The Buddha advised us not to regard the faults of others, the things done and not done by others, but to regard one’s own faults, the things done and not done by oneself. (Dhammapada v 50).
Ordinary people feel helpless to bring about changes by voting, demonstrating, and campaigning. In my view, such efforts are not very effective. Two years on from the Grenfell Tower Tragedy, many homes still have unsafe cladding and after many fires caused by faulty white goods there are still hundreds of thousands of homes in danger from these lethal products. It has taken four years to get action on recalling Whirlpool Tumble-driers.
The Materialistic World
That is the world we live in. It is our kamma that has driven us to inherit this mess. Human beings are driven by the desire for comfort and convenience. The so-called progress of the last fifty or a hundred years has been led by desire. If we really want to bring about a change in society, we should start where our efforts can be immediately effective, by reducing our own desires. Buddhism teaches effective methods to reduce desire to manageable levels. Our needs are easily satisfied, but wants are insatiable. Just dream, for a while, what you would buy if you won millions on the lottery. Would your desires spiral out of control, or would you delight in giving most of it away in charity?
Reducing Desire Saves Money
From a purely pragmatic point of view, reducing desire for material things is of great benefit. It is far less stressful to cut expenditure by 10% than to increase income by 10%. The free time saved by not working such long hours can be spent repairing property, growing organic vegetables, or learning new skills. If you are able to work from home a few days a week it can save the time and cost of commuting daily.
Can we Survive without Petrochemicals?
It is hard for societies to ban plastics until there are viable alternatives. The above video suggests several biodegradable plastics that could replace existing plastics. However, as it points out, care has to be taken over how it is done and producing these biodegradable plastics may affect land use and introduce new problems while solving the old ones.
Ban Plastics Wherever Possible
The tiny Pacific nation of Vanuatu has banned several forms of plastic already. More will follow. Larger nations need to implement similar bans. It is not sufficient to introduce charging for single-use plastic bags or to improve recycling. The plastic use has to be stopped at source so that it does not have to be recycled, which is costly and never even close to 100% effective.
The inspiring story of how Bali banned single-use plastics.