As we approach Earth Day this year, I’ve been thinking about our relationship with the earth. We often refer to the planet as “Mother Earth” due to its nurturing nature, which seems fairly appropriate. We all depend on the resources that it provides us, much as we depend on our mothers when we’re children. Ideally, we love and respect the earth as we do our mothers. But I see another parallel worth drawing. Once we have the means to do so, most of us feel a responsibility to look after and protect our mothers. So why is it so hard for us to do the same for our planet?
There are two reasons that come to mind: either we don’t know how, or we feel overwhelmed by the prospect. As for the former, I think that those of us that have the means and the platform to do so need to continue to spread awareness. Here at Driver’s, we do our best to spread awareness to customers in a variety of ways. We talk to our customers about why we choose products that aren’t grown with the use of chemical pesticides, hormones, or GMOs. We try to make it easy for customers to recycle and compost by providing educational signage above our waste receptacles. We hold educational events and seminars at the market on sustainability, and provide space for local environmental groups to meet. Organizations like ours are doing their best to spread awareness to those who may not have been exposed to it elsewhere.
But what about the people who know what they should be doing to help the environment, and still have a hard time doing it? After giving it some thought, my theory is that they just feel overwhelmed by the prospect of trying to save the world. Honestly, I can relate to that. I think we all can. At this point our environment is changing so quickly that the conversation has become less about prevention and more about adapting to climate change. And despite widespread scientific agreement on human activity being the cause of climate change, most governments have been unable to achieve policies or laws to curb the activities that are causing it. As an individual, it is easy to feel powerless in the face of such huge, systemic, even existential issues facing humanity.
There are, of course, a million things that we can do to help. That’s the other problem, I think – not just the weight of our environmental responsibility, but the scope of it. Where do we start? There’s a concept in retail called “the tyranny of choice.” It’s the phenomenon that occurs when a customer has so many choices in a given product category that they end up not buying anything at all. I think that people feel that way when it comes to the environment. It can actually be a paralyzing feeling, to have so many choices. So the question is, how do we eliminate the tyranny of choice when it comes to protecting the environment?
I don’t have any easy answers, but I do think it’s an important question to ask. So if you have the time to give it some thought and would like to offer any suggestions in the comments section, please feel free. My goal for Earth Day this year is to have an honest conversation about why we feel so overwhelmed, and what we can do to overcome that paralysis and start taking steps to protect our planet for future generations. In my opinion, to change our relationship with the earth will require a major shift in human behavior, both on an individual level and as a society. I believe that we are capable of that type of systemic change, but it won’t be easy and the solution will require individuals, communities, businesses and government agencies to work together. And the first step will be overcoming our fear, paralysis, and the tyranny of choice. What do you think?