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Green fatigue

By COSIMA MARRINER

When Prince Charles boasted of his environmentally friendly lifestyle recently, it didn't come across quite the way he intended. His preference for wearing extra clothes rather than turning up the palace heating, his efforts to recycle old bathroom curtains into cushion covers, and the way he throws his bathwater on the garden at Highgrove, were all derided in the media as ''penny-pinching''.

As the West luxuriates in the comforts of a wealthy 21st century, most people do not fancy the self-denial route to sustainability espoused by Australia's future king.

Sure there are those who use green bags when they go to the supermarket, fill their recycling bins, maybe do a little vintage shopping, even try to grow some vegies in the backyard or on the balcony.

But when it comes to overhauling lifestyles to improve the planet - getting rid of the car, installing solar panels, not upsizing the plasma TV - the community is not that motivated. Apathy has replaced action.

A survey by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last year found Australians are the least likely to consider energy use when buying a home, and most likely to leave appliances on standby, or drive to the shops. Meanwhile, our concerns about industrial pollution, climate change, renewable energy and depletion of energy resources have plunged in the past five years, according to the recent What Matters to Australians report. Logging and habitat destruction were the only ''environment'' issues in the top 25 of concern to Australians.

So why has the community given up on going green? Sustainability experts say the cause has been sold all wrong in the 21st century - as self-sacrifice rather than self-gratification - and politicians are largely to blame.

The carping about the carbon tax and the tedious to-ing and fro-ing over whether climate change is real have distanced the problem from everyday life. The challenge now is to bring ''green'' back to a personal context. 

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