I Am An Eco-Hypocrite. So?

As I write this I am sharing wings with more than five hundred passengers on the largest airplane in the world. And I am wondering, “Does my aim justify this kind of means?” Is it OK for me to fly more than fifteen hours on four planes so I will (maybe) contribute a bit to the global campaign to clean our planet of waste? Just to transport my ass in both directions will take 1000 l of kerosene (give or take a 100).

Nara Petrovič is a Mentor of Let’s Do It! World and one of the initiators of Let’s Do It! actions in Slovenia, which involved an impressive 14% of the entire population to clean up waste on the same day. Now, Slovenia is stepping on the path to Zero Waste.

Flight attendants look at me strangely when I ask them to take my plastic cup and fill it with water or juice (poured from a plastic bottle). I point out that I would like to keep the glass when they try to take it away. I do all this just after I’ve eaten lunch from twelve plastic containers and bags. I reject the cute little bag with a toothbrush, toothpaste and socks. I have four wooden “toothbrushes” with me, my feet do not need socks, especially on my way to the tropics.

The time passes faster with the predictable Hollywood distractions. I skip to European films, but they disappoint me. I open the game for learning foreign languages and I learn to count to twenty in Malay: satu, dua, tiga, empat, lima, enam, tuju, lapan, sembilan, sepuluh, sebelas, dua belas… Finally, I grab my computer and start typing this article while listening to classical music.

How to redirect the arrow?

Sitting in Airbus A380-800 means being in the very tip of the arrow of neoliberalism, which knows only one direction: farther, higher, faster. We are clearly a one-way society, and if someone decides to drive in the opposite direction even briefly, this causes confusion, congestion and disapproval. From behind the polite masks on people’s faces I hear the voice: “Come on! You are in a one-way street! Behave accordingly!” In the case of flight attendants the mask has to be uncompromisingly polite.

The tip of the arrow is heavy, sharp, relentless. The momentum of this arrow is causing ecological havoc on Earth, but I can’t divert the flight of the arrow while sitting in the tip. To change the direction of the arrow’s flight I have to go back to the end of it where the fletchings are.

At the end of the arrow are people like you and me: consumers, taxpayers, voters, employees, pensioners… These terms can be associated with humiliation and dehumanization, but on the other hand they can be associated with self-empowerment if we understand and use them appropriately. If we are able to focus on the little bit of good in our efforts, we can build on it and create something even better instead of punishing every inconsistency with cynical labels, such as “hypocrite”.

At the end of the arrow are organizations and institutions that constantly scan the future, as far into the future as they can see, and try to navigate the society in the best possible way. But the fletchings are skewed and disproportionate, while the tip of the arrow is getting more and more massive and alienated from the fletchings. That’s why the arrow is twirling uncontrollably into an unknown future, and we are even excited about the adrenaline flight! Institutions shouldn’t be punished and blamed either; in many cases they are managing the best they can.

If we do not try, we can not know

I am in Kuching, Malaysia at the Leaders Academy for the World Cleanup 2018 campaign. I would describe the Academy thus: we are swiftly assembling a giant arrow, well balanced and sharpened, with the best possible fletchings. On September 15, 2018, we aim to shoot this arrow into the ass of neoliberalism and cause a bit of pain, hoping that this new arrow will (at least temporarily) change and stabilize the direction of its flight.

We would be arrogant if we believed that we can radically change the entire global economic and political reality with one single cleanup campaign, no matter how huge, even if we manage to achieve our goal of involving 380 million people. On the other hand, a well-coordinated global campaign opens up a number of options that can (and will) be taken up and built upon in the years to come. There are innumerable uncertainties on the way, but if we do not try, we can not know.

This campaign has to be global in order to change something globally. Then only will it be possible for communities to locally stop cleaning the waste, which came up in the first place due to allowances for economic giants, whom all of us, contributors in the economic activity, are supporting (willingly or unwillingly). We, fletchings on the arrow, are yielding to the economic giants, we are changing the rules of the game to suit them, and ultimately even paying for the damage that they have caused. If everybody is a hypocrite, then nobody is.

The new grows under the skin of the old

A new culture, based on a genuine harmony with nature and on humanism, will not begin when the old culture dies. This culture is already alive in many corners of the world and in various forms and awaits better conditions for flourishing. In order for the effects of a global cleanup campaign to be long lasting, groups around the world need to be ready to take the initiative when the window of opportunity opens, and set different norms and rules of the game to the ones we currently have.

I am aware that I am a hypocrite. I am aware that I can not get out of the airplane; that I can not change the direction of the flight; that I am trapped in the stream of one-way traffic; that I am producing more rubbish than I could clean in my entire life… and that’s exactly what gives me energy to try to improve and optimize at least in areas where I have the power of influence. I have to begin with myself, of course, then move to the wider environment and, as far as possible, to the global level – no matter how fake I actually feel.