Most dystopian fiction is set in a future that’s vaguely menacing, but still far enough away that descriptions of “the ruined Rocky Mountains” and “blasted New York Skyline” are alarming without causing too much discomfort.
“Yes,” we tell ourselves, “at some point, resources will become so finite that even middle-class Americans will begin to feel the pinch. And yes, it’s possible that we’ll one day send poor teens into arenas to fight for the glory of their districts. But not yet. We’re still okay.”
But are we? Since electing a president who believes that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by China, we’ve seen EPA rollbacks, the Standing Rock and Keystone pipelines have been fast tracked, the Parks Services is under fire, and Rick Perry is leading the Energy Department.
Our world is not yet the bleak landscape that launches successful movie trilogies, but we’re moving in that direction at an alarming pace. And that’s exactly why we no longer have the choice to stand by, idly complacent and hoping that someone else — some ecological group, or a politician — will fix our problems. It’s on us.
So what can you do? Uproxx spoke with Evan Marks — founder of The Ecology Center — about how we can continue thriving without killing the planet. Marks’ first bit of advice? It’s time to step away from your Snapchat.
Move past the digital
For many of us, it feels like sharing a meme or urging others to sign a change.org petition counts as civic involvement. Sure, we’d like to do something more for the environment, but we’re all so busy. Sometimes the idea of actually getting involved in a beach clean-up sounds dreadfully boring, especially when it’s easier to just cosign movements via social media.
Marks sees right through this. He believes real participation is what it’s all about.
“Our work is really about engaging people to participate,” he says, “so I think ultimately it’s probably unplugging the phone, putting your hands in the soil, and just becoming a citizen on this global planet.”
That “putting your hands in the soil” bit is both literal and figurative. On one hand, Marks would love it if you chucked your computer for a few hours and did something tangible. On the other hand, it’s also about “doing the work” — taking a measure of the situation and playing closer attention to your own behavior.
“What are you passionate about?” Marks asks. “That’s the starting place for all positive actions. Are you passionate about food? What does that mean? Do you want to grow a garden? Do you want to support local farmers and shop at a farmers’ market? Do you want to learn to cook and eat delicious, lovely, local, seasonal food? Put that passion to work. Be an activist.”
Of course, social media is where movements start — no one is saying it’s completely worthless. But Marks points out that attempts to raise consciousness on digital platforms, among people you already know, are less likely to create change than making an actual, concerted effort to do something measurable.
“When we’re young is when we should be the most vocal,” Marks says. “Stand up for what you believe in, and stand for something. Go beyond your voice and beyond your social media, because at the end of the day there’s a vacuum of nothingness there. Think about what you’re going to do in the real world and how to stand for what you believe in and stand for your passions every day. That’s the power of being a human on this planet.”
It’s a tall order. Online sharing often feels like a multi-level marketing scheme: It’s easy, but built on emptiness. Still, emptiness is attractive in a world where real change takes hard work.
“Influence is actually about making change, not about sharing something, right?” Marks continues. “Life is actually about digging in. It’s not hitting the share button or hitting the like button. Cut the digital foreplay.”