The blogosphere lit up on Monday by a study conducted by the Washington Post. The experiment entailed having a world-renowned musician, Joshua Bell, perform in a busy Washington D.C. Metro station. Would the masses take notice of the fiddler, who was playing some of the most complex pieces in his repertoire?
It would appear not. After the passage of approximately 1070 commuters in 43 minutes, Mr. Bell walked away with $32, twenty of which came from a woman who recognized him. It’s not too surprising that people have been trained to dismiss commonplace things they experience on a daily basis, such as a musician in a subway station. What is shocking, however, is that such a large group of people are so tuned out, that they didn’t hear the not so subtle difference between Joshua Bell and an ordinary subway musician.
What does this have to do with the environment and sustainability? It seems that the same cultural blinders that make us unaware of changes around us (such as, say, the appearance of a world class violinist in our midst) may also make us resistant to changing our daily routine. Asking Americans to change the types of light bulbs they buy is hard enough; getting them to change their consumption habits sometimes seems especially daunting. Programs like LEED are a great start and will certainly help fix our infrastructure, but they alone will not fix our cultural way of thinking.We want to make sure that people don’t simply replace their old H2 with Hybrid Hummer and consider themselves champions of the environment.
Organizing car pools, taking the bus, walking: these efforts take more time and effort than just hopping into an SUV and taking the kids to school. Sustainability needs to be a cultural phenomenon, not simply a technological one. So next time you step into your car, stop to think if there is an alternative way to get to where you’re going. You might get the opportunity to walk by Joshua Bell and be treated to the concert of a lifetime.