ruthless compassion (aroraborealis) wrote,
ruthless compassion

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the sky is falling

So, I've always been what you might call an environmentalist. Having grown up in a community and a family with an active engagement with the natural world -- hiking, camping, climbing, skiing, etc -- I've basically always had a sense of responsibility with regards the world and my (and people's in general) place in it.

These days, though, it's hard not to feel like the sky is falling and that if we can't change our ways, the end of the world is nigh. On the other hand, people have been feeling that way for, as far as I can tell, basically ever, right? I mean, all the early Christians were excited about the return of Christ very soon after his death. They were pretty sure the world was going to end any minute. So, feeling that the world could end soon is pretty cliché, and, frankly, unlikely to be right.

On the other hand, I look at the science on climate change, and I look at the impact we humans have had on the planet, especially in the last century, and I think, well, shit, things don't look good. The world will make it (which, actually, I find very reassuring), but I'm not so sure about people. We depend on the global ecosystem for our most basic needs: food, water, energy. And while all of those things will continue to be available into the future, there's likely to be a lot less of them, and less predictably, and less reliably.

So I want to talk to everyone about how urgent it is that we begin to live in more sustainable ways. But when I step outside myself, I see this as problematic for two reasons. First, proselytizing is incredibly annoying, self-righteous, and generally unbearable. I don't want to be part of it. And second, I don't actually think it'll make a difference. The change I see us needing to make is so big that even if it makes me fret to see people driving more than they need to or buying plastic crap or not recycling aluminum foil or office paper, these are small potatoes.

This is part of why I'm studying policy; policy change may be one of the only ways to bring about systemic change, since so much of the problem is a tragedy of the commons type issue, and people just don't choose the common good over individual good more than occasionally. Even those of us who care a hell of a lot about this issue don't tend to choose the "right" way every time. As kcatalyst recently challenged me to consider: I fly places that I don't need to go, for example, and I'll admit that I'm not really willing to give that up as long as it is likely to feel like I'm depriving myself of something valuable and important to who I see myself to be (a traveler, a world citizen, someone with friends in far-flung places) and while that deprivation feels like such a drop in the bucket of a problem with a really, really big bucket.

I try to live in as low impact a way as I can, within the bounds of still living a basically normal life in North America, but all of our systems and structures are set up such that a basically normal life involves a fuckton of resource use. Which is depressing, and some days, it makes me feel like throwing in the towel, crossing my fingers and hoping I die before things get really bad. But that hardly seems fair or right, since it's already bad for a lot of people in the world, and I know I wouldn't feel good about it. But I'm still stuck sometimes not really knowing what to do when there's far too much to do.
Tags: introspection, school

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