In this blog, I’m going to focus on changing my personal and household lifestyle habits – stuff I can actually do myself to lower my carbon footprint – and try to find the easy path.
My starting premise is this: We are creatures of habit and we will only change our habits if it’s easy.
Generally, us fickle lazy humans are only going to make lifestyle changes and be able to stick to those changes if it’s not too much trouble. Otherwise we stick it on the to-do list for later (one day…) or in the too-hard basket.
Global warming is real. Collectively and individually we need to change the way we live if we want to survive as a species with a decent quality of life for all. Changes need to happen in many different areas: energy production, industry, agriculture, commerce, government, the list goes on and on.
However, I’ve noticed that most people are reluctant to change the way they do things because regardless of what they think or believe about climate change, it’s all a bit too hard.
In my work as a teacher and writer, I have realised that the “converted” – the percentage of people who accept the direness of global warming and are actively and energetically doing stuff – is quite small (though growing) in Australia. I am often shocked at how many of my friends and colleagues show very little interest in any of it, even though stories about climate change fill our TV screen. The percentage of people who are in complete denial is also small, but I’m not going to waste any breath on them here. John Oliver Last Week Tonight and others do it much better.
By far the majority of Australians fall somewhere on the continuum in the middle. They acknowledge climate change is happening, but think it’s someone else’s problem, or so far in the future it doesn’t feel like a real threat, or is too hard to understand or get their heads around so it’s easier not to focus on it. They think that governments and councils should be taking care of it, which is true but only part of the solution. Or they think they should be doing something but it’s all a bit too hard to know where to start and they’re too busy anyway. Or they don’t want to be labelled, as we Aussies are good at doing to anyone who puts a different view. I don’t think most people really care where their electricity comes from, they just want the lights to go on when they press the switch. This is changing but slowly, as it requires a bit of time and effort and sometimes money, and people are busy and preoccupied with other things. And many are swayed more by rising bills than the Hazelwood fires.
Most of my friends and family, and the families of my students, sort their easily recyclable rubbish into their council wheelie bin. And they’ll drop off old clothes at the op shop. But that’s as far as it goes. A smaller group use canvas or other bags to do the supermarket shopping. Only a few have water tanks, or solar thermal hot water, or rooftop solar PVs. And even less recycle soft plastics or think about reducing consumption of packaging or anything else. And as to divesting or becoming activists or joining lobby groups – that’s a step too far.
But instead of getting discouraged and disheartened I decided to write this blog for all the “middle” Australians out there who might just need a nudge to do a little bit more.
In Australia, compared to many parts of the world, most of us have pretty comfortable lives and we’re a bit laid back and complacent. To many people, particularly those living in the major cities, climate change can seem abstract and academic, we acknowledge it’s happening and one day might affect us but in a sort of non-urgent way. Some of us are more worried and understand that we need to change the way we do things, but habits are so, so hard to break. And sometimes it’s hard to know what you can do or how to do it.
So I want to find the easy path – find new ways of doing things that reduce my use of fossil fuels, aren’t too onerous and are easy to stick to. I can’t sit by and do nothing while the planet heats up around me. And hopefully, I can give you a nudge to do something more too.