XOTV WEEKLY: The Wicked Convenience of Climate Change
After a long battle for legitimacy and decades facing deniability on behalf of counter interest, climate change is generally being accepted as an undeniable fact. National governments have even declared a climate emergency. Still, the push to collectively embrace sustainability initiatives and implement wide-scale policy to successfully counter the climate crisis has been hindered by another wicked problem; our preference for convenience.
Numerous studies, reports and research prove that as humans we do what is easy.
The small changes and recommendations that need to be undertaken collectively to change human behavior to be more sustainable are relatively small in comparison to the threat we face, but the largest problem? They are relatively inconvenient.
It is a nuanced issue. There are multiple perspectives and angles for where the fault lies; with the individuals in the society or the society itself. The chicken or the egg. Ultimately, it is a circular argument and the only unarguable fact remains; without serious change on all levels, we sacrifice the future.
The climate battle is an arduous endeavor. It contradicts the standard of convenience that defines modern western experience. The economic expansion of the 1950s launched American capitalism into a golden era. With the war over, the great depression just a recent memory, and higher disposable incomes a new ambivalent take on prosperity was embraced: how can we make life easier?
This is what set the precedent for the standard of living around consumption and convenient consumerism we experience today.
“Western culture is built to a great extent on treating time as a resource that is maximized at the expense of natural resources. Energy is used to improve efficiency (e.g., to decrease time on any particular task and increase our ability to multitask) and expand time so that we can have activities occurring around the clock” wrote Carlene E Stephens in her book On Time: How America Has Learned to Live by the Clock.
We have fallen prey to the idea of convenience leading us on a path of freedom and self-cultivation. By making our time more available to use, we generally just use it to accumulate more money so we can buy more stuff that saves us time. We’ve been fooled into a circular trade resulting in the loss of our most valuable resource of all; the planet.
A 2009 Psychology and Global Climate Change report states “[T]he cost to one’s time can influence environmentally significant consumption... Increases in personal investment of time may be required to reduce our use of natural resources. These changes can be impractical for individuals to make on their own and may require a more general cultural shift in perceptions of the value of time and how we use it”.
Our endless pursuit of convenience birthed the consumerism that is a staple of American culture. Manufacturers hold the majority of responsibility but made us as consumers guilty by association. Our lifestyle changes and buying behaviors dictate the market. Without the pressure of political policy to enforce environmental commitments, far too often corporations, like Amazon, don’t follow through.
The practices that are necessary to save our existence are relatively plausible and adaptable but patience has become a dying art. The risk of climate change is more severe long term and assigned to future generations has made these dissociations possible.
As someone whose work relies on the ease of Amazon Prime and overnight shipping, who often drives to work to save precious time sleeping, and grew up in a household where sometimes just our daily survival was a struggle; I understand the necessity of this model over that of just pure leisure.
When families are so busy trying to figure out how to keep bills paid and food on the table, they are unable to undertake more sustainable practices on top of their daily workload. It becomes infeasible to expect all the individuals of a society to be able to adapt counter-convenient sustainability practices needed. This too is by design and transforms our preference for convenience into a systemic wicked problem.
Leaders of the past, like many today, made decisions that were adapted into a general response; worry about the problems of today and cast the long term out of mind. Time and time again the U.S had the opportunity to act as leaders in the climate battle, to do the right thing. Every time we failed to do so.
Only now, decades later and a plant on the brink of irreversible damage and almost 2 detrimental degrees warmer, do we are beginning to reckon with the fact we value a money-time saving model over our most valuable resource of all.
The long term repercussions of that line of thinking are not so distant. It is upon us and the clock is ticking.
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About the Author:
Jayla Hodge brings her experience as a writer, editor and consultant to her work as a storyteller. Jayla's work generally specializes in diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Previous experience includes working in communications and community outreach for the City of Fort Collins and serving as the Opinion Editor at The Rocky Mountain Collegian. Jayla also has experience studying policy, laws, and is passionate about social and racial justice.