Friday, April 4, 2014

Coming Out of the Darkness

Queen Composter has struggled with eco pessimism and has come out the other side. 

Lately I have been feeling a bit down about my efforts (and struggles) to live a more eco conscious life. For each change I have tried to make into habit, I see five more behaviours that are questionable, or down right “bad” from a green point of view. Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite, preaching ways to be kinder on the Earth.

Then I read the news and feel even more depressed. In Canada it appears our government is at war with scientists. Oil pipelines might be pushed through without thorough study. Closer to home, my provincial government is trying push through changes to parks and agricultural land to open them up to economic development. Never mind the images in the news of dangerous pollution in Asia from uninhibited industrial growth.

It is easy to get down about making a difference for the environment. Green Bean recently shared her thoughts about keeping hope alive in the face of pessimism and Eco Novice posed questions about how to promote environmental issues when there is such apathy from the general public.

I was beginning to think that perhaps it doesn’t really matter if I use a plastic shopping bag on the rare occasion I forget to bring cloth bags, if I drive a minivan, or if I buy something with a huge carbon footprint because, well, I just want it. Reusable energy is too expensive to implement for the average homeowner, and I’m tired of wearing extra layers to keep warm in my own home. I’m tired of worrying about the ingredients in my food, the packaging it comes in, and how and where it was grown. I look around me and I don’t see other worrying about this. It’s all doom and gloom anyway, isn’t it? The climate change deniers are winning, aren’t they?

After some soul searching, I have come to the realization that it is time to stop worrying about things I cannot change. Sure, I can sign petitions and even go to protests, but I have grown weary of political activism. I have decided that for me, trying to make a difference with my generation, and the generations before me, is futile and upsetting. There are too many vested interests, too many people worried about the economy and taxes, too many adults worried about “adult things”. Instead, I am going to focus my energies on those younger than me, who can see things and adjust to doing things in new ways before adult responsibilities enter their lives.

Now the changes I’m trying to make don’t feel futile anymore. Modeling is one of the most powerful teaching methods, and I am affecting change with my own children. This was brought to mind recently when I was out with my youngest, who had messy hands, and she asked for a cloth to wipe her hands. It was noted by another person that she didn’t ask for paper towel or a napkin, because at home we use cloths to wipe up messes on the floor or on our hands. Hopefully she will never buy single use items for use in her own home. My daughters often remark that the produce we buy in the stores in the winter does not taste as good as our own vegetables that we grow in the summer, and I hope that this translates into them buying local produce or growing their own food when they leave home.
Students cleaning up our school garden, preparing it for spring planting. 

This year I have committed to work with an extracurricular eco team at my school. We have worked hard to change attitudes toward the waste produced and the amount of energy used at school. I am seeing the change in my students when they remind me to use less paper towel in the class and when they remind me to turn off half the lights when it is bright out.
One day's garbage on display for my school's eco team assembly.

I have to believe that the next generations will make a difference. I hope that I can be a part of the difference they make. 

Do you ever feel fatigued with living an environmentally conscious life?


EMMA said...

Yep I do! I spent a large part of yesterday making up big batches of laundry detergent, dishwasher soap and deo, all the while thinking that I could just jump in my car and in half an hour have bought the lot and have more time to spare.
Every month I take part with other like minded ladies in a link up Slowlivingessentials, it helps to ground me and keep me motivated to live a greener lifestyle. At times I wonder 'why bother' but then I look at my kids and see them automatically putting things in the recycle bin, composting, telling the dentist they have nice teeth because 'maman feeds them nice organic veggies from the garden' etc and I know that all the extra effort is worth it.

Helena said...

Yes, especially because my husband thinks I'm crazy (in a loving way, but still) so while he'll "humor me" to an extent, I end up feel thwarted and/or frustrated much of the time. I like your idea of focusing on the younger generation--maybe I'll try that and see if it helps.

Green Bean said...

I absolutely get down in the dumps about the state of the environment. It does feel like we are losing and losing in a big way. Some days I think, why bother. No one else cares. Why should I go out of my way to make a difference or even worry.

But you are right. We look at the kids. They are the ones we are leaving this planet too and we owe it to them to teach them skills to adapt and to teach them to care. I have read that far more millennials are concerned about the environment than their older peers. I can only hope that reaching out to the younger generation will make a difference. Poignant post.

Betsy Escandon said...

While I think that making changes at the personal level is the RIGHT thing to do, I also think we need policy changes, so I would not give up on signing petitions and voting at least (I'm not much of an activist myself, although I'm inspired by Green Bean).

BUT, after all that is said and done, I believe you are spot on. We will change the world more by helping raise up our and others' children with our own values than probably anything else. If we can just get the TRUTH into curriculum (from elem. up to college), I am confident that the next generation will not only demand changes, but they will devote their brilliant minds to finding innovative solutions as well.

Christy said...

Often people become more conservative politically as they age, and I can say that the reverse is true for me. I have changed so much in the last decade, which is a lot considering I was a political science major in university. I have had to fight politically so much in my profession (four strikes in my career) and I see how little things change (putting our livelihood on the line, only to have all gains clawed back). I once had a professor who said the groups with the least political power have to resort to change outside the system, and that that kind of power historically causes the least amount of change. I don't entirely agree with him because of the power of numbers when people band together for a cause. The Occupy Movement and social media has really changed the playing field.

Having said that, I find my job as a teacher can be quite subversive because of the degree of autonomy I have in what I teach and how I teach it. Selfishly, I like the changes I can see in students, how their point of view on eating locally or conserving energy has changed, over direct political action, that seems like such an uphill battle. I am glad that there are people who have the energy to fight for all of us, and I will support them, which is why I am such a huge David Suzuki fan.

Elizabeth said...

Yes. I really appreciate this post and it actually drew me back to this blog page. I'm just coming out of my own two years of not really seeing the point anymore. I still did many of the same things I'd done before but I just didn't have heart in it. I recently volunteered for the first time in a long time with a SOLVE beach clean-up and was able to process thru some of the thoughts that have been nagging through my mind over the last few years. I decided that yep, my changes (and trying) might not do much but if I don't then the otherside wins all that much more. "If I'm not part of the solution, then I'm part of the problem." Since that moment a few weeks ago, I've noticed a change in heart about it all and even am getting some of my old advocacy lust back....

Green Bean said...

I agree with Betsy. I think we must continue with activism - though it is fine to take a breather. :) I took off a couple of years from greener stuff but, like Elizabeth, I came back to it. We are who we are. I've always cared about the planet. I may get burnt out from time to time but this is who I am.


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