"What am I doing? I don't know what I'm doing. I'm doing the best that I can. I know that's all I can ask of myself. Is that good enough? Is my work doing any good? Is anybody paying attention? Is it hopeless to try and change things? [...] Maybe I should quit. Don't quit. Maybe I should just f*cking quit. Don't f*cking quit. Just, I don't know what the f*ck I'm supposed to do anymore."
-- Albert Markovski, I Heart Huckabees
That's me--the classic existentially angsty upper-middle-class environmentalist! But at least I can laugh at myself. This is the meaningful, emotionally-charged post where I bare my soul. Then we can get on to the fun stuff.
So here it is: not a day goes by that I don't agonize over a disposable coffee cup, an extra car trip, or the sad future of our planet in general.
I care a lot-- it's kind of annoying, actually. I care about animals and their habitats; I care about the beauty and integrity of the earth; I care about trees; I care about the health and happiness of my future children; I care about losing our beautiful winters (and I'm not being sarcastic). But why? I just do-- it comes from somewhere pretty deep. And I believe that everyone cares in some way, even if they're not letting themselves feel it.
I can't stand to see the earth fall apart at the hands of humans, especially because I'm just as guilty as anyone. It makes me really, really sad.
So how do I cope?
When you suffer from chronic guilt, rationalization becomes your best friend: "I have to take a car to the store-- cat litter is heavy!" "My shower was too long today, but it's ok because I won't have one tomorrow." "I'll buy fast food just this once, but only because I promise to take all the garbage home to recycle."
Of course, this only partly works.
Another handy coping strategy: doublethink. This Orwellian technique can sometimes give me a much-needed break from my environmental angst: while knowing full well the state of things on one level, I simultaneously block it out and exist in blissful ignorance. However, this is a dangerous tool and must be used sparingly. I think too many people indulge in doublethink on a regular basis (whether it results in simple environmental apathy or outright climate change denying). You can't keep your head under the sand all the time-- nothing gets done.
But then we get to that endlessly frustrating question: what is the point? Will I single-handedly stop climate change by walking to the store one afternoon instead of driving? No. What's the difference if I recycle this one can or throw it in the trash?
But it's still important to try.
I cannot stand when people say "The earth is a lost cause, so why bother doing anything to help?"
For one thing, maybe we can't reverse all the damage, but it's not an all or nothing deal. We can make things better, if not perfect. Clearing plastic bags out of one urban river habitat may not solve the world's sustainability issues, but it will clear the junk away for birds and squirrels to make their homes. Baby steps.
Plus, it's a matter of principle. Just because there seems to be one inevitable negative outcome does not mean it's ok to actively participate in making it a reality.
If nothing else, making the effort to be green is essential to my mental health. Humans need hope to survive.
My goal is to live with the knowledge that not-so-good things are happening to the earth, while actively working to be part of the solution. This way I can ease my guilt and be productive.
In the end, I think the key to my survival will be to focus on the good.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
8 years ago