Monday, July 14, 2008

Response from A Channel

As promised, and it has been cleared with the "Virtuous Consumer". I don't agree with everything she says, but I understand her position. I've told her so.

This is the original text; I have just made a couple changes to formatting for aesthetic purposes.

Hi Brett,

Your letter to A Channel was forwarded to me so I hope you don't mind me taking this opportunity to respond.

You might be surprised to know that you and I share similar views -- though I tend to come at it from a different angle.

Like you, I agree that our incredible over-consumption and depletion of resources is obscene and the horrifying reality is that those in the world least responsible for climate change will be the most negatively impacted by it. And before I conceived of writing The Virtuous Consumer, I struggled long and hard with a sense of total despair about where our planet was headed -- and taking me and my family with it. However, I came to the conclusion that simmering in despair and guilt was leaving me paralyzed and ill-equipped to take steps that might improve our plight -- or at the very least improve my family's and community's health in the short-term. I realized that the more I educated myself about what I COULD do -- alter my family's eating habits, avoid plastics that weren't recyclable or contained toxic chemicals, drive less and bike more, source my family's power from a green power provider, open windows and turn off the AC, refuse to purchase from sweatshops, avoid hormone-disrupting chemicals in plastics and personal care product, the list goes on and on -- the more empowered I felt. I also became aware that the more I did, the more I inspired those around me to take positive steps themselves.

Thus The Virtuous Consumer was created -- a tongue-in-cheek title aimed at an audience that is looking for answers to questions they've only just begun to ask. Of course, consumption isn't necessarily "virtuous" -- however, unless we move ourselves off the grid, grow our own food, generate our own power, etc. etc., we consume. The Virtuous Consumer guides people through making choices that are better. There is no black and white in the environmental world -- as we've seen with various one-size-fits-all "solutions" to environmental crises: ethanol, wind power, compostable plastics... However, there are better -- dare I say more virtuous -- consumer choices that absolutely can generate powerful change.

You and I both know that purchasing a bamboo cutting board over a plastic one (for example) isn't going to stop climate change in its tracks. However, by talking to a wide audience about the bamboo cutting board, I might get people thinking about what plastic is made from. It might get them thinking about deforestation for wood products. It might get them thinking about how far our goods have to travel (emitting greenhouse gases the whole way) to get to us. In short, it might get them thinking about the impact EVERY purchase we make has on the planet -- and take steps to reduce that negative impact.

I'm not going to get a Hummer driver to start taking public transit any time soon. However, I might be able to convince them to drive in a more fuel-efficient manner. I might get them to consider carpooling. I might get them to consider a hybrid or biking one day a week.

And there's no question that these changes can add up significantly when enough people undertake them. So I hope you'll consider that, while you're clearly farther along the trajectory than many, what I'm doing is nudging people's farther along the path. I often talk about buying second-hand. I often talk about purchasing fair-trade. And I frequently talk about buying less by citing stats that show how our increased consumption isn't paving a path to nirvana, but to increased debt and depression.

I appreciate the broader audience that the A Channel allows me to reach with my segment. I hope you'll continue to urge broadcasters and journalists to present news that highlights the severity of the climate change crisis. But I hope you'll also consider this: You have to meet people where they are...then take them where you want them to go.

Kind regards,
Leslie Garrett

No comments: