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Media Co-ordinator Laura Cox explains why positive change must come from positive conversations, avoiding narratives of guilt.

The other day, I had to buy a pair of boots. I perused the shelves of what I normally refer to as ‘sh*tty high street brands’, ticking off boxes on a mental checklist:
What are the boots made from? How sturdy are they? Are they waterproof? Are they comfy? Can I wear them with giant fluffy socks? Can I afford them? Do I even like how they look?

By the time I’d gone through this list, I’d been staring at footwear for a full 30 minutes. When I finally left the shop, I didn’t feel good about my new purchase. I just felt guilty.

It’s the same story when I fill up my car’s fuel tank. Every week, I emit an audible sigh as I clunk the nozzle into place and watch the numbers flicker on the digital display. The climate deniers’ favourite insult whizzes round in my head on every drive – “I bet you’ve got a car! You’re just as much a part of the problem as everyone else!”

I guess the truth is I am as much a part of the problem. Admitting that is hard, but it’s necessary… And it’s probably the healthiest way anyone can really start to tackle their personal environmental impact. My boot-buying shouldn’t feel like a confession, but it does. This kind of thinking isn’t very encouraging.

Yep, we’re all part of the problem. But we can also be part of the solution. Instead of chastising ourselves (and others) we should be doing everything we can to move away from the narrative of guilt. It’s toxic, and it doesn’t help anyone.

Following the election, there was a great deal of despondence in XR York, and in generally-politically-liberal-and-left(ish) circles. It was scary to see how quickly fingers were pointed, and how soon blame and guilt began to characterise conversations. We can dismiss the views of older generations with the inherently unhelpful phrase ‘OK boomer’, or we can communicate constructively about where we go from here. And when I say ‘we’, I mean everyone. I don’t just mean a group of eco-frustrates every Tuesday evening. We’re in this together – all of us. And, we shouldn’t forget that it’s often the conversations we have outside of XR that are the most important ones. If we start these discussions from a defensive or accusatory stance, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.

Nobody should feel guilty for existing in a system that is largely based on consumption and thoughtless resource expenditure. Environmental activism should never come from a place of emotional manipulation. That’s why I’m personally not a huge fan of campaigns that single out specific organisations for failing to ‘do enough’. Every individual, every single business, every government, and every group could do more. It could certainly be argued that some have a greater responsibility than others, but the premise remains the same.

Starting climate conversations from a place of guilt and blame isn’t constructive, and it won’t help to achieve the regenerative culture that XR is striving towards.

So, just do what you can. Avoid the narrative of guilt and blame, and know that positive change can only come from positive conversations.

Join us on Tuesday evenings at 7.30pm at Spark:York to find out how you can get involved.


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1 Comment

  1. Well put. This speaks for me and I am sure many of us as we struggle with the compromises we make in the world as it is. I very much agree guilt and blame are not a good place to start and create a toxic culture inside our self and in interactions. It also “protects” us from facing the real difficulties we and the world face


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