A FEW MONTHS AGO at a gathering of activist friends someone asked, “If our world is really looking down the barrel of environmental catastrophe, how do I live my life right now?”
The question stuck with me for a few reasons. The first is that it’s the world, not our world. The notion that the world belongs to us—instead of us belonging to the world—is a good part of the problem.
The second is that this is pretty much the only question that’s asked in mainstream media (and even among some environmentalists) about the state of the world and our response to it. The phrase “green living” brings up 7,250,000 Google hits, or more than Mick Jagger and Keith Richards combined (or, to look at it another way, more than a thousand times more than the crucial environmental philosophers John A. Livingston and Neil Evernden combined). If you click on the websites that come up, you find just what you’d expect, stuff like “The Green Guide: Shop, Save, Conserve,” “Personal Solutions for All of Us,” and “Tissue Paper Guide for Consumers.”
The third and most important reason the question stuck with me is that it’s precisely the wrong question. By looking at how it’s the wrong question, we can start looking for some of the right questions. This is terribly important, because coming up with right answers to wrong questions isn’t particularly helpful. More…