Recently I met a friend who is a stalwart environmentalist. He was the backbone of many successful environmental protests a few years ago. He is now in a state of despair. Now everybody is out to protect the environment, or at least that's the way it looks. Every big corporation has embraced "Environmental Impact Studies", "Environmental Audits", and recycling strategies as an integral part of their operation. Every council provides a recycling service that picks up old newspapers and bottles and recycles them. Now almost everybody is satisfied that the environmental issues have been solved, almost everybody feels comfortable that they are "doing their bit" to save the planet by recycling their cardboard cartons and plastic and glass bottles. It seems that the environment is not really an issue any more. So I suspect the despair of my friend might be partly because he can't stir up much support for his campaigns, in fact he is hard-pressed to even come up with a new campaign. Everybody, it seems, is full-on into saving the environment already, there's no need for radical "greenies" to do it any more.
I have been looking at the situation from a somewhat detached position, being a Hare Krishna I have a different perspective of the problem, and I wonder if there has actually been such a big change in our activities that are ultimately destroying the planet. I think this is the reason my friend is concerned, it's almost impossible to put into words, but somehow things are not right. Although everybody seems to be very concerned about the environment their activities to save the environment have been somewhat superficial. Some companies are using recycled packaging, but many are just printing "recyclable packaging" on their products. But the most amazing thing is people in general, even many so-called environmentalists are very quick to accept these superficial efforts to be signs of a change in consciousness, a revolutionary new "green" corporate world. Why is it people are so easily convinced?
To understand the psychology of the environmental issue we need to understand the environment in greater depth and we also need to understand how we, the human beings, are interacting with the environment and what are our motives. Only then can we make any real progress on this issue and only then will my environmental activist friend be able to clear up the perplexities which are overcoming him at the moment.
It is our desire to exploit the material energy for our own personal sense gratification which is destroying the planet. The lifestyle we lead in the West depends on destroying the environment. If we are all going to have our own cars there has to be huge clouds of smog, there's no alternative. There has to be big ugly mines to get the raw materials to build the cars. If we want light when we flip the switch there has to be a nasty power station at the other end of the cable and it has to be destroying the environment -- there's no other way to make the electricity. Actually nobody wants to consider these problems. Even the greenies want to drive around in their cars and eat junk food. It's a sign of Kali-yuga, "The age of hypocrisy."