enough to treat animals with at-least the respect they used to receive). I am asking people to cut-back because it just is not possible to continue consuming meat at the same rate, or faster, as our ancestors used to. Why? Because we don't live in our ancestors world anymore there are several billion more of us now, and there will be several billion more by the end of the century. We can't compare ourselves to our grandparents. Any "common-sense" we have gleaned from them must be thrown out! The situation has changed, and our habits must change with it.
The most mind-boggling thing about this was that 100% of the people say they have thought about it, but only 64% saw a problem...
Finally, almost half of the people said they would like to do something, but don't know what to do. This is encouraging. Especially since all but one person said they they do have time to read the "Good Stuff" guide. (although I think the double negative phrasing of the question may have thrown some people off) . If you really feel that you would like to do something, please read the guide, and if it does not help, or you need some extra support (kind of a Consumers anonymous sponsor), write to me. I offer my services as a "personal trainer" in your effort to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Not that I know all that much more, but I have more time to devote to learning than most people have, and if you are ever unsure about something, or want to know if there is a better option, it doesn't hurt to get a second opinion. Heck, I would even go to your house and point our the major things I think can be improved, though I doubt that many people want me to come into their home and preach to them.
Something else that was helpful, was Paul's comment, about not reading books, such as the guide, but reading blogs, and that I should put that information in a blog. A while back, as I was reading the World Watch Institutes State of the World 2004. every page would have something I desperately wanted to share with the anyone who reads this blog. I feared though, that in the end, I would be pretty much copying and pasting from the PDf to my blog... that sounds a bit illeagal.
It did make me think however about how if we want to get a point across, breaking it up into bite sized pieces, and feeding it to the audience bit by bit a day at a time is probably a more effective way than simply recommending the book. I am going to see how I can work this into my own blog while remaining leagal.
I also chatted with another reader who mentioned that the missing variable that keeps me from understanding, is that people either don't try to learn, and therefore just don't know. If the case is that people just don't know, I would be sooo frikin happy! It implies that if the people knew, they would care. Teaching someone who doesn't know seems a lot easier than trying to get someone who already knows to care. It would relieve my stress so much, because there is a clear-cut answer that just needs a little action.
He also thought that perhaps people "know in their heads, but not in their hearts". This is a revelation for me. My case is exactly the opposite. For as long as I can remember, I "knew in my heart", meaning, my instincts told me that something isn't right... yet, knowing in my heart was not enough. When I started to research it though, I began to get more concrete information and facts. The more I began to "know in my head", the more difficult it became to live contradictory to logic. It just doesn't make sense.
The point being of course, that I am reminded that different people need to be approached in a different manner. While I need to "know in my head" before I do anything, some people need to "know in their hearts" before they take action. just something for me to think about... small, but very helpful.
I love the macro of the hydrangea blossom. Hydrangeas are one of my favorites.