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Promoting Personal Responsibility

As I was reading a very good book - 'Cooked' by Michael Pollan, I came to an interesting paragraph which I think is very relevant when it comes to understanding personal feeling of responsibility about environment. What influences it and how to turn it into an ally in promoting any meaningful change. I think understanding how to mobilize personal responsibility can go a long way in facilitating rapid adoption of Renewable Energy both personally and at any level of community.

Photo of Tomo Stojanovic
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From my experience as a psychologist and an engineer, global issues like Renewable Energy and climate change are roughly 30% technology, 50% a mix of personal responsibility, motivation associated with it, and understanding reality and context, and 20% other factors. 

This is just a paragraph from this excellent book:

Specialization is undeniably a powerful social and economic force. And yet it is also debilitating. It breeds helplessness, dependence, and ignorance and, eventually, it undermines any sense of responsibility. Our society assigns us a tiny number of roles: We’re producers of one thing at work, consumers of a great many other things all the rest of the time, and then, once a year or so, we take on the temporary role of citizen and cast a vote. Virtually all our needs and desires we delegate to specialists of one kind or another—our meals to the food industry, our health to the medical profession, entertainment to Hollywood and the media, mental health to the therapist or the drug company, caring for nature to the environmentalist, political action to the politician, and on and on it goes. Before long it becomes hard to imagine doing much of anything for ourselves—anything, that is, except the work we do “to make a living.” For everything else, we feel like we’ve lost the skills, or that there’s someone who can do it better. (I recently heard about an agency that will dispatch a sympathetic someone to visit your elderly parents if you can’t spare the time to do it yourself.) It seems as though we can no longer imagine anyone but a professional or an institution or a product supplying our daily needs or solving our problems. This learned helplessness is, of course, much to the advantage of the corporations eager to step forward and do all this work for us. 
One problem with the division of labor in our complex economy is how it obscures the lines of connection, and therefore of responsibility, between our everyday acts and their real-world consequences. Specialization makes it easy to forget about the filth of the coal-fired power plant that is lighting this pristine computer screen, or the backbreaking labor it took to pick the strawberries for my cereal, or the misery of the hog that lived and died so I could enjoy my bacon. Specialization neatly hides our implication in all that is done on our behalf by unknown other specialists half a world away.
Perhaps what most commends cooking to me is that it offers a powerful corrective to this way of being in the world—a corrective that is still available to all of us. To butcher a pork shoulder is to be forcibly reminded that this is the shoulder of a large mammal, made up of distinct groups of muscles with a purpose quite apart from feeding me. The work itself gives me a keener interest in the story of the hog: where it came from and how it found its way to my kitchen. In my hands its flesh feels a little less like the product of industry than of nature; indeed, less like a product at all. Likewise, to grow the greens I’m serving with this pork, greens that in late spring seem to grow back.
Handling these plants and animals, taking back the production and the preparation of even just some part of our food, has the salutary effect of making visible again many of the lines of connection that the supermarket and the “home-meal replacement” have succeeded in obscuring, yet of course never actually eliminated. To do so is to take back a measure of responsibility, too, to become, at the very least, a little less glib in one’s pronouncements. Especially one’s pronouncements about “the environment,” which suddenly begins to seem a little less “out there” and a lot closer to home. For what is the environmental crisis if not a crisis of the way we live? The Big Problem is nothing more or less than the sum total of countless little everyday choices, most of them made by us (consumer spending represents nearly three-quarters of the U.S. economy) and the rest of them made by others in the name of our needs and desires. If the environmental crisis is ultimately a crisis of character, as Wendell Berry told us way back in the 1970s, then sooner or later it will have to be addressed at that level—at home, as it were. In our yards and kitchens and minds.

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post

  • A combination of various types of renewable energy


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Photo of Nyko de Peyer

Really great contribution Tomo! It is certainly relevant because in the grand scheme of things, many people do not think about what it takes to deliver energy to their homes, because that is relegated to the "specialists." The advent of Coal burning, Natural gas, and Nuclear plants has allowed us to come home and flip on the light switch without even thinking what it took to deliver electrons from the power plant to our homes. Ironically Exxon Mobil is trying to make this more evident in their latest ad, which highlights the "specialists"...

Photo of Tomo Stojanovic

Thank you Nyko - in psychology that's called cultural constructing - you pick and chose elements to construct the (un)reality to suit your ideological undercurrents. The commercial you posted is a perfect example.
Once people become confused and convinced it's not about what we see (i.e reality) - it's easier to make them to outsource their actions (and their thinking) to all too willing Big Oil and other predatory agents of Global Warming.

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