I was amazed while watching this video (hat tip to Sea Notes), hinging on his every word. I thought Chris Jordan was an interesting and passionate speaker. Together with his imagery and explanation, he wove a fascinating visual analysis of American culture. There are many analogies to what we have been talking about lately on Deep Sea News and on the environmental/science blogosphere as a whole. There are many symptoms to the problem and it is all too easy to get hung up on the details of each symptom. Craig’s post on the hard hitting table of species declines really drove home a message. We hear about tuna declines, whale declines, cod fishery collapses often in isolation. See that table puts it into perspective. It keeps us focused on the larger issue. Its not climate change, overfishing, eutrophication, habitat degradation or any other human action. It is the synergistic effect of all the combined assaults on our surroundings for short-term and often short-sided, gains.
There is another human component though. There is an excess of exploitation of cultures. This is one that Chris Jordan would be hard pressed to put in visual metaphor. A culture so disconnected to others that we don’t necessarily fail to see the effects of our daily choices, we merely don’t acknowledge how our actions could even affect those cultures. How could one even begin to fathom the chain of events our consumer choices or daily actions. Edward Lorenz termed it the “butterfly effect“. The flap of the wing in Tokyo sets off a chain of events that escalates into a Tornado that ravages Kansas. Perhaps intuitively far-fetched, the analogy can be stretched to the personal choices that we make each day.
But the larger question is how do we change? Its hard. I’ll be the first to admit that. I am certainly not perfect as are no one reading this. I’m glad I quit smoking after 8 years of being addicted. I’m glad I no longer do drugs, alcohol excepted of course. I’m glad I stay in fairly good shape. I’m proud to never drive my car. Those are some of the little steps I’ve personally taken. But I have a far ways to go. We all do. But each step is an improvement in our own lives. Each step multiplied by thousands or millions becomes a rolling thunder. “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” – John Donne, Meditation XVII
Do we want to change our behaviors, not just as consumers but as citizens of this world? Can we recognize the implications of our consumer actions? It is one thing to donate money to charity for a worthy project, but when we make daily choices that affect the lives and livelihood of others that we will never meet, nor never see or know of their existence, what good is a little spare change? What are your thoughts on our culture of excess? Can we change our collective behavior, do we even want to? There is no right answer. There is no one solution. Consider this an open thread to discuss excess.