The Environmental Movement and Why It’s Not Working

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Earth - Environmental Movement

Ever since I signed up for Blog Action Day, 2007, I have been pondering over what I can do about it. There are now over 4000 blogs and sites signed up for this event. With all that attention I’ve been thinking it is my responsibility to put out some significant content on the topic. In spite of the possible broad interpretations of the topic of Environment which I mentioned in my initial post about the event, you and I both know what most of the entries will be like. They will either be essays warning we will all suffer for our environmental sins, or they will be cute little lists of things we can all do to save the world from destruction in “7 easy steps”. While I do not discount the importance or the validity of these approaches, I just don’t feel like I would do justice to this task if I chose that route. After all, the organizers of this event have given it the very dramatic and forceful name of Blog Action Day. It’s not “Group Blogging Day”, or “We Can Make a Difference Online Day”, or “Can’t we all Just Blog Along? Day”, it’s Blog Action Day, a title that deserves to have an exclamation mark punctuating it at the end. Writing one perfunctory post on the designated date just doesn’t seem very action oriented to me.

Then there is the issue of what my “angle” is on the topic. Being a designer, I have always been interested in the communication aspect of the environmental movement. Not only as an academic interest, but also on a practical level. Like most designers I’ve looked forward to the challenge of one day taking on the communication of an environmental message. This seems to be an ideal occasion to take action in that direction, but first I must define the problem.

All design ultimately involves the solving of some human problem. The core problem here is that of the various environmental issues, but the communication problem is to convey to the larger population that these issues exist, and then convince them to change their behaviour to bring about a solution. Easier said than done, obviously, because the Environmental Movement is not exactly a new pup, yet all that communication doesn’t seem to have changed much of the damaging human behaviour. “Why?”, is the question I ask myself, with a month to go for Blog Action Day. But to answer that question I first need to accept the fact that …

The Environmental Movement is Not Working

“Of course it’s working!”, I hear you shout. But that just means you’re a closet optimist. Or you haven’t realised the fact that a few new social norms which are seen as eco-friendly, and are only popular amongst a small and vocal minority, are not going to reverse or even balance out the misdeeds of the rest of the human race. I don’t blame you for not coming to this realisation, because all the marketing to the contrary has been so strong and vocal. We have been quick to celebrate the symbolic saving of a leaf while entire forests sink into oblivion quietly and without the branding campaign to tell their story. That is just one of the reasons for our dysfunctional ecological campaign of the last century, but that and other reasons will come later.

To prove to yourself that the environmental movement hasn’t been as much of a roaring success as you were told, you don’t need research and statistics. All you need is a bit of logic and your personal experience. Each of us can think of many similar examples, but for me one that stands out in my experience is the changing trends in auto-mobiles over the past few decades. As a kid living in an oil-rich OPEC country in the mid-80s, I remember a world where one-point-something litre engines in cars were the norm. Only the luxurious went for cars with 2 litre engines and anything above that I wasn’t even aware of at the time. It is well established that vehicle exhaust is one of the largest, if not the largest, sources of carbon and other pollutants. You would think we would have moved towards more efficiency in this century-old internal combustion technology that we still insist on using by now. Not so. Today, 2 litre and above engines are the norm for sedans, and most people choose to not even aim that low. No, today’s driver prefers the SUV with its 3+ litre engine and its terrible fuel economy. The worst part is, most of these SUVs couldn’t actually go “off road” to save their lives.

I think it is quite safe to say that the environmental movement hasn’t been a huge hit when it comes to measurable progress towards the human race playing better with our planet’s eco-system. The reasons for this are:

  1. Cynicism
  2. Disconnection
  3. Denial
  4. Hype
  5. Fashion
  6. Religion
  7. Laziness

These points I will elaborate on further in a series of articles that I will publish here throughout the coming month, as we near Blog Action Day. On the 15th of October will be the series finale which will hopefully leave you with enough to think about and take with you into the future, beyond this event. So stick around, subscribe to the site updates, tell your friends, and enjoy the ride. I hope you find it entertaining, enlightening and engaging. I am going to have fun putting this together and I hope to make Blog Action Day a beginning of new things as much as it will be a culmination of this article series on Samir Bharadwaj dot Com. Stay tuned, and please share your thoughts in the comments below. I look forward to reading them.


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    1. Glad you liked my little article series. I completely agree with your point about treating symptoms vs causes.

      I will definitely be checking out your contribution on your site. I think the biggest challenge with this event is deciding which contributions to read of the 15,000 participants. šŸ™‚

      Thanks for dropping by.

    1. Aha! I see we have a return customer. Once again, I’m assuming you mean the trackbacks that appear in this list not being real comments. Well, a usability shortcoming, certainly, but hardly an alien vision.

      If you see them as not being worth looking at in some other context, I’m sure there are enough of my brave readers who think the same of my articles themselves! So, what’s a few comments to add to the ugliness?

      I’m not quite seeing what you are trying to indicate, but you can be assured I’m not trying to look thoughtful, aware, or anything else for that matter. Just trying to write and display my view of things in this little dusty playground of mine.


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