Friday, 6 February 2009


Or How I Learned To Love The Life Of A Corporate Executive

When I decided to start a blog, I also decided that I should be as honest as possible when writing. So hear my confession, for I have sinned.

Unlike the authors of other blogs that have a green viewpoint, I have no long-term history of supporting “green” issues – if anything, the opposite is true – for a long-time I was a fully paid up member of corporate globalisation complete with status-symbol company car, frequent flyer air miles and all the materialistic artefacts of conspicuous consumption. I can’t even use the excuse that I was unaware of environmental issues because, over 20 years ago I worked as the Computer Officer for the Avon Wildlife Trust surrounded by plenty of bright, intelligent individuals who educated me on many of the threats inherent in an unsustainable society. Earlier still, as a child, my parents (and especially my mother) made great efforts to instil in me an appreciation for the natural environment.

So, with this background, how did I become a petrol-guzzling, jet-plane-flying consumerist devotee of Western globalisation?

The answer is as easy as it is shameful – I saw the modern equivalents of “porticoes, baths and grand dinner parties” and thought they represented civilisation. Nobody had told me about Tacitus, and so I didn’t know they were the means of my enslavement to global consumerism

Or, rather, I CHOSE not to know. In the early-90s when I stepped onto the corporate ladder, there was plenty of information around to demonstrate that large petrol hungry cars, transatlantic flights and the like were environmentally unsound. So how did I reconcile the arguments put forward with my new lifestyle? The answer was easy, I ignored them. They were not what I wanted to hear, so I tuned them out. Conversely, whenever somebody came up with information that contradicted environmental arguments, I gave them undue weight so that one anti-environmental “fact” would be skewed to outweigh multiple pro-environmental facts.

Later this “tuning out” would extend to not putting myself in the position of being confronted with environmentalism – I read the Times not the Guardian, I watched Top Gear not Life on Earth, I listened to the views of my new friends in business whilst losing touch with old friends involved in environmental campaigns. I effectively closed my eyes and jammed my fingers in my ears whilst singing “la-la-la-la” loudly to drown out anything unpalatable for my new-found tastes in lifestyle.

I should hasten to add that much (but not all) of this took place at an almost subconscious level – Yes, I was aware that I was consciously trying to avoid “inconvenient truths” but it wasn’t until relatively recently, when I tried to analyse and fathom how I had managed to ignore the facts for so long, that I realised to what extent I had been doing this. For example, the more I ignored information from environmentally friendly sources, the less information those sources provided me with. This meant I had less environmentally friendly information coming in, which reinforced my decision to ignore it– after all, the level of environmentally friendly information was declining, wasn't it?. It was a positive feedback loop built on a foundation of irrationality.

It took me the best part of a decade to realise that I had been living a grotesque lie. Despite being surrounded by material possessions I'd barely dreamed of back in Hartcliffe, I suddenly realised that I was less happy than I had ever been.

The birth of our daughter had begun the process that had led to the separate realisation that there was more to life than new cars, designer outfits and overseas trips. The catalyst would be the death of my father. A honest, hard-working and intelligent man, he had felt strongly that decisions should be made based on all the information available – it was not acceptable to simply cherry-pick the facts that you wanted to believe, you had to listen without prejudice to all sides of the argument, and then draw your conclusions based on objective analysis. I had let him down by abandoning the core values he had passed on to me.

We have now moved back to the Bristol area and our families. We earn considerably less than we did, we do not own our house (we rent privately), we do not own a car, our last holiday was to Newquay rather than New York, and we are happy, so much happier than we were when we were living the life portrayed in glossy magazines. I won't get fooled again.

Now that confession is over.....

I do not know how often I will be writing in this blog, but it is likely that the comments will mainly be requests for more information and clarification. As I have said, I do not have the long-term experience or in-depth knowledge of environmental issues that others have, and so I will looking for answers rather than providing them. The other aspect of being new to environmentalism is that I do not hold a long-standing position on most green issues – therefore do not expect my viewpoint to be consistent, as I learn more and/or take on board comments I suspect my own position will change.

I am looking forward to it.


  1. Welcome to the blogosphere Tony. I look forward to reading your posts and commenting on them occasionally. I like the exploratory style you've described. Many that find this blog will appreciate what you say!

    (By the way I've been a green for over 25 yrs now but still enjoy watching Top Gear every now and then !!)

  2. Glenn watches Top Gear

    Drum him out of the party...

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