The Stigma Surrounding Environmentalism

 

A view from the historic secret passages used to transport silk, the “Tramboules” of Lyon

Us Brits really aren’t great fans of total upheaval: it’s as evident in our political system (a constitutional monarchy, if-you-please) as it is in our reaction to the prospect of a little snow in winter.

Its not uncommon, then, for the suggestion that ‘we need to act fast and save the planet’ to produce the odd eye-roll. The occasional bemused smile might flicker on some stiff-upper-lips as images of a nearly nude man takes to the streets with a board that reads ‘the end is nigh’. It’s hardly surprising that in a survey of 17 countries carried out by YouGov, Britain is among the three countries least concerned with climate change, an issue that is ranked among the top three concerns overall.

In truth, acknowledging that we are treating our planet less than honourably is far from lunacy. Like all relationships, ours with the planet has had it’s ups and downs, but these days it seems we’ve stopped putting the effort in all together; we constantly leave the toilet seat up, we’ve let ourselves go, and we never buy her flowers anymore. Our lack of trying puts her in a bad mood; she’s getting increasingly hot headed. However, the truth of the matter remains; we simply can’t live without each other.

It’s very easy to take the view that to live in an environmentally conscious way we have to give up all life’s luxuries in favour of a kind of eco-diet; like telling everyone in the world to switch hamburgers for some equivalent made of algae and wheatgrass. I think this is why many find it easier to pretend the issue doesn’t really exist, claiming global warming is a con, or my personal favourite ‘The climate has always changed throughout history, hello, ice age?!’. It’s certainly an easier pill to swallow than the one that tells us we are responsible, if not for the problem itself, than for the solution and the future.

Then there is the other side of the coin, the side whose extremism causes a polarising effect. I’m of the school that you don’t need to be vegan to have a positive effect on the environment (though if you are are, power to you for making one of the biggest possible commitments). Lasting changes are those that are done gradually, and persuasion will always beat fear-mongering. Focus needs to be put on convincing the majority they are capable and positive impact is within their easy grasp, not by accusing them of their inadequacies.

That being said, the UK shows a desire to change the way it looks at solutions to problems concerning the environment. While an overwhelming majority of 46% believes that the invention of new technology will reduce our carbon emissions, when the individual was asked “how would [they] personally like humans to reduce carbon emissions?” the same majority chose “change our behaviour” over technology.

The reasons we struggle to act are numerous and varied. In many cases, such as with clothing, that which is sustainable both socially and environmentally, is costly. When it comes to recycling, it seems almost impossible to shop for items that aren’t covered in single use plastic- even things with their own natural casing, such as cucumbers or bananas, are wrapped in a useless layer of plastic. Perhaps, then, in order to change our behaviour we need to change our approach.

Parc de la Tête d’Or, Lyon

As consumers, we need to be making demands of the companies to whom we give our money. This can be as simple as repeatedly sending the same email as often as you can, such as the template provided by non-profit “Fashion Revolution”, which highlights the importance of social issues within the fast fashion industry, or as extreme as refusing to buy from brands who show no thought for or awareness of their social and environmental impact.

Amongst exploring many passions on this blog, I intend to look at the practicable ways by which we can all be a better friend to the planet, with a focus on consuming fashion consciously. It’s simultaneously never been so easy and so hard to find new brands; they pop up on your instagram feed when you least expect it and then get easily lost in the noise. In the true spirit of ‘slow fashion’, I hope to create a little space here that gathers and keeps inspiration for you to feast on, sprinkled with my own musings. Stay tuned.

With love,

Millie. x

Up In the Air

 
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I write from up in the air: literally, as I fly over the channel on my way to Grenoble, and figuratively, as, with my life packed into two suitcases, I find myself suspended in the transition from one life to another.

Perfectionists amongst you will relate as I confess that I struggle with transitions. I find the process of trial and error excruciatingly painful; if I can’t get it right the first time, overcome with shame, I’m likely to stop trying all together.

Like in the Bond theme ‘You Only Live Twice’, this attitude leads to a sort of splitting of lives; ‘one life for yourself, and one for your dreams’. For many, the life of our dreams is the life we would be living ‘if only’: if only I were richer, if only I were smarter, if only I weren’t afraid. Meanwhile, our real lives, the ones for ourselves, are lived from the safety of our comfort zones, where Netflix is readily available to fill the spaces of time we might use to work on making our dream life the reality.

Of course, we do not only live twice; happiness lies in merging the life of your dreams with your reality.

Having struggled with anxiety throughout my adolescence, the move to Grenoble marks for me a significant movement in the right direction. I’ve been in love with French for years, and yet I still remember the jolt of fear I felt as I confirmed university courses, all with a year abroad. Despite having studied French for years, I ‘couldn’t speak French’ and the idea of being plonked in a different country surrounded by people I couldn’t communicate with filled me with nausea. But somewhere inside me, buried under the waves of anxiety, must’ve been voice that said ‘I can do this,’ because all of a sudden, here I am, on a plane to my new home, teetering on the threshold between the lives of “I couldn’t possibly” and “I can”.

As well as for me personally, it feels as though in life we might be on the threshold of something new. As the typical structures of our political systems collapse and younger generations show a keen interest in making a better world, the sense of change in the air feels almost tangible. Every day, more and more people care about what’s in the food they eat, in the medicines they take and the fabrics they wear. Perhaps, while we might look around and see chaos, the little changes, the things we can do every day to be better to ourselves and our planet allow us to exert some control in our lives. As collective consciousness evolves, the potential snowball effect presents exciting prospects for all; new ways to lead business, new ways to consume, new ways to live.

I wanted to start this blog to work out the conundrum of being a fashion lover and an environmentalist. For two years I’ve told myself that my opinion wasn’t valid: though I’ve been clothes-shopping sustainably for almost a year now, I still own and regularly wear clothes that were made in less than honest conditions. However, now as I sit at my desk in my university accommodation, looking out at the majestic Alps, I’m reminded that this excuse is simply self-scaremongering. You needn’t be a vegan to eat in an environmentally conscious way, you needn’t lead the life of a monk to have a positive social impact on the world. The fear of disappointment you might feel because you forgot to bring your own shopping bag, or can’t recycle everything you buy perfectly shouldn’t stop you from trying the other 99% of the time.

Standing on this precipice, we mustn’t let the fear of what’s on the other side of the ravine stop us from making the jump, lest the ground on which we stand, ground which rapidly falls away behind us, disappears all together. We haven’t the time to be perfectionists, neither in following our dreams or in living sustainably. Life is simply too short.

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SPARK

'If a butterfly beats its wings, can it cause a whirlwind?'

be the smile

that causes another

and another

till smiles flow like dominoes falling.

 

be the spark that ignites the fire,

that leaves galaxies forming,

 

If we could all simply be brave, overcoming with courage our concrete fears,

what could we achieve?

 

The precipice lies at our feet,

with nowhere else to turn, we can only

 

leap

 

 

or be

still,

unmoved by

our

defeat.