Joanne Poyourow has some interesting thoughts up at the Transition US blog, proposing the concept of ‘intellectual consumerism’. Do some people turn up to Transition and other meetings merely to sate themselves with knowledge, but never put it into practice? She sees it at least partly as a psychological issue – gaining this knowledge becomes a proxy for taking action in a way you feel either inadequate or unable to take. But it also forms an aspect of the same addictive cultural behaviour that leads us to physical consumption. She goes on to propose some helpful practical ways to get people to engage more.
I’m broadly with her in all of this, but would add a couple of other observations as well.
One is the issue of time and community. Turning up to Transition meetings takes time, which conflicts with time that could be spent doing something sustainable (say, gardening as opposed to buying vegetables at the supermarket). Obviously there’s a balance to be drawn. A complicating factor is that Transition is a community, not just informational, and you need to turn up with some regularity to be part of it. Or you feel – with justification – that you want to support events that your friends are organising. So I wouldn’t be quite as cynical about some of these people as Joanne is suggesting.
The second, of course, is that the same factors apply much more widely. Churches see similar behaviour, with an increased attitude of “what can I get out of it?” and a distinct subculture of people who become obsessed with theology, Christian books, particular preachers and the like.
Probably these don’t help in addressing it, except insofar if the culture starts to shift back, it will improve in all respects. In the meantime, as an information junky, I definitely need to hear Joanne’s warnings!