“Change” Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash
“Change” Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash

The destruction of our planet is an inevitable outcome of what we hold dearest.

Pictures of starving polar bears and plastic filled seabirds aren’t helping to inform us. They are distractions. They allow us to say we care. But we don’t. Not really. These are circumstances of our own making. And the way we’re talking about climate change is just another symptom of the bigger problem.

We could have chosen a different path. We didn’t. Maybe now all that is left to be done is to unravel the truth of how we came to be here, and learn to live in this new reality. If nothing that’s happened is enough to get us to change our values, what is it going to take? I can’t imagine.

The problem is not the bottles of water we buy, the gas we put in our cars, the iPhones we own.

The problem is that we want to be comfortable, more than we want anything else.

The problem is our values.

We value prosperity, and even the false appearance of wealth. We value the accumulation of stuff and 24x7 entertainment. We value beauty, brands and style. We value convenience. We value new. We value fast. We value easy. We value hard work, but only because we think it supports the rest.

We lie to each other to make ourselves feel better. We say that we value education but our actions clearly say otherwise. We say we value each other, but the plight of our fellows shines a light on the truth. We say we value god, but no god I can imagine would approve of the choices we’ve made.

The destruction of our planet is an inevitable outcome of what we hold dearest.

Who are we? We are the generations of Americans who chose to live in a dream, who refused to acknowledge the consequences of our choices, who blamed the others of our day, and who just went along. We are those who prospered from our shared, sick values. We are those who screamed in the face of injustice and lies, but in the end still chose what we valued over what we knew to be right.

Societies who value humanity don’t build economic systems that create billionaires and homeless encampments. They don’t allow corporations to pollute and ravage the environment. They don’t blame those among them with the least power for their collective failure. They don’t deny the darkest parts of their own history. They don’t lie to their children. They don’t do what we’ve done.

If we valued each other, we would educate all of our children without arguing over who should pay for it. We would provide for the most vulnerable among us. We would seek to understand our mistakes and do better. We would protect the health of the planet we depend on. We would vote accordingly. We would spend accordingly. We would live accordingly.

We don’t. We haven’t for a very long time.

For generations, we’ve watched as, in the name of profits, companies large and small polluted our planet. We knew it was happening. We voted people into office who protected the polluters, and we agreed to be entertained and distracted while the polluters took over our government. We were too afraid of what we’d have to give up if we tried to change it. Ultimately, we cared more about our comfort than about the planet, the wellbeing of our fellows, or our children’s future. We still do.

Accountability and responsibility are not our values.

Are we finally so soul sick, so filled to the brim with stuff and desperately lacking anything real, that the time has come to finally choose differently? I see no evidence of it.

Doing better doesn’t mean campaigning against plastic straws, bottled water or even climate change. It means changing the values we live by. It means caring more about our fellows than our own comfort. It means changing the system that refuses to hold the corporations and governments responsible for the messes they make. It means measuring success differently.

If accountability, the well being of our fellows, and the health of the planet were valued more than profit, companies like Apple or Samsung would have to account for the pollution created by their manufacturing processes and the consumption of their products. A different business model, one in support of those values, would have to emerge.

If the environmental impact of blowing off the top of a mountain and polluting groundwater for generations had to be factored into the bottom line, the coal industry would look much different.

If plastics manufacturers had to account for the pollution created by the manufacture and consumption of their products, that surely would be better.

If they had to pay to clean it all up, if they had to account for the resources they used, if they had to be responsible for their contribution to the mess, wouldn’t that change things?

If your government representatives, at all levels, began working in support of new shared shared values, instead of the old ones, things could change. But I don’t think that’s likely to happen.

Maybe we’re all just too far gone. Maybe deep down we know there’s nothing to be done. So we shout at the wind, we hold up signs, we protest and we strike. But we don’t change the values we live by. And really, that’s all that matters.

Written by

I write stuff.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store