OPINION: Cross-ideal collaboration on environmental issues

Plastic Pieces, with Drew Rogers

"THINK globally, Act locally", "reduce, reuse, recycle", "be the change you want to see".

They are catch phrases that we often throw around dinner tables, coffee shops and offices when we touch on environmental issues.

Why is it then we so often fail to really act upon them?

Are they just lazy ideals that we really don't understand that label us "eco-conscious" in social circles? Do we subscribe to those ideals only if they become the status quo? Or do we not really understand their meanings and implications?

For if we actually think about our waste and actions from a globally empathetic perspective, there are a sure lot of societal habits that become overwhelming and pretty daunting to break.

Plus we've all got individual issues that generally and not surprisingly take priority. It's human nature to prioritise ourselves and there is nothing wrong with that. But just as we then "choose" to look after ourselves, if we subscribe to environmental ideals then we should "choose" to act upon them. Seems easy enough, but what about when another's ideals oppose your own?

I had a situation like this occur a while ago at a local pub. We were enjoying an afternoon out watching a band, drinking out of schooner glasses until a friend brought me back a beer in a flimsy plastic cup.

As we left I scoured the pub for a recycling only to find none. Walking out the front gate with my empty cup in hand on my way to the nearest yellow bin I was stopped by the bouncer. To my surprise he told me that I couldn't leave the premises with the cup. I told him that I was just going to put it in the nearest recycling bin to which he replied along the lines of "I can't let you do that". In good nature I questioned his statement on the grounds of environmental beliefs for several minutes until I thought a compromise had been reached. He surely promised me he would put it into recycling for me. Nice one, thanks brother, good work!

That's exactly what I would have said if he didn't proceed to take the cup I had given him in trust of recycling and throw into the bin directly beside him. Slightly tipsy and wholly self-righteous, a torrent of recycling facts, myths, stats and anything I could pull from the depths flew at the bouncer until I realised what a pointless exercise it was. I felt demoralised for a moment until I quite quickly came to the realisation that far from trying to oppose or crush my ego, the bouncer just really had no awareness of the environmental consequences of our consumptive and wasteful habits.

We talked a bit more and although we disagreed, at that time the bouncer's "ideal" was to subscribe to his job description and not let me leave with a plastic cup, fair enough. Maybe I had gone about it the wrong way but in the end we shared a discussion that saw us both gain a bit of knowledge into another's beliefs.

A question should not be an opposition but merely a way of gathering information. The knowledge coming from questioning becomes a discussion.

A lack of awareness is no- one's fault, it is merely due to a lack of communication. With environmental issues we need "cross-ideal collaboration" with stakeholders instead of an "argument as war" narrative that we see with the government and environmentalists at the moment.

We should all stand up for what we believe in at all times whatever they are. No-one "knows" what's "right" for everyone though. Beliefs can change, accept difference. Maybe then we might be able to meet somewhere in the middle.

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