Jiwon's Alcove

Accidental Environmentalism in Minimalism

May 19, 2019
Plant in a glass jar in a corner in an otherwise white, minimal backdrop.

The Green New Deal is still a hot topic in politics, which is remarkable considering that conservation biologists, climatologists, and Bill Nye have been shouting into the void for what seems like an eternity.

It is great that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and others demand immediate and drastic action, for moderate market-based policies have failed. It is the cold, hard truth that without drastic action, the biosphere will be irreversibly damaged.

Environmental Elitism

My major concern is how rampant elitism is among environmentalist activists. If you're an omnivore, you're a heinous criminal; if you fly, you're irredeemable; if you use any single-use or plastic product, you're morally deficient, or the narrative often goes.

It is completely understandable that "climate extremists", whom I would more aptly describe "climate-conscious-people-with-common-sense", are harshly critical of environmentally damaging practices.

When it comes to policies directly related to climate change, keep on pushing, and don't give ground; we're fighting the good fight.

Being consistently adamant about environmentalism, however, can easily turn off the majority of people that simply do not care.

The unfortunate reality is that we do not need several hundred thousand perfect environmentalists, we need seven billion imperfect environmentalists.

Minimalism is Marketable

The Green New Deal isn't marketable to those that don't care, and no environmentalist gloom-and-doom will persuade the public unless they figure out how to make people's lives better right now.

That's why minimalism should be the environmentalist's stealthy mask when talking to those that are so far removed that a straightforward approach will never work.

Minimalism addresses ubiquitous problems of average persons in a developed nation - mental stress, personal finances, and productivity - which makes it infinitely more marketable than any environmentalist movement can ever be.

Admittedly, minimalism does not go directly with environmentalism. Still, the average self-proclaimed minimalist probably has a lower impact on the environment than the average maximalist simply due to the virtue of owning less material possessions.

This is my suggestion: If someone is critical of the Green New Deal, don't condemn them, and don't talk about climate change in front of them.

Instead, stealthily propose minimalism as a solution to their other practical everyday problems that happen to help the environment along the way.

Will minimalism save the world?

I'd wager that minimalism in itself falls short of that, though it could definitely help. At the very least, it is clear that the developed world needs to drastically change its consumption habits, one Konmari fan at a time.