Work, spirituality and the environment

[NOTE: this post is part of Blog Action Day, and represents my official post for the week.]

I’ve been whining a bit recently about a giant project at work that has been eating into my blogging (and sleeping, eating and breathing…) time, but I haven’t bothered to say anything about what it is. This is the deal – I’m part of a team at my Fortune 500 company that is putting together a proposal to increase the rate at which we donate our no-longer-supported computers to charity. I saw the chance six months ago to be a part of this and jumped on it, as an opportunity to put my environmental and social concerns into action in a way that might make a really significant difference not only to people, but to the environment. (Fortune 500 companies use a LOT of computers, and the longer they stay in use the less they have to be recycled.)

This has made me think in very specific ways about a question that I wrestle with pretty regularly, and I think a lot of other people do too – how can I (appropriately) embody my religious self at work? Internal environmental activism is proving to be a powerful way to do this – and it has connected me with others in the company who share the same passion, and are actually forming working groups to research and propose ways that the company can become “greener”… groups that are getting attention and support at fairly high levels of management.

Do you use CFLs, minimize your energy and water usage, and so on? Yeah, me too. And it’s important to be eco-conscious at the individual level; but consider how much bigger the difference if an entire company started doing these things. To paraphrase from part of our presentation – individual environmentalism makes a difference, but corporate environmentalism can make a change.

This is why I have no patience with the far-left wing of the environmental movement – the folks that demonize corporations and their executives, loudly, en masse and without exception. As a result of which, they not only fail to understand what they might be able to get the companies to agree to if they were willing to persuade and negotiate, but actually poison the well for the rest of us by creating a climate of distrust that makes it harder to get a hearing when we’re trying to work for change from within.

Do you work for a company? Take a good look around and see what you can do, however small it may seem, to help turn the company in a greener direction. You never know who might be willing to listen.


3 thoughts on “Work, spirituality and the environment

  1. Paul Martin

    To me the main thing is that without serious governent regulation, it just won’t work. Without demonizing corporations, they’re all over the map on this. Overall, I don’t see corporations as demonic but I don’t see them as saintly either.

    Those that don’t do the right thing contribute to a problem that’s literally global. Seriously addressing global warming is going to require world wide cooperation on a scale that’s never been done. Without government involvment I don’t see how it happens – I don’t see what other institution can set and enforce standards on the required scale or with sufficient uniformity.

    Asking people to do the right thing and hoping/praying that enough volunteer measures are taken isn’t realistic. Some people care; some really don’t. And we all have to breathe the same air.

    Man maketh his global warming to affect the just and unjust alike, so to speak…

  2. executivepagan Post author

    Hi Paul,
    Oh, I’m not opposed to appropriate government regulation, particularly of corporate “persons”, but that alone won’t do it either – witness the upsurge in imaginary offshore corporate “headquarters” in the Caribbean in the last few years, and a regulatory environment that requires publicly-held companies to place shareholder value above all other considerations, which all too often translates into that being the ONLY consideration.

    There are many avenues that need to be pursued simultaneously to make real and permanent change; my call in this post is simply for people who are in a position to try to influence their employers – which basically means anyone who works – to do so to the best of their ability and creativity.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Cat Chapin-Bishop

    There are some forms of activism that don’t, at first glance, even appear to be activism for the environment, but, on closer examination, are.

    I’m a big fan of labor unions, for instance–whether they’re currently in vogue or not. You know–the guys who brought us the weekend! There are all kinds of stats out there on how many more hours Americans are putting into work than we did even ten years ago…wages are stagnant, but productivity is soaring, as we all slowly work ourselves to death.

    I know that my first three years of teaching were one long death march in terms of hours I was putting in. I rarely had a day that was less than ten hours long, and often they were eleven or twelve hours…and then I would put in another 6–8 hours on the weekend on grading. (Yes, I did get sick–but kept working as I was so overwhelmed I had neither the time nor the energy to write sub plans.)

    This year is much better–I’m usually out of the building in only nine hours or so, and it’s a rare day that’s more than ten hours long.

    Why does this matter? Because those individual efforts at things like recycling are much tougher when I’m too exhausted to move. In my first year of teaching, we relied on tv dinners in little plastic trays for our daily meals. Now I can actually cook again–nothing ambitious, just spaghetti or something with rice, usually, but still, it’s far more earth friendly.

    Unions, by pushing hard for reasonable working conditions, give people the energy they need to get up off the couch at the end of the day and put the can into the recycling bin–let alone to contact a politician, organize a street protest, or go door to door in a worthy cause.

    I could make a similar cause for education itself, or for health care, or for any of a dozen or so seemingly unrelated matters. (For instance, did you know that one of the most effective ways to reduce family size in Third World countries, and hence population growth and the environmental pressures that come with it, is feminism? Women with access to education, job opportunities, and economic resources are soon more valuable to their families as workers than are their multiple children as biological old-age insurance for the family… and so family size begins to drop.)

    You get the picture. Thinking holistically, and not sneering at anyone whose social concerns are not carbon copies of our own, is something that is likely to pay off for Mama Earth in the long run.

    IMNSHO. :)

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