something to honk about
I self-identify as an environmentalist. I started shopping at thrift stores and vintage stores when I was in high school. I gave roommates lectures about recycling. After my mom died, I changed colleges so I could fulfill my dream of becoming a treehugger. I went to protests, I climbed trees, I did lock-downs. I learned about passive non-violence and idolized Julia Butterfly Hill. I started eating mostly organic food and using natural cleaners in my home. I garden and grow my own sprouts. I’m against clearcutting. I’m against fracking. I don’t think there is any such thing as safe and clean nuclear power.
But as the years have gone by, more and more I fall into the mentality that I am just one person and my contributions are negligible. I turn lights off every time I leave a room, but somewhere there is a mansion with dozens of light bulbs burning in empty rooms. I don’t leave the faucet running. I don’t water my lawn in the summer time. When I pour my kids a glass of juice, I close the refrigerator door and then open it again to put the juice away. But our table is only a couple of feet from the refrigerator. What if I left the door open while pouring the juice and then put it back and closed the door?
I’m tired. I try and I try and I try, but I can’t do it all. I fed my toddlers all organic food and wiped their faces with cloth napkins. But as they’ve grown bigger, so has our grocery bill, and I can’t afford all organics any more. The cloth napkins always looked dirty, so I finally gave up and started using paper.
People may say humans are “destroying the environment”. Strictly speaking, that is not true. The environment may become, sooner than desirable, uninhabitable to humans along as well as other more majestic and intelligent species. But the environment won’t go away. It will still exist, albeit in a irreversibly altered state. So, after many millennia, our actions may not matter.
But what about now? I want my children and my grandchildren to inhabit a world that is rich and beautiful and clean. I want them to believe they are taking care of the Earth and their actions always make a difference. I just don’t know if I am embodying that message as much as I want to be. When I was a teenager, I believed in myself. I thought I could make a difference. I had no idea it would be so hard. Some days I just want to live my life without all these heavy concerns weighing me down.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who has doubts like these. Please share your thoughts. Were you once as idealistic as I was? Are you still? Do you ever leave the refrigerator door open or the faucet on?