Why sustainability is so hard for you and polluting so easy, from the movie Requiem For a Dream

April 2, 2023 by Joshua
in Addiction, Art, Awareness, Visualization

This post is part 4 in a series including

I’m continuing today the artistic representations of “What you fear losing when you stop an addiction is exactly what you’ll gain” or “You tell me what you fear losing when you stop polluting and I’ll tell you what you’ll gain” have simplified how I understand and express the emotional terrain people live in and have to navigate to act more sustainably.

I posted about how Martin Scorcese in Goodfellas effectively represented how we feel about our lives while polluting and how Trainspotting represented the choice between continuing versus stopping. Today I’ll use Requiem for a Dream to illustrate two things: how distorted the world looks when addicted, that ironically pushes us more into addiction.

How Uncaring the World Looks When Addicted

One of the movie’s characters becomes addicted to diet pills, which means meth. She was healthy. She just wanted to be more fit. She wanted to be more healthy and believed she was going in that direction. Why shouldn’t she believe the people who told her it would help? Why shouldn’t we?

In sustainability, scientists and educators mostly give people facts, numbers, and instruction for how to live more sustainably. Businesses and politicians promote ideas they say will help. Do they care about us or restoring Earth’s ability to sustain life? Or do they take advantage of our concerns to further their goals, with us and the environment bit players in their schemes? Are activists any different?

The scene below shows how they appear to someone addicted to the comfort, conveniences, easy travel, and so on that pollution enables. I probably look like that doctor to most people, though, unlike him, I’m trying to help people, not just rush them through.

I’m not sure how if other people promoting sustainability care about the people they want to change, but they don’t seem to. They seem to care about their interests or some abstract “environment,” but not the person they want to help. Come to think of it, writing now leads me to consider how much more I can connect with people addicted to what pollution brings.

If you blame governments and corporations, remember, the people in them are addicts like you and me. They see the world as she does, including you and all environmentalists, with some adjustment.

Want to change people? Here’s how their world feels, which you have to deal with:

How Distorted Life Becomes

You’d like to blame billionaires and politicians, but nobody was born polluting. Like you, they lost their bearing and couldn’t tell which way was up or down. Asking them to change is confusing. They feel their fix has become their only tether to stability, which it undermines, accelerating the death spiral that results from thinking the cause of a problem solves it.

The following illustrates how the world looks to someone who looks for solutions to our environmental problems in efficiency, technology without first changing our values, education by facts, “faith” in someone smarter or the next generation, or the usual vain hopes that exacerbate the problem they purport to help. If you think solar, wind, nuclear, or fusion are “clean,” “green,” or “renewable” or will help, here is how understanding that they lower Earth’s ability to sustain life as much as fossil fuels feels:

Buying More “Green” Products, Seeking Help From the Market, Silicon Valley, and Other Polluters

When we’re desperate, we’ll seek help anywhere. Anyone can take advantage of our neediness. The scene below shows us when we seek help from the market, Silicon Valley, or other polluters who have no idea of the problem but will satisfy their selfish desires, even feeling they are helping us.

The scene below shows us seeking help from the market, Silicon Valley, or others with their own agendas that use sustainability under the guise of being “clean,” “green,” “renewable,” or other positioning to help themselves at our expense.

They are ignorantly taking advantage of our neediness and vulnerability. Even the creepy guy in the scene below feels like he’s helping her. In satisfying his selfish desires and not understanding her, or even trying to, he is hurting himself, keeping himself from improving and actually connecting with her. He represents ecomodernists, marketers, politicians, and everyone who doesn’t try to understand the situation but mindlessly applies what he thinks will work.

She initiates the exchange with him. She feels she needs to to continue her and her boyfriend’s addiction, lying to herself it will help them exit it. It’s arguable whether it’s assault, rape, or what. Can she consent if she’s addicted? Is she an adult who can make her own choices? She’s lying to him. Can he consent or is she using him and is her misrepresentation making him unable to consent? All I can say is it’s more death spiral for everyone involved.

The Way Out

I wish I could suggest an easy way out of this quicksand quagmire swamp of emotion and physical descent. Nearly every interview I’ve been on I get asked “What’s one easy step someone could start with?”. The question misses the challenge this series of posts illustrates. There’s no easy first step out of addiction. Thinking there is misunderstands the problem and makes it harder to treat.

We have to start with seeing the problem from the perspective of the person with it, which today is nearly eight billion of us. We have to solve it while experiencing it.

For you, here, now, if you’ve watched and read this far, these are your and our challenges. I’m curious your thoughts.

Read my weekly newsletter

On initiative, leadership, the environment, and burpees

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time. Powered by ConvertKit

Leave a Reply

Sign up for my weekly newsletter