A Green Mind

I woke up thinking how using the AC demands more electricity which primarily is sourced from coal thereby contributing to carbon emissions hastening climate change. But William McDonough and Michael Braungart’s book, “The Upcycle” claims that this is more of a design rather than an environmental problem. If the energy comes from a renewable source, then you don’t have to feel guilty about enjoying the comfort provided by an air-conditioned room.

Same thing with taking a long shower. Nothing wrong with that if the water is recycled.

And this applies to products which don’t necessarily have to end up as trash if they follow the cradle to cradle concept, a holistic and waste-free way of manufacturing.

While reading this fascinating book in the bus, I can’t help but shake my head and wonder how difficult it is to pocket the tiny bus ticket that people put more effort in stuffing it in corners and crannies. Don’t get me started on the supposed inspection of these bus tickets. We do know there’s a better system and is already existing at that. Another design flaw.

Would it make a difference if I confront them? I once did that in the jeepney when this full grown, obviously educated woman, just mindlessly threw the garbage on the floor and I told her, “That’s not the garbage bin.” She just looked at me innocently as if she didn’t do anything. And that’s what I end up doing when encountering such individuals. Stare at them spitefully and they stare back confused wondering what they did wrong.

Littering is bad and everybody knows it but we’re just too lazy to care, that is, if we care at all.

Speaking of trash, another frustration I have is with straws and plastics. When you say, “No straw/no plastic, please” vendors or servers sometimes find that amusing. I was told, “Remove the straw yourself.” So when I see my friends using straws, I judge them, a little. I observed that for most people, these things are not a big deal.

How about health? We know that fastfood, processed food, and too much meat is bad news. Bad for the environment, too. But it doesn’t matter. It’s what’s available, it’s cheap, and they taste so good, as well. I still eat fastfood sometimes because it’s that convenient. And real food is difficult to come buy these days. I was a pescatarian for a while wanting to be a vegetarian but options can be very limiting. Add to that the idea of micro plastics in my fish and pesticides in my veggies. Besides, according to “The Upcycle,” we should celebrate diversity and that includes diversity in diet. So right now, being a flexitarian is the best option for me.

I don’t know if it’s just a trend but more and more people are turning to organics, and healthy living, and being more mindful and more sustainable in their ways. This is the right thing to do but who am I to tell people how to live their lives. As zero waste advocate Lauren Singer puts it, what environmentalists can do is to show everyone that there are other better options.

I remember the quote from Inception: “An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow.” So I guess my goal, since it’s Environment Month and all, is to plant seeds of green ideas and hope that these would grow in the minds of people. Because the truth is (and this is not some kind of an alternative fact), environmentalism, this seemingly hopeless idealism, is for humanity’s survival.

Why do people do the things that they do?

Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” brilliantly explains factors that affect the decisions that we make. Below is a summary in a question and answer form.

  1. Why did I buy the more expensive pair of shoes? The automatic, fixed-action pattern made you think that higher price reflects higher quality.
  2. Why do people announce the good and bad news together? It could lessen the perception of how bad the bad news is. The contrast principle affects the way we see the difference between two things. This is also the reason why it’s easier to say yes to a lesser request.
  3. Why do we feel indebted to someone who gave something or did something for us? The rule of reciprocation says that we should try to repay what another person has provided us. The rule is overpowering, enforces uninvited debts, and can trigger unfair exchanges.
  4. Why can’t we get rid of initiation rights and why are military trainers always mean? These are not acts of sadism. These are acts of group survival that also promote cohesiveness. “Persons who go through a great deal of trouble or pain to attain something tend to value it more highly than persons who attain the same thing with a minimum effort (Elliot Aronson and Judson Mills).”
  5. Why is it easy to go with the flow or follow the crowd? We have the tendency to assume that an action is more correct if others are doing it. Especially in times of uncertainty, we rely on social proof. We normally look around at the actions of others for clues.
  6. Why are there a lot of sports fanatics? Why do we always feel “proud” as a Filipino when a fellow Pinoy wins something or does something great? “All things being equal, you root for your own sex, your own culture, your own locality… Whomever you root for represents you; and when he wins, you win (Isaac Asimov).” Likewise, positive association encourages us to name-drop or to claim that we know or we’re friends with a famous or successful person.
  7. Why do we willingly submit to authority? We are trained from birth that obedience to proper authority is right and disobedience is wrong. The mere command of a higher authority trumps apparent senselessness, harmfulness, injustice, or usual moral standards of a certain act because information from a recognized authority can provide us a valuable shortcut for deciding how to act in a situation.
  8. Why do we eat the “forbidden fruit”? With psychological reactance, we show strong tendency to react against restrictions on our freedoms and the tendency to want what has been banned.
  9. Why do scarce cookies taste better? This perception is an emotional arousal that flows from scarcity influences.
  10. Why do we depend on isolated piece of information even if it could lead us to stupid mistakes? For the sake of efficiency, we must sometimes retreat from the time-consuming, sophisticated, fully informed brand of decision making to a more automatic, primitive, single-feature type of responding.

Politics Classics in Introspection

History is a complete repeat of what was.

What’s happening to our country? What’s happening to the world? What’s happening to humanity? We usually ask these questions and history may hold the answers. Well in my case, reading “50 Politics Classics” by Tom Butler-Bowdon gave me a bit of understanding of the nuances of politics – a topic I’m not a big fan of. But according to Aristotle, man is by nature a political animal so I guess I have no escape.

Politics is all about power. In an ideal world, keeping it in the balance will result to utopia. But that is challenging and even impossible to achieve. Because we’re dealing with humans here. And humans are difficult to predict and to control. So we are left with constant power struggles. A continuous experimentation of some sort on what system could best work in the society.

For Fukuyama, liberal democracy, characterized by open society and equal rights, works best. I share Karl Marx and Friedrich Engel’s belief that a classless state where all means of production and property are shared among all citizens is ideal but knowing man’s selfish nature, this eventually would crumble. Thomas Hobbes also supposed that man is instinctively mean and so I don’t think Emma Goldman’s faith in anarchism, the philosophy of the sovereignty of the individual, will work. In this case, Hobbes putting forward that authoritarianism leading to order and physical protection at the expense of loss of freedom, makes sense.

The purpose of the state is to achieve the happiness and elevation of its citizens (Aristotle, “Politics”). Democratic Philippines haven’t quite achieved that just yet. But let’s not put all the blame on the government. The price we pay for living in freedom is the expectation of personal responsibility as stated by Karl Popper. Zakaria said that democracy contribute to long-term stability and yet we remain poor. Thanks to failed political institutions ran by corrupt politicians.

The quest for an ideal state constantly lead to roadblocks and now I understand how totalitarian movements rise. Hannah Arendt explains that they get their power from a claim to be the expressions of “inevitable” forces of nature or history. Compared to these forces, the individual life means little, and so is dispensable. Sounds a bit like President Duterte’s war on drugs, isn’t it?

Solzhenitsyn, who wrote, “The Gulag Archipelago,” an account of the horror of Stalin’s regime, state that all the evil of the twentieth century is possible everywhere on earth. But if it’s any consolation, totalitarianism tends to be short-lived.

Tyranny results to revolutions but despite the best intentions, most revolutions simply substitute one ruling class for another (George Orwell, “Animal Farm”). And in the words of Machiavelli, whatever form of government a state chooses, it always seems to become corrupted given enough time. Because power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely (Lord Acton, “Essays on Freedom and Power”).

The political, economic, and moral struggles throughout history continue to the present day. The battle cry of Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King for equality and justice would have to go on in the today’s fight against racism and discrimination.

Women empowerment is on the rise but somehow we’re still stuck in the backward notion that women should spend their time looking for love instead of gaining the impact that their abilities should award them (Mary Wollstonecraft, “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman”).

In “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies,” Naomi Klein said that we are citizens, not consumers. And yet to feed our appetite to consume, sweatshops abound in several countries and according to Upton Sinclair, this is a “passing stage” which any industrializing country goes through.

Indeed, history is a complete repeat of what was. Same issues. Same struggles. Same state. We try to be better. We fail. We try and then fail again, committing the same mistakes. Ultimately, it is in trying that gives meaning and purpose to life. And this should give us the courage to continue on.

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