At university I learnt a term that has really stuck with me. Technocentrism. This is the believe that science and advances in technology are the solution for the environmental problems that we face.
- don’t worry about climate change and carry on with your regular day to day life because we invited renewable energy!
- don’t worry about coffee cups in the sea because we invented biodegradable cups!
- don’t worry about all the plastic in general because its recyclable!
The problem doesn’t lie with renewable energy or bio cups, it lies in the fact that these are not complete solutions. In both cases a shift in behaviour has to happen alongside by us humans. For the first one, we have to change to taking public transport more, cycling, reducing our consumption, increase in community projects that increase community resilience and reduce environmental impact such as bicycle kitchens, repair cafes, car pooling, reducing our energy consumption at home, transitioning to a plant based lifestyle. Technocentrism is attractive because it tells us “hey everything is ok, change is hard we know but I’m here to do the work so you don’t have to, carry on buying bags and bags of clothes that end up at the back of the wardrobe, carry on using your big car, carry on eating that pig because bacon tho right? Carry on as you were but now just buy renewable energy and an electric car and ping ping you are going to The Good Place!”
No! we have more responsibility, we the people reading right now from our devices are in a privilege position. We can’t just carry on as we were! Climate change is happening. And who is it going to impact the most (and is already doing so)? The most vulnerable. We have a responsibility. Because we have a big impact and we can make a big difference. So lets not have a technocentric approach, yes we will use technology but that is not the solution, our behaviour is the fundamental structural shift that is needed.
So back to biodegradable cups, yes they are a great invention compared to plastic but in certain situations. At the moment they are still part of the linear economy so if they were to be an aid (and not a solution) to the plastic in our oceans then the companies that produce and profit from them need to provide a service where they take them back and biodegrade them themselves.
Single use bio plastics needs to be the exception to the rule and not the rule itself. Examples were they would be a good solution would be: in hospitals where hygiene is a priority. I can’t really think of any more at the moment.
And my final pet peeve that I didn’t know about until recently. Don’t worry, it’s recyclable! Well yes and no. Full picture: recyclable ok.. but does it get recycled? Only about 9% of all plastics have been recycled. Plastic can only be recycled 3/4 times because its structural integrity is compromised so new plastic has to be added to make it better. So all plastic that has ever been made in these last 60 years still exists and will do so till eternity, now that a toxic relationship we don’t want to commit to! Jokes aside, we really don’t, plastic kills 1m sea birds and 100,000 marine animals EACH year. It absorbs harmful chemicals and then it bio accumulates in fish so then it’s accumulating in people that eat fish. And we are exporting plastic to countries such as India just because well we don’t want to deal with out rubbish.
It’s enough to make you cry over your moules frites. Scientists at Ghent University in Belgium recently calculated that shellfish lovers are eating up to 11,000 plastic fragments in their seafood each year. We absorb fewer than 1%, but they will still accumulate in the body over time. (The Guardian, 02/2017)
So in the following, days, weeks and months, take notice of your behaviours. Where does your money go to? Take note and see the spaces for change. Make a commitment to make a difference with changing your behaviours and then don’t overwhelm yourself, start taking small consistent steps. Soon you’ll look back and see how far you have come.