Monday, March 31, 2008

It's not easy being green

My friend Kermit the Frog has a message for all of you, from the bottom of my heart.

"It's not that easy being green
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold
Or something much more colorful like that

It's not easy being green
It seems you blend in with so many other ordinary things
And people tend to pass you over 'cause you're
Not standing out like flashy sparkles in the water
Or stars in the sky

But green's the color of Spring
And green can be cool and friendly-like
And green can be big like an ocean, or important
Like a mountain, or tall like a tree

When green is all there is to be
It could make you wonder why, but why wonder why
Wonder, I am green and it'll do fine, it's beautiful
And I think it's what I want to be"

Recently I've been invited to share with a group of students on how being "green" and environmental is easy and convenient. Something that wouldn't infringe of our lifestyles and easy to do.

That is the message that many environmental proselytizers are trying to sell to every one of us because we would love to think that without changing out lifestyles, without inconveniencing ourselves, we would still be able to be green. Unfortunately, no change is ever easy. Kermit got it right when he said it's not easy being green. There is no shortcut and there's never an easy way out. There is no easy way being green. There will be moral dilemmas and battles with yourself over little conveniences that we are oh-so-used to. But at the end of the day, "when green is all there is to be", it'll do fine and it's all you'll want to be.

When I first started Daily Green Actions, all I wanted to do was inspire every one with how little things we do each day makes a difference. There are green actions we can adopt in our daily lives that everyone can do. It can be as simple as taking a minute to look up in the sky at the brilliant sunrise on your way to work and school and appreciate the natural environment around you. Listen to the birds sing and smell the dew in the morning air. Nothing extreme like suffering in the heat or sitting in the dark. I still eat meat and take taxis.

But why do I make it sound like it's such a torture?

Well many times, it's a battle of conscience and the lure of modern conveniences and temptations are just too much to bear. Yesterday, I was torn between eating MOS Burger or Thai Express. Cheap or expensive? My favourite ice tea with milk or should I have find ethically produced food instead? Should I be taking taxis because I'm late or should I simply stop being late and never have to worry about taking taxis. While agonizing over these, I said those classic words, "it's not easy being green". Thanks to Ivan the music guru, here's Kermit, singing my secret confessions to you.

I admit, I am no saint. I am just like you and everybody else, I enjoy air conditioning, fast cars and good food. I consume large amounts of electricity with all my gadgets just like every other tech geek out there. However, I made the decision to audit my lifestyle. I wanted to show that it's not that difficult being green. But I was wrong. It's not easy being green. I had to fight with my parents because I want to turn off the TV instead of putting it on standby because it's the "right thing to do". Instead, it became a war over the TV. Because of my wanting to green my own actions, I imposed on others. As such, I came under even greater scrutiny. My hitching a ride home with my parents became unacceptable. Not green enough. People I knew, people who were nature lovers, called me extreme when they found out I practiced "lights out" everyday from 7-9pm. But that only came about because I thought of the Lights Out movement in USA which was akin to Earth Hour but what's the point of switching off for just one day a year. I thought to do it for 365 days so it'll be as good as 365 people doing it. Again, I couldn't bear being called "extreme" just as Kermit couldn't bear being "green".

People get asked why people are not allowed to fish or bring shells home or catch crabs or keep hermit crabs as pets. It's just the same as why people "shouldn't" drive fossil fuel vehicles, use styrofoam or use plastic bags. Why should being green be limited to halting climate change or conserving nature? Should we then forget about the poor and underprivileged? The list never end. But if we can do it all, we'll all be saints by now. There is no right or wrong, only if it matters to you or not. Like Kermit, why would I want to be green when I can be a star?

In the course of "being green", you may or may not encounter what I encountered. But at the end of the day, there is no shortcut and there is no easy way to answer that dilemma. It's doing whatever that you can live with for the rest of your lives. Momentary convenience or a moment of agony before the rainbow over the horizon. Your decisions will always be questioned by others and your determination will falter every so often.

Yes, it is easy being green but no (hu)man is an island. As we green our lifestyles, we'll have to green the lifestyle and choices of our parents, our spouses, our friends, our household decision-makers, our children, our families, our government, our neighbors, our drivers, our teachers, our bosses, our coworkers and even our pets. You will be questioned and no one will make it easy for you. It's easy to change yourself but what happens when your change affects others as well?

Choosing to take on a green lifestyle is easy. But the rest of the world will not make it easy for you.

If you are one of those lucky ones who find complete support from all those around you, congratulate yourself and give thanks and support to those who support you.

Yes you, that's right, you, thank you.

Remember, nobody can live a perfect, 100% "green" lifestyle. As long as we continue to be urban folks living in a city, we are making an impact on our environment. Nobody needs to deprive themselves but do you live a life of mindless conveniences or do you try to be "green"? Once you know the answer, it's not so difficult at all.

It's may not always be quite so easy being green, but remember, as Kermit says, sometimes being green can be small like a leaf or big like a tree but it's really all you want to be.


eve+line said...

To me it's very simple.

Decide for yourself a few simple principles to follow. For me, some of them are:

a) Consumption - not so good;
b) Electricity - not that bad (in Singapore);
c) MRT is better than bus in energy efficiency; bus is better than taxi;
d) Hygiene over environment;
e) I am human.

So while I think we should not contribute so much waste to our landfills, I'm not going to start using handkerchiefs when I'm having a cold (heck I never use hankies). Likewise I'm not going to adopt Sheryl Crow's stupid suggestion of "one square per toilet visit" (which turned out to be a joke by her).

And if I wake up late in the morning, I'm not going to undergo some tortured self-examination of whether I should take the bus or taxi. I just decide and tell myself to do better tomorrow.

Sometimes I step on people's toes. I openly challenged management why we must have shark's fin on our Annual Dinner menu. I tell whoever who's inviting me to Chinese New Year lunches that I don't eat endangered animals; and I refuse to touch my shark's fin soup. There's nothing being difficult about it. If you're sure about your views you can stand behind them.

If you can decide a few simple principles you can follow, there's nothing difficult about making changes to your life to be "green". You just make decisions based on these principles and stick to them. If you can't, well you're just human (see (e) ).

Very easy.

Monkey said...

good advice :) at the end of the day we just need to live by our own standards. but before we can decide on a standards we live by, then it's reflection time.

but also, im the kind of person who cares what other people says. so sometimes I falter because I'm only human.