A friend of mine once told me, “My mom once told me that it should be easy to get people to care about the environment. She says, ‘all you have to do is throw the better party.’”
Now of course, that’s not necessarily all there is to it. But the more I thought about the words of this wise matriarch, the more they rang true. People may care about the environment, and they may care that the climate and the planet are going to hell in a handbasket, but they’re not going to show up to pitch in to save it unless a) it’s affecting them personally, by which time it’ll already be too late, b) it becomes part of our law to incorporate sustainable practices, or c) we make it a whole lot of fun.
There are a few of us who are affinitive to the cause through life experiences, interest in the sciences, schooling, or the way our parents raised us. We are the genesis of much needed change. We are the center point, the rock thrown into the pond that creates the ripple, and the epicenter of the earthquake. But when our ripples stop, we need to have the ability to bring others into the circle. What better way to do this then by throwing the better party?
Imagine: A lecturer standing at the front of a room of starched, white collared and white-faced aging old men with greying beards and sad eyes. He uses a laser pointer to coldly explain stats, charts, facts, and figures. He ends with the conclusion that the world will end unless we live more sustainably. As you look out at the window at his flashy red BMW, you can’t help but allow a bit of judgement to creep into your mind, as you wonder if he’s ever tried to live in an environmentally responsible way in his whole life. Probably not.
Now imagine: A gaggle of happy hands gathered in a garden at dusk. Muddy feet and sweaty brows coupled with smiles on every face as amicable chatter fills the air. A community of people, busy about their own small corner of the world, doing what they can, where they are. These folks are friendly and kind, and they do not judge you. They do not lecture you for your lifestyle. They show you the way, as you work together in a small, organic, sustainable community garden. You harvest food and gather on a blanket in the fading light, sharing stories and smiles, fresh food and good drink. The wisest among you share stories of how they have managed to create lifestyles that show respect for our planet, it’s people, and our shared future. You are inspired, rejuvenated, and energized.
Which would you rather attend? I know which I would. I volunteer at a local community garden, and that second scene is a familiar one for me on Thursday evenings. People don’t get inspired by doom and gloom, and the vast majority of people, in my experience, are only truly motivated to bring long-term change into their lives by things that create emotional connections in their brains. Facts and figures provide great support and reasoning for why should make changes, but behavioral change is hard, especially in adults.
Nothing motivates people like a party. So, let’s throw the better one, especially given what we compete against.
We compete with the easy, fast society of fast drinks, fast food, fast sex, fast cars, fast fashion, and the easy, sleepy, comfort of our television sets. These things are so easy, because they are ingrained into our culture, and provide false security: that everything is going to be ok. They put people to sleep and provide comfort from the stresses of everyday life. But these things don’t renew us, they don’t renew our world. They provide, at best, a fitful rest. I think that deep down, we know there’s something just a bit off about turning our brains off this way. We have to wake people up and compete with this.
There is such joy that comes from purposeful living, and such fulfillment that comes from learning to live a life that has a lower impact on the planet. Today, I choose to believe in the good in people, and that, if we throw the better party…people will come.