sys·tem·ic (sĭ-stěm’ĭk, -stē’mĭk). adj.
1. Of or relating to systems or a system.
2. a) Relating to or affecting the entire body or an entire organism: systemic symptoms; a systemic poison.
b) Relating to or affecting a particular body system, especially the nervous system: a systemic lesion.
c) Physiology Of or relating to systemic circulation.
I intitally attempted a full understanding of the concept of the word systemic (mostly seen in the world of dis-ease) while in a Physiology class a number of years ago. While reading “Privatizing Responsibility: the Times On Green Consumerism” at the ever-intelligent Worldchanging blog this morning, I was reminded of that killer word: systemic. Affecting the entire system; The comprehensive look at any given situation. The whole picture.
In response to the N.Y. Times article in today’s Sunday Styles section, called “Buying Into the Green Movement”, by Alex Williams, Alex Steffen over at WorldChanging discusses the path better travelled in order to succeed against global warming and make heightened and real changes towards solving our environmental crisis.
The Times article paints the picture of a well-heeled Yuppie, making all of the “eco choices” afforded by incredible prosperity, to aid in a guilt-free, environmentally conscious lifestyle. We are in an age where, apparently, we can consume our way to a solution, or so the worlds of marketing and advertising would have us think. The point the article makes is that we consumers are potentially relinquished from the responsibility of consuming less by feeling good about consuming as much as we want, as long as it is “green.” It seems we are potentially forgetting the basics, like the first of the three R’s in the “rules of recycling”: Reduce. (re-use and recycle are the other two, in that order.)
From The N.Y. Times article:
“There is a very common mind-set right now which holds that all that we’re going to need to do to avert the large-scale planetary catastrophes upon us is make slightly different shopping decisions,” said Alex Steffen, the executive editor of Worldchanging.com, a Web site devoted to sustainability issues.
The genuine solution, he and other critics say, is to significantly reduce one’s consumption of goods and resources. It’s not enough to build a vacation home of recycled lumber; the real way to reduce one’s carbon footprint is to only own one home.
Actually, as i told Alex Williams, I believe something quite different: that the genuine solution is not a matter of consumer choice at all.
There is no combination of purchasing decisions which will make the current affluent American lifestyle sustainable. You can’t shop your way to sustainability…
And here’s the essential break between lite green and bright green thinking: the reality is that the changes we must make are systemic changes. They involve large-scale transformations in the ways we plan our cities, manufacture goods, grow food, transport ourselves, and generate energy. They involve new international regulatory regimes, corporate strategies, industrial standards, tax systems and trading markets. If we want to change the world, we need to forge ourselves into the kinds of citizens who can effectively demand such things…
If we don’t move fast enough, we’ll simply be attending a global ecological collapse well-heeled and stylishly attired, watching the planet burn with a glass of organic champagne in hand.
Amen. Just as any treatment to cure a systemic disease should go after the entire system and get at what is causing the disease rather than treating the symptoms, so, too, must we attack the systemic dis-ease of our environmental crisis. With huge policy changes through business and government first, continuing to make good decisions with our consumer dollars last, and collectively demanding change within our system that allows for the irresponsible production of goods and the monetary rewards that go hand-in-hand with business as usual.