Treehuggers won't save the world
An optimist says the glass is half full;
A pessimist says the glass is half empty;
An engineer says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
I’m an engineer and proud of it, and I also like to think of myself as a pragmatic environmentalist – solutions driven rather than an idealist. And more and more, I believe that it is the pragmatic environmentalists who are key to delivering sustainability.
Treehuggers have their heart in the right place, but sometimes I worry about where their minds are. In one of my brief flirtations with one of the major green groups, I found plans were being made to go to the local station and hand out sweets to commuters to thank them on behalf of society and the planet for travelling by train. “What a load of sanctimonious, patronising claptrap – and what good would it do, anyway?” was my immediate reaction. I didn’t go back.
My serious point is that if you are trying to transform an organisation, you must guard against letting your passion (or any one else’s) boil over into self-righteousness. People will simply switch off, and if you try turning up the volume, they’ll put in earplugs.
Pragmatism means finding what works, not what’s ideologically pure. It means ignoring the mantras, platitudes and shibboleths and doing what will make a difference. It means appreciating why others may not be as driven to go green as you are, understanding their viewpoints and not treating them with contempt.
But overall, it means getting things done.