When we pollute, we think we act for the reasons in our minds that justify that behavior, but those reasons generally come after we choose, motivated to justify behavior we consider wrong. Most environmental analysis looks at the science of what pollutes more or less. Today I look at the mental processes and emotions behind choosing polluting behavior. Almost always pollution results in separating yourself from others---you don't want to pollute your world. Avoiding polluting connects you with others because you account for your effect on them. Acting sustainably and regeneratively build community and connection. I suggest that when you get this pattern and internalize it, you will stop trying to justify what you've been doing that pollutes and that those behaviors and results will create disgust in you. You'll prefer that disgust to the blissful ignorance it replaces.
I believe many people believe we live in an age of wonder and that people from any other time would envy us. I believe future generations will not look at our flying and pollution not with envy but with horror, as we look at slave holders and people who didn't resist Hitler. The sooner we get that into our thick skulls, the sooner we'll enjoy life with less craving, excuses and acting like spoiled brats. How many spoiled brats do you know where you think, I like how spoiled that person is, I'd like to be like them? But they don't know it, do they? So we don't know it either, spoiled brats that we are, telling ourselves we can't live without eating pizza in Napoli before we die while putting local farms out of business eating vegetables flown from wherever. Or could we live so future generations see us how we see Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, or Oskar Schindler?
People keep describing my environmental actions as praiseworthy. I think they do it to make it seem harder and less accessible to do themselves what they expect will be hard, deprivation, sacrifice, and not what they want to do. Making what I do sound good makes what they do normal. I prefer to see not polluting as normal and polluting as abnormal and worth changing. I feel that praising someone for not polluting is like praising someone for not kicking puppies or abusing their children. I suggest seeing not kicking puppies as normal and kicking them as abnormal. This episode explores this perspective.
A few words on growth and how people misunderstand it, especially economists. I start by talking about my window garden cherry tomato plants and how the inability of the insects eating them to regulate their growth and up destroying the plants and thereby their own population. Can we outdo bugs? I'm not sure. An educated friend showed surprise to me that his having four or five kids is one of the biggest effects he could have on the environment. How can we not get this? People don't seem to think in this area but instead parrot knee-jerk irrelevancies that distract from that if we don't control our population, nature will for us, which will be painful on a scale we've never faced. We can replace the cultural value of growth with enjoying what you have. When I learned to enjoy what I have more, growth started looking more like craving. I haven't seen craving make for a great life.