I’m As Guilty As The Next Person

apathy towards environmental issues

I often find myself getting irritated by the lack of care shown by most people when it comes to environmental issues but just yesterday I realised how I am just as bad in some ways. But before you think I’ve lost the plot and stopped being green, let me tell you that my personal lack of care was on a completely different subject.

I get emails from 38 Degrees on a very regular basis asking me to sign petitions to highlight important issues such as badger culls, healthy school dinners and, of course, the environment, but yesterday’s email had me seeking out the delete button as soon as I opened it and this got me thinking.

You see, the email was all about Jeremy Hunt and NHS privatisation and because I almost never have to rely on the NHS for anything, I just don’t have strong views on it. I can’t see any direct impact of privatisation on my present life which is why I am so apathetic to it.

But the whole subject of NHS privatisation is clearly of great importance to many people much like environmental change is to me so I have to ask why I couldn’t even bring myself to sign a petition to show my support.

#1 Comes First

I guess one of the biggest problems facing any cause is getting people engaged and enthusiastic about it but this is often hard to achieve when people are, by their very nature, most concerned about the things that directly impact their lives.

Much like I can’t see how changes to the NHS will impact my life in any major way, I imagine it is very hard for people to see the impact(s) of climate change on their lives and, while this is the case, there is little chance of it becoming a widely engaging subject.

Just think about any political election; people vote based on the policies of various candidates/parties and how those policies will impact their lives and I’d imagine that if you were to list things that are more important to the majority than climate change, you’d see a long list including:

  1. economic growth and job creation
  2. immigration
  3. healthcare
  4. police
  5. tax
  6. foreigh affairs
  7. inflation and the cost of living
  8. education
  9. foreign aid
  10. affordable housing
  11. public transport
  12. living standards
  13. pensions and elderly care

If I look down that list then it’s actually quite difficult to identify any issues that directly affect my life; I enjoy a relatively comfortable existence and I don’t feel a huge desire to be filthy rich – I’d prefer a much fairer society where the gap between the rich and poor is smaller – and I wonder whether it is partly this indifference to traditional matters that pushes me towards environmental causes.

My reaction to that NHS email has made me more aware of how other people react to the issues of climate change. Going forward I will attempt to curb my judgemental side which often rears its ugly head when I converse with people who are environmentally unconcerned – I might now better understand that they probably have their own priorities and it just so happens that climate change is not one of them.

But it does beg the question: if, by general consensus, climate change sits well down the list of society’s problems, how can we hope that real action will be taken to combat it? I mean, politicians from the major parties are hardly likely to put green issues top of their manifestos when the public are so unconcerned about it.

Or are governments around the world sensible enough to realise the impact climate change could have on their respective populations – can they be trusted to tackle such an important issue?

What do you think on the matter – do you ever turn a blind eye when it comes to issues that others might consider important and if you do, what might persuade you to join the campaign/debate?

Leave a comment below and let’s get some ideas out there.

(I partly write this because at a talk I gave last Friday, only 6 people showed up out of thousands of students who were all emailed about the event – it seems even the young aren’t that bothered.)

Steve (152 Posts)

I am chief writer and editor on Green Steve. Blogging since 2011, I like to delve into a wide number of topics to help people reduce their carbon footprint. You should follow me on Twitter here. And add me to your Google+ circles here.

4 Responses to “I’m As Guilty As The Next Person”

  1. February 28, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    I don’t know what the answer is. I think you have commented before that people will only really start to take notice, and think about it when it starts directly impacting on their own lives. And even then it is hard to make the connection between doing your recycling, or switching off your lights, and your house being flooded.
    It just scares me that by the people make the connection, and are forced to act, it will all be too little, too late.

    • March 1, 2013 at 2:36 PM

      Maybe the key then is to find out what people are most concerned about and link the green slant to that? Obviously money saving is one issue that affects most people so your blog is certainly a good way to connect on that level but there is surely more to it than just money? It amazes me that a million people can march on the streets against the war in Iraq and yet only a small group turned out for Hugh’s Fish Fight march to the Houses of Parliament. I’ll get my thinking cap on…

  2. March 24, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    You are not alone. I think we are all guilty of not doing what we could in one way or another. Life is full of so many wrongs that it has become normal to just say, “that’s awful” but not act upon it or participate in an improvement. I think we click these buttons when we are sincerely passionate about something or if like you said, if it has directly affects us or family member etc. Take my local council for instance, they are fining people for not recycling. I can understand why they’re doing this because people are probably not responding enough but Is this the way to prove importance of something, by force? I think if people understand that helping one person can help another we may have more hope of people genuinely getting involved in causes that don’t always effect them but benefit everyone in the long term. Easier said than done though. Thanks for sharing and being honest.

    • March 24, 2013 at 3:05 PM

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment Loretta. I don’t quite know what the answer is but I think you’re correct about there being so many wrongs to try and right. This may lead most people to simply shy away from taking action due to a feeling of being overwhelmed. This is why governments have to take action on our behalf but it has to be the right action.

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