Feeling a bit uncomfortable after seeing the word “shame” in the episode title? You’re not alone.
In this episode, we try and work through some difficult emotions as we explore our own shame, guilt, frustration, and anger when it comes to climate action. We also discuss the role wealth plays in climate change, holding yourself accountable, and why it’s hard to make changes despite having so much information.
Can shame and guilt be useful drivers of climate action? Or should we stick with the more moderate approach we normally advocate for? It’s a tough one!
So grab some tea, get comfy, and hit that play button.
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Links and resources:
Article | How the World’s Richest People Are Driving Global Warming
Article | The role of high-socioeconomic-status people in locking in or rapidly reducing energy-driven greenhouse gas emissions
Article | Climate crisis: Two years of vegan living cancelled out by one long-haul flight, study suggests
Article | The evolution of carbon footprint measurement - ClimateTrade
Article | WE QUIT - Extinction Rebellion UK
Documentary | The True Cost
Instagram | Aja Barber: the shein convo could use a bit of shame
Video | Leena Norms: Lies you’re told about spending in your twenties
Video | Anaya Elizabeth Johnson: How to find joy in climate action
Website | Gretchen Rubin: Four tendencies quiz
-Brandee and Hannah
Note: This transcript is mostly unedited.
It's not easy living on a dying planet. But it is easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to making changes and taking action to try and save it. Where do you start? Is it even worth it? Can you really make a difference? Welcome to The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast, where we attempt to answer these questions by spilling the tea on living sustainably in a world that's going to shit. I'm Brandee.
And I'm Hannah. And for years, we've been navigating the big messy gray area of caring about our planet. It hasn't always been smooth sailing, but we're not giving up yet. So brew yourself a cup of tea, get comfy, and let's try and navigate that gray area together.
This is Hannah.
And this is Brandee. And you are listening to episode number 24 of The Tea on Sustainable Living podcast. That's right in front of us. You gonna do it?
I like need to think of something else. I feel like obliged, but also really awkward. Oh, yeah, like nearly as bad as you're like to you later.
How dare you think I was meant to find like a little sound clip or something?
We can have a little like the fake clapping.
Like, okay, well, that'd be funny or like,
weird. Like, like a laugh track on like, comedy shows?
Yeah, I feel like if we do something like that, we have to like go all in like that needs to be obvious that like we're trying to be like, cheesy or whatever. Yeah. Anyways, what are we talking about today? Hannah?
We're talking about emotions. Specifically shame. Yeah, shame, anger, frustration, yell all
mixed bag of emotions today.
Yeah, I was, um, this is what has been on my mind for a while, because I feel like I just get, I like it when recording these episodes. Sometimes I can hear myself and I'm just like, I don't think this is good enough. There's like a part of me that's like, Is this enough? Like, you know, where we tend down the kind of like a bit of a more moderate approach, and encouragement and like, you know, everything that you do is like, a positive step, which there's a part of me that absolutely believes that. And I also think that's a much more productive way forward. But there's a part of me that's just like, no, like, what are you doing? The planet is dying with? We're fucked. Like, how can we sit here and be like, wow, you know, which I will totally do. But I'm like, I want to go on holiday. So I'm gonna get a plane like, whoo. You know, and then I'm like, this isn't enough. You know. And I wanted to talk about that side of things.
Yeah. And I've been, like, hesitant to kind of have this chat. Because yeah, I think it brings up like, guilt. And shame. We'll touch on this in the episode. But there's, for me, there's definitely a difference between like, kind of experiencing shame around something like shopping at Primark, for example, myself, where that comes from me, or whether that comes from like someone else shaming me and like, I react differently to those which dive into more. But what I thought was interesting, what you said as our kind of moderate approaches, is that it is the more productive approach. But yeah, upon like, reading your notes on this outline, and doing a bit of research, I think there's definitely some more room for shame, to like, drive individual action. Without you going too far, and like preventing, like, us just feeling like overwhelmed and threatening us from like, doing anything like, oh, well, we're fucked. So what's the point? Because I think it's a slippery slope.
It is, and I definitely get that sometimes I'm like, well, things clearly aren't getting better. Which isn't necessarily clear. But like, that's the where emotionally I'll get to, like, things are getting better. I look at you know, why are you still like, to me and other people? Like, why are you still shopping there? Why are you still doing this? We know it's not the right choice, or do we know it's not the right choice, but emotionally again, that's
where I get to. And then it's like, yeah, well, fuck it. I'm just gonna, like watch a lot explode and drink some cocktails. And go on like 10 holidays a year because why the fuck not? I mean, so we're gonna end anyway.
That sounds exhausting.
Exhausting. I mean, you know, that's like, obviously not where I am, or, or even most of the time, but it's definitely there for me. Hmm.
Yeah, I think one of the things that prompted this episode idea and we were just saying before we hit record, I couldn't remember like, who sent it to who? Mm. Whew, I never know when to use that. Anyway, it was the Azure Barbara Instagram post about like shame and specifically around cheating, but I think it applies. Yeah. What one of the slides of that post was what read a couple. She was like wonder why stop buying fast fashion because I felt ashamed of what I have unwittingly done to the planet and other people shame has been very effective for me. And I transfer that shame into action. And here I am talking to you. And in this example, imagine a smart garment workers like hey, can you tell people not to buy from blank there was holding my wages and our wages, and I haven't had a good night's sleep and weeks, and then Twitter ran out, okay, but I'm not going to shame people on your behalf for their purchases. And that's where I think it gets like a bit sticky is like, keeping the shame like to ourselves or like, then shaming other people. Or like, what, what is that like, block there? Because if you're right, we are fucked. And it's just like, in that example, that like human that example she gave us humanizes it, which I think is another issue.
Yeah. I mean, I really struggle with this one, I think because, and maybe with my, like, more judgy side because I, for me, the decision not to shop at places, or like specifically Shane, Shane, Shane, Shane, no idea. Is feels quite easy. I'm not like a big clothes person. My fast fashion purchases tend to be like, in person, like, in the moment, I'm like, I just need this thing. And otherwise, I'm quite good at so like, you know, like an online shop. For me, for me, that's something easy, because clothes aren't like a really important thing in my life. So I find it easier to be more judgmental, because it's something that's straight feels quite straightforward to me. And then I look at and I'm like, I just don't get it. I'm like, really, you know, concrete example. Che and you know, it has, the model produces so much waste. Clearly, we're workers aren't being treated properly. And yet, this four year old t shirt is is worth more to you than everything else. And the person's livelihood? Who, yeah, who made it? And I find the ad like, that really? makes me angry. But I am also aware, self aware enough to know that that's an easy one for me to get angry at other people for because it's something that's straightforward for me. And also that me being like a Yeah, to what point in me kind of being so morally black and white on this issue? Well, I think it probably is a moral black and white that we should have access to, you know, that we should have access to say, well paid work. I don't know. I don't know that that's productive for me to put that on other people. And it's also hypocritical, because there's other things that I would really struggle with. And as we've talked about, in lots of episodes, neither recipe perfect. That's kind of where this whole thing came from.
The fear of like being called out like you said, that the hypocrisy element of it, I think, that prevents that prevents a lot of action or conversations. Because take them in unless for example, they were like, we're aware, like the minimalist domain like that was available. So they bought it but like, the second they call themselves that it's like people put you in a box and call you out when you put like a toenail out of line, like when I first began and that was just the easiest term that I could grasp. But if I eat HERSHEY's Bar that had milk in it, like I got called out for that. Which doesn't, which isn't helpful. So yeah, I think there's, there's definitely more of a need for like messy action. But it's hard. It's scary to like, kind of put yourself out there and say, shopping places like Primark or buying things machine is bad when you have items from there and your closet. So then it's heavy, I think, well, the clothing I think we're using that example. I think it's just an easier kind of an easier one to like, chat about this topic, but But yeah, for like, like that, because like is easier, like if it's something that like bothers you, you can you know?
But is is that thing of like where I'm happy to put that limit on other people, or put that shame or guilt or not happy to but it's something that feels more comfortable to me. Because it for me, it's so obvious and it's an easy thing that it's for me, it's easy because it's not a big issue. And yeah, I know for example, one thing that's hard for me would be the amount of flights I go on every year. And I mean, just by the fact of living abroad, that's at least for me, like living up to the Madrid probably go home four or five times a year. That's 10 flights. And then and you know, I do want to go on holiday. And some of those will be long haul flights. Some of it might be a holiday in Spain, but others of it will be, you know, that's like 12 flights like that. And if I think of my friend group, friend groups who live in the UK, that is obscene in comparison, they might my take like a one foreign holiday a year. And so that would be two flights. But because that's something that's not easy for me, and I've made the choice to live abroad, and I want to still have access to the things I want to access. And do we want to reduce our life to that like to okay, you should only you know, do one trip a year, blah, blah, blah. I don't want to accept the consequences of reducing the consequences of reducing the amount of times I visit a home, I don't want to accept, so I just ignore them. And I'm like, Wow, is that okay?
I mean, it's no. But I might, my initial thought is, like, only you can answer that. But then yeah, part of this chat is like, kind of putting shame on on other people, not us, like me and you in this conversation, but like other people in their company.
And it's like, only you can decide, but there is some factual evidence behind these decisions.
There's a lot of fun. There was right,
you know, it's like, okay, you're choosing to take 12 flights, that basically, I'm making this up right now, but I can check, but I've looked before and like that wipes out the fact that you're like, vegetarian. Like that, right?
Yeah. And you shared an article in the outline, which we'll definitely link because it's worth a read. And one of the articles it mentions, I'll link that as well, how the world's richest people are driving global warming. And I didn't copy this stat into that line, but it was something about what was it like four fifths of the world's population has never been on a plane? And like, yeah, the percentage of people who do fly the proportion of like emissions that that, like contributes to it. It's just like a crazy, small percentage of people who fly creates like, an insane amount.
Yeah. And there was this thing about the top. One of the things that really struck me was about in that article that what you just the top 10% drive most of the emissions. And I think you've copied it here, then the top 10% of polluters, about 770 million people, roughly the population of Europe, or the climate equivalent of the world's wealthiest decile who earn more than 38,000 a year, according to Oxfam, so that's if you're over earning over $38,000 a year, you are factually within the top 10% of the world's population in terms of wealth. Yeah, and wealthy something like that. Yeah. Extended wealthy.
Yeah. I think Lena normas did a video about like, something along the lines of like, I don't feel wealthy, but when I when she looked at like, all the factors of her life, like no, no, like I am, yeah, which what like that. But yeah, the article was great as far as statistics and how it looked at, not just so far, a lot of the like, climate conversations and as far as like emissions and responsibility and, and who's contributed the most has been mostly about like countries. But then this research from World inequality lab, found that its wealth across nations, like individual wealth, regardless of like the country, you contribute the most. Yeah, something I thought of when thinking about this topic, was that how people love hearing good things about their bad habits. But then the opposite is true. People like really don't like hearing bad things about their bad habits, because you had to put the spotlight on them and it makes them like, feel bad and judged and nobody likes that. And that's what that sounds like people from changing so like how do you how do you make room for more more shame whether it's empty you start in your own life? Yeah, with your own actions. Do you figure out how to say like, shame other people, but maybe Like that hesitation is what we need to like get over, because maybe we just need to share more like kind of humanizing things like that as your barber post, so that people can make that connection to like the people who are suffering behind our, you know, wealthy and convenient choices, purchases, etc. And it's like, a jumble of thoughts.
Yeah, no, I just, it's a lot of interesting points. And it's like, like, how do you find the sweet spot, right? To feel bad enough about something? To do something to change? But not so bad? That you either think Well, fuck it, I'm just shipped person. And why do I care? You know that the most that I think there's maybe like a productive point. In all of that emotional angst. Like what we talked about, like, you know, where do you find the productive point in the sort of before you end up in this, you know, gray spiral of doom? Right? I
thought it was quagmire of doom.
Oh, I'm sorry. It's true. But it's like, like,
I think you haven't start with one area like algebra where she talks a lot about, like ethical fashion. Short, a bit consumed, which is really good. I recommend. Like, I think you kind of have to find your thing, which, obviously, we touched on in our climate Venn diagram, finding your climate action, whatever was called. Because you can't do all the things one person, like you do have a bigger impact and you think, talk about a ripple effect. And we can come back and talk to there's a part of that article that I really liked and want to touch on, but you're not going to do all the things starting tomorrow. So I don't know you can there are different approaches. Like I've heard people say like, what kind of makes you like the angriest? Like what angers you the most? Is it people buying cheap fast fashion? Is it? Is it flights? Is it food? Because those are some of the biggest culprits. And then I think I think you have to whatever your thing is, you need to kind of accept that, okay, I need to make some changes, you don't need to be perfect. Because that what's the quote, like, don't let perfect be the enemy of the good or whatever. Don't let that prevent you like, you know, becoming Greta Thun, Morgan, never flying again and taking a boat anytime you want to family, like
I guess it's that I for me, I was trying to think of a way when I was thinking about this episode, and trying to think of a way to have a conversation that was productive. One of the things that came to me was about accountability. And like finding,
you know, finding other people or finding a way to have that accountability, especially when you're making having to make decisions or wanting to make decisions that you don't really like,
on one level. Especially, you know, they're like the big kind of pleasure seeking, like, live life to the fullest side of humanity. Like the part that maybe is like denying some of that. You know, how do you I don't know.
Well, I think it there isn't it depends element of this surprise, like with most things I was thinking about Gretchen Rubin, she has this four tendencies quiz and talks about like, I think her example is like working out. And depending on which type you're on, I forget all four types, but one of them is like external accountability. So having like a running buddy, or some kind of group class where like other people are counting on you, and that's what drives you to like to do something that's what holds you accountable. For me, it's more internal, like I need to know the why behind things. So I think it depends on like, your what your what typically, like holds you accountable for like doing anything, is it internal or external? I think one of the other tendencies was like a rebel, which I'm a part of sometimes, but telling myself to do something, sometimes just that automatically ensures that like, I'm not going to do it. Or you tell myself the right pronouns or but but yeah, for most most of the time for me, it's like understanding the why behind things like watching documentaries about fast fashion. What was it called? The true costs. Yeah, that was a good one quite eye opening for me. So So yeah, I think it depends on your kind of your personality and what when you've like wanted to make changes or create new habits in the past for anything, not necessarily sustainability. Focus, like what what led to you like seeing that through?
Yeah, that's a good question. No,
because if it is external stuff, like community is a great Way to go. But yeah, for me it's tends to be more like research and like understanding the why behind the thing. Is that helpful?
That is helpful. I'm Yeah, more of
a reflective kind of thing. Like you're not gonna have like an unlikely to have an immediate response to that. But
yeah, no, no, it's interesting. I'm trying to think I'm not. I'm not very like habit oriented person. I'm, like, need to think about it.
And certainly weren't some people just like, I forget, I think it might be the three I'm gonna look up what the four tendencies are. Real quick, because I think one of them or maybe I'm mixing this up with something else is that you just kind of do what feels like good to you. As it comes up, but others question our rebel obliger an upholder? Those were the four. Well, yeah, the upholder. Okay, the upholder meets outer expectations, and inner expectations. So regardless of where that comes from, they like uphold whatever the expectation is, regardless of where it comes from, like they will uphold it, the obliger meets outer expectations. So that's the like, kind of running buddy thing, and resists inner expectations. And then the rebel resists both. And then questioner resists outer expectations and meets inner expectations. So that's where I fall mostly.
Okay, that's interesting. I'll have to look it up. I think. I think I would probably end up more in the obliger. But at the same time, if there's something that I've like, made a decision on, like, I can only think of very, like few things where I'm like, No, completely No. Normally rather than Yes, I mean, it's normally easier to say no. Maybe I don't know. Anyway, that was a big, that was a big statement. With very little to back it up. It's normally easier to say no, that's
I think most people would find that it's easier to just
say yes, when it comes to like,
when it comes to other people, just it's easier to like say yes, in a moment. No,
I guess it made me I meant more. No, it's true. But I think it meant more like, when you're making a decision about something, it's normally easier to like, remove the thing. And then if it's something where it's like, you know, you can be like, just no, like, I don't want to do that thing. Rather than being like, Yes, I'm gonna do,
like, it depends on like, do you like, sometimes it's easier to just continue because you're not disrupting, like, people involved? You're not disrupting, like, I don't know, status quo, or like, other people around you? And, yeah, I mean, I think with any of these types of quizzes, like you'll tend, that's what's called a tendency, you'll tend to be in this category, but then you'll drift to one or the other. So like, I'm a questioner primarily, but then I tend to drift towards trouble.
Okay. Interesting. I will.
That's the one I think I was trying to refer to have. Right? Like no expectations can be set, you just kind of do things as they like as you feel the need to. So I'm not really sure how that would work in terms of making more like climate friendly habits and bringing in shame, because so with that, like Yeah, comes like some sort of new like expectation or different expectation. Like whether it's flying last or buying more Fairtrade or secondhand clothing items, or, you know, picking the veggie option. Also, in that article, it touched on diets and how that has changed and affected across across the world, not just in, like the US, or there was one stat that I thought was funny, or not funny. It's kind of scary. Think about it. As people get richer diets tend to diversify and meat consumption rises, we'd need a second Earth if everyone had the diet of an Australian or a Brit.
Yeah. I mean, that's pretty factual.
Yeah, I think diet is. That has been an I guess, an easier one for me to feel if anger is the right word. But like, that was an easy like, change for me to make because I saw like the why behind it and watching documentaries and doing research about like, I mean, it started with I just don't like the idea of eating animals, but it's evolved over time.
Yeah, I mean, I think that but I don't, I'm sorry.
I'm just gonna say I've gotten away from like, I don't I try not to bring it up. Or like people are eating me. They'll apologize to me. No, no, like, it's fine like you, you do you? And then I have found that over time. So it's mostly true when I work like in an office. And people see in the in the break room, what I'm eating and will ask me questions about it. And in that curiosity, I think has led to more productive conversations than me like pointing to someone's, you know, hamburger and saying Do you know how much water? They're making that?
So? No, I think that's definitely true. I agree, I think. And I think the thing is one of I think one of the hard things right now in terms of climate change, and kind of around this topic is that I think, at least in Europe, I don't know worldwide, but I would assume that's probably true. Like, most people, like know, this, there's an issue. And most people have already heard, like, the big solutions, right? I feel a newbie, and that's the part that's frustrating, as well, because I can feel myself getting frustrated. We do have access to so much information, and most people know, so if you're choosing not to do something,
well, there's two ways we can take this, there's the part of me that's like, ah, and it's like, if you're choosing not to do something, why, like, like, frustrated, like, why are you choosing not to do something, you know, maybe not in detail, but like, we know, there is a problem. You know, it's,
it's taught in schools, there's so much information, politicians talk about it, it's like one of those things that are on the agenda, sustainability issues in a broad way. Like, we know, there is an issue, you would have to be living under a rock. And so there's a part of me, there's that side, it's like, Ah, why. And then there's the other part, which is like, maybe it should be more like, you know, like a curious why, like, why when we have all of this information, like what are the sticking points? Why is it still hard for us to make changes that we need? And kind of trying to change the tone of that, like, rather than being like an angry, frustrated being, like curious because we have this information? And I genuinely like, I mean, maybe not details, but like, everyone, I would talk to you. I mean, I feel like most people I come across in my everyday life, I'd have some awareness. You know, it's quite difficult not to be so like, what are the sticking points?
Yeah, and I've had a few thoughts. I'll see if I can do it now. Well, one of them was I remembered you jot it down. And I found this quote, too. And that article, was that wealth. That yeah, wealth is the driving factor in carbon, and like greenhouse gas emissions in our lifestyles. But then if we lifted the poorest 1 billion out of poverty, I would only increase emissions by 3%. So when we say like, we were talking about shame, and making changes, like we're referring to the wealthy people who have the means ability and privilege to make changes the guiltiest, honestly, yeah, they've contributed the most. But yeah, I was thinking about where within our 10 minute warning, so we'll try to wrap this up. But I was thinking about my example of like the breaker when people coming to me with curiosity, and if you wanted to, like maybe spark more, like a very specific example would be if someone's eating the burger. Oh, have you tried beyond burger yet? Like I hear either. I hear they're quite good compared to regular meat, or I've tried it myself. And that way, you're not saying Why are you eating the hamburger? Did you know that? It uses this much water, blah, blah, blah, are the people who work in the factory farms live, you know, live, not great lives, their mental, mental health and great. And the animals suffer? Like all the things like instead of pointing that out, like, I think, because it goes back to what I said about people not liking they don't like to hear bad things about their bad habits they want to hear hear good things about their bad habits, but I think it also also need easy alternatives. So if like a beyond burger, or whatever Burger King here uses is just as good, if not better than the regular like, like, what's the point of continuing? I hope my point came through, and that ramble. I was watching a decluttering video the other day, too. It was like putting things away needs to be just as easy as leaving it out. So people alternatives this whole talk of like, shame. It's gonna work differently on different people.
And also, I'm like, It's not how I wanted to put it but yeah, yeah, people really act differently. And I mean, I'm just reflecting as well like, my whole just like route they're like, why aren't you doing anything? Like oh, start with you easily turn on me for sure. That was
like I think it's a great feeling frustrated and angry. You have to start with like yourself Why
Why didn't you bring your tapa Hannah? Like, you know, you should bring Tupperware like what like there's so many things that I can be like with that.
In that case, the preventing the food waste, I think, outweighs the the reusable container. Okay, interesting. It's like that's, you know, that's and that's the difficult part of it all, but, but obviously, we do need to do better. So that's like a way to simplify it and what what that looks like, will be different.
That's a good place to end for now,
for happening. So Oh, and one of the, this might be to follow up probably in a follow up episode, is it all like everything? Something that I found, like kind of uplifting, or a bit more hopeful? Okay, article, and that Bloomberg article was that was okay, this subheading, the inequality shift means policy should shift. Over the last few decades policy researchers have left a substantial library of strategies, options and tactics to put national greenhouse gas pollution on a glide path to zero. The same is not true for wealthy individuals. That started to change, a small group of researchers published a paper in Nature energy in September, that put forward five ways in which the global rich can leverage change much larger than themselves. And I'll just briefly list the roles because we're running out of time, consumer investor, role model, citizen and organizational participant. So in this episode, we've talked a lot about the role of a consumer and a bit of like role model, because the changes you make they do have a ripple effect on the people around you and the people around them. And yeah, we did that episode on extinction rebellion. That's the citizen role. Which we didn't talk about, they're like they've shifted from their disruptive action to more community, all like that, for your new listener to remap. Certainly
check out the show notes for this episode.
There's a lot of good stuff on there. Lots of good links in this one. So yeah, I like that. It broke down those roles. And then in that article, it like shows the connections between like, the resources and then like the, the, like, desired effect of like, reducing, like the area of reduces emissions, like travel, housing, etc, etc. So go check that out. But yeah, we've talked a lot mostly about like being a consumer in this one. So
yeah, I think. Yeah, I think there's definitely a good follow up. And we haven't we still haven't done a really good like, individual versus corporate.
Yeah, I was just gonna bring up the chart you said about and have been talking about companies as if they're not made up of individuals?
Yeah. So that's maybe that's a good one. We always like a kind of allude to it. But I don't think we've done a full episode.
yet. I think there was more than that about that. Because we we think about companies as like, oh, that's one thing and one bad thing, but it's made up of the big ones, the ones who are more the more guilty emitters, the higher emitters are made up of 1000s of people. Yeah. And yeah, and one of the roles being a participant in an organization. Anyway, so yeah, lots more to chat about. But I think start with take the four tendencies quiz, Gretchen Rubin figure out what would be a better way for you to it's more about like habit building, but I think it would work for like how you can like, bring more and more shame to drive a bit more action in your own personal life. And then, yeah, I think just being more transparent about being imperfect, but wanting to do better and figuring out what that looks like, because but I want to be perfect. You can't have neither can I you know, that was a perfect.
I mean, rice is pretty close, though. Yeah, he was pretty. Alright, no, no boyfriend.
Yeah. On that note, give us hitters check out the show notes. The T on sustainable living.com/episode 24. Yeah. 24. See the next one.
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