Bos/My Turn: Our collective addiction
Looking back, I am grateful for the day that I entered a 12-step program. The turn-around in the direction of my life 22 years ago has given me a life for which I am extremely grateful and that would have been otherwise lost.
That said, I am spending more time these days trying to distinguish between habit and addiction. For example, when I am stuck on doing some obligatory task such as doing my taxes, I find escape in playing Hearts on my computer.
“Is this,” I ask myself, “a well-deserved break from a difficult task or some kind of denial rising from an addictive personality -— the desire to avoid reality?”
I think it can be both — depending, in this instance, upon the conscious effort I have expended on doing my taxes. But experience has taught me that this rationalization can place me on the slippery slope to addiction, a state-of-being over which I have no control.
Remaining conscious is the key to a sober life. That means I cannot ignore the fact that my addiction to the American way of life is contributing to our nation’s over-sized culpability for the consequences of global warming.
I am called to this perspective by an important friend who directed me to two websites, both of which view our deteriorating climate through the lens of addiction. The websites are: www.ourclimate.net and www.progress.org/2004/davies25.htm. Both sites advocate employing the principles of the 12-step program as a path toward climate change salvation.
For those unfamiliar with the 12-step program, it dates back to the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1930s.
“Originally proposed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) as a method of recovery from alcoholism, the Twelve Steps were first published in the book — ‘Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How More Than One Hundred Men Have Recovered from Alcoholism’ — in 1939. The method was then adapted and became the foundation of other 12-step programs.” These include gambling, narcotics, spending, sex and other addictions.
As summarized by the American Psychological Association, the 12-step process involves the following:
∎ admitting that one cannot control one’s addiction or compulsion;
∎ recognizing a higher power that can give strength;
∎ examining past errors with the help of a sponsor (experienced member);
∎ making amends for these errors;
∎ learning to live a new life with a new code of behavior;
∎ and helping others who suffer from the same addictions or compulsions.
With the above in mind, by going to the www.ourclimate.net website, one will encounter this statement as an introduction to climate change solutions:
“The first step is admitting that you have a problem. After decades of denial, most of us now realize we are addicted to fossil fuels that create vast quantities of carbon dioxide and that this addiction also extends to a wide variety of industrial and agricultural practices that create a whole host of other global-warming gases. We are fundamentally changing the planet we live on. We know we have a problem, so what now?”
The first of the 12 Traditions that accompany the 12 Steps is that “our common welfare should come first …” I have taken to characterizing climate change as a “climate justice” issue because of the inhumane impacts of our deteriorating environment on the poor of the world.
It appears to me that in our addiction to technology as humankind’s solution to every problem we seem to have forgotten that we are but a relatively minor part of nature. Many of us ignore being part of a larger whole in our communities, states, nation, world and the planet.
Believers in technology think that bioengineering may be able to control carbon dioxide emissions, that hydraulic fracking will not harm earth’s substructure or water resources and that “natural” gas will make America energy independent.”
This technological arrogance is one fundamental cause of climate deteriorization.
So what do our personal addictions to our “lifestyles” have to do with climate change? Perceived needs for unnecessary things that require energy (electric, oil and gasoline) is one part of the answer. Perceived needs for unnecessary things that extract serious environmental costs in their manufacture is another part of the answer.
Although we are temporary guests on the planet (not our planet), we behave as if future guests (our grandkids and their kids and, and, and …) will be somehow be able to survive the tumultuous damage to our climate now going on.
We are, each of us, complicit in an unconscious conspiracy to wreck the world we live in. How many of us are ready to acknowledge the first step — that we are addicted to living in an unsustainable way? And cannot control this addiction?
Becoming conscious is the key to reclaiming the environment for future generations. We know we have a problem, so what now?
John Bos is a Shelburne resident who writes frequently about the environment. He may be contacted at email@example.com.