Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Thought for the Day: Unsustainable = Addiction

Thanks to Tony M for the link to a WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) report which develops 4 alternative future scenarios for business, consumers, governments. Well worth checking out You can dowload a powerpoint for use in your own workshops too.

Buried in the blurb was this quote: "It is like an addiction – you realize on an intellectual level that your patterns of consumption are destructive, but you do not really alter your attitudes and actions."

I think that's an interesting framework. There's lots written about how to treat people with addictions.

One school of thought for instance (that had a big success with treating crack addicts and similar in the US) is that instead of targeting the negative you find, nurture and build positive achievements and qualities to be celebrated. Meaning things like personal talents, successful relationships, raising children, creative hobbies... You can start to imagine a system of positive social recognition for sides of our lives which are - well - about LIFE not shopping, driving, flying, owning and all those substitutes for fulfilment.

More powerful still is the ADDICT label. Just being seen as a CAR ADDICT. It sounds weak, undermines the status of an impressive motor, inclines you to question things?

I found it thought provoking anyway :J


Charles Frith said...

Adds a different dimension to the word Gearheads!

Phil said...

Thanks for the link, it's a good piece.

I like your thought about focussing upon the positive.

I wonder if recycling bins do that in terms of socialisation in the neighbourhood. When yours is the only house that doesn't put a recycling bin out for collection, your not going to feel that good. But when you put yours out, you feel part of something.

I'm doing a bit of work for a charity at the moment, trying to answer the question of whether people have a quota for doing good.

The problem with the quota idea seems to be be that it implies we have organised our behaviours into sections: being materialistic, being selfish, doing good, etc. Which sounds like one of those schools of sociology like social action theory which assume we always act rationally and consciously.

Which doesn't really ring true to me.

Alternatively there is more cynical view expressed in books like Conspicuous Compassion - wearing armbands, leaving out flowers for Diana etc were actually examples of people's underlying selfishness and materialism.

I think that theory falls down because it assumes that 'doing good' is a fad which will pass and be replaced by other materialistic behaviours. In the couple of years since that book was published armbands have came and went but the changes in attitudes and behaviour continue, suggesting more fundamnetal is going on.

Paradigm Change is a much over-used term but when you consider that there are more people giving more money to more charities than ever before; that there are more people recycling etc than before and more peopole involved in just about every category of ethical consumerism than before, it it is tempting to believe that old attitudes and behaviour are being replaced by new ones and that we are approaching a tipping point.

I suppose this assumes that there is a trickle down effect : green beliefs have been adopted by opinion-formers who are characteristically middle class and their views are permeating society through the media, education, government etc.