Save the planet, ditch the mindset

This week, Greta Thunberg visited London to speak to the Extinction Rebellion protesters who had been peacefully disrupting key sites in London in order to raise awareness of climate change. Greta has been doing an amazing job as a spokesperson for the climate change issue and her direct and straightforward speeches have been refreshing and invigorating to hear. Greta has been telling everyone that governments and corporations must start making major changes in order to save our planet, and ourselves, from the catastrophic effects of a warming planet.

This is all good stuff but Greta hasn't really talked about what I think is the biggest obstacle to any meaningful progress on climate change reduction and our mass conversion to a sustainable society; the current human mindset.

I've mentioned before in articles on Climate Change that the biggest obstacle to stopping climate change is a mental one, for every indication of success for a person in our civilised world is synonymous with having a big carbon footprint. Owning a big car, owning a big house, going on holidays abroad, owning a large dog, flying everywhere, owning lots of foreign goods, having many children, all these things are the trappings of a 'successful' life. In comparison, all the things that go with a sustainable lifestyle, cycling, second-hand clothes, mended clothes, local holidays, one child or less, no flying, all these things are synonymous with the life of a low-achiever, a loser. Greta therefore has the unenviable task of telling literally billions of people that they must live the life of a social failure, a bum, in order to hopefully save their planet.

This ownership/consumption mindset is deeply entrenched. It is ingrained into the vast majority of people in the developed world. It is constantly reinforced by advertising, films, television and newspapers. This is no surprise, as the people who own most of the media are hand-in-glove with the people selling these products and services, but it nevertheless creates a mass of people who have been programmed to think this way. They think this way so deeply that they can't even contemplate that it could be wrong.

I left the rat-race a decade ago to research and write and it's only now that I've reached the point where I no longer care about owning things, so I know how hard it is to shift that mindset, but I'm an unusual case. Most people never get the chance to sit back and think about their situation, or think whether the things that they're told are important are important. Greta Thunberg has an advantage over most of us, because she's got Asperger's syndrome, which has several effects, one of which is that she isn't as susceptible to being programmed with the consumer-commodity-status mindset. As a result, she is able to see that this mindset is not only delusional, it's downright mad.

To push this point home, here are a few images, with captions:


The above text may sound ridiculous but actually, that is what the above car is. It is nothing more than a mechanical device for transporting heavy objects. I'm fully aware that when most people look at the car above, they think of power and speed and wealth and success and sophistication and charisma and sex appeal but all those ideas have been shoved in our heads since we were born… and they're a delusion. It's just a metal box with an engine inside. No one who buys it will become a greater person. it's more likely that they'll get worse; their health with decline, their attitude will become more aggressive and their arrogance will go up.It's a massive box that farts evil gases and will rust and corrode and leak toxic chemicals for decades.

Here's another example:


Once again, the above text may sound silly, but it's entirely correct. A diamond ring is not even a truly valuable object. Diamonds are one of the most common gemstones in existence on our planet and their high cost of purchase has nothing to do with their inherent worth. Instead, they are priced highly because the diamond mining companies and dealers have done an impressive job of making everyone believe that they are valuable. The delusion is therefore multi-layered; not only are we made to believe that owning a hard crystalline rock is a wonderful thing, but we're also made to believe that owning one of the most common hard crystalline rocks on our planet is a wonderful thing.

Here's another example:


I think that's probably enough examples to make the idea clear. If we are to have any chance of stopping climate change, we need somehow to make most of the people on our planet realise that success in life has nothing to do with obtaining the above luxurious but often useless, overblown and downright unhealthy items; they have no intrinsic worth, their importance is illusory. As the Buddha once said, 'with our thoughts we make the world'. We need to change our thoughts to save our world.