The 365 Ways Blog

Michael Norton is author of "365 Ways to Change the World", which provides an issue for each day of the year, interesting facts, inspiring case studies of people doing things to address the issue and ideas for action. Originally published in the UK, versions with local content have been published in Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the USA. To find out more visit our website:

07 October 2007

Be a hypocrite

We are told that global warming is the greatest issue facing the planet. Yet we see many of those who are telling us this jetting off on holiday or another book tour. Sure they may be offsetting their carbon emissions. But they know that any offsetting must also be accompanied by a serious attempt to reduce personal emissions.

There are lots of things that all of us do which we know we shouldn’t be doing. And despite every attempt to tell us it’s wrong, we will continue doing them. S, perhaps we should legitimise the idea of “being a hypocrite”… but only up to a point. We should allow people to own up to everything that they are doing which they know they shouldn’t be doing. This at least will put everything out into the open... and it could be a starting point for behaviour change.

• Be a hypocrite. Continue to talk about global warming, yet take those flights to the South of France or the USA. Or forget to change your light bulbs to low energy or switch to green electricity. All simple things that will have an impact on the problem.
• But own up to what you are doing that you know in your heart of hearts that you really ought not to be doing. Make a list of all your acts of hypocrisy in relation to the environment (what you are doing to trash it).
• Then see if you can stop doing just one of these things… a small step for a better future for the planet.

This is Jeanette Winterson, acclaimed author of “Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit” and most recently of “The Stone Gods” in conversation with Fi Glover on Radio 4’s Saturday Live on 6th October 2007. She is talking about changing the world and being a hypocrite:

Asked if she was concerned about climate change… “I’m an optimistic person anyway. I always think that we get another chance. And I’m also convinced that nature will produce a miracle when we least expect it.

We’ve already seen so many problems averted. I don’t think we need to go down the Doom and Gloom route. But we do need to be, each of us, very conscious of what we are doing in the world and our own choices on the planet. So it’s not about pessimism, it is about challenge now.

What I really worry about are my godchildren. They’re only kids, and they worry about the planet every day. They always coming home and asking “Will there even be a planet for us to live on?” But when you hear it from the kids, you must really do something about this. And it can’t just be politics. It has to be personal commitment from everybody.

At home I have a geothermal heating system and a rainwater collecting system. So I do what I can. But I’m not that squeaky clean. I do have a Porsche. Not an electric Porsche. Sadly they haven’t made them yet. I limit the mileage.

But the point is that there’s always going to be some part of us that says “Hey, let’s party!”. That’s what we have got to balance against responsibility. If it becomes too hairshirt and penitential, then nobody’s going to do anything. But there are things that all of us can do.”

Listen to the full broadcast at: