Thought experiment. Let’s just say that global warming didn’t exist (it does). That scientists were wrong about our planet being in peril (they aren’t). And that species weren’t collapsing due to human intervention at a staggering rate (they are). In this parallel universe, wouldn’t you still want to take care of the earth? Wouldn’t you still be glad that we’re using fewer straws or that single-use plastics are getting banned? Wouldn’t the fight to reclaim land for preservation still seem like the right call?
Of course it would. It’s only logical to preserve your habitat. It’s an intuitive response to… being alive. And yet, the naysayers exist. Those who somehow link electric cars with extreme liberalism and wind farms with PC culture run amok. Those for whom refusing to compost somehow buckets into “trolling the libs.”
They aren’t all on the right side of the political divide, either. After writing about the shared onus of environmental responsibility, it was liberals who emailed to me to tell me to check my privilege. That it’s unfair to push everyone to be better, considering our society’s systemic inequity. Corporations wrecked the environment and only corporations (and regulation can fix it), they insisted.
Cool story, bro. Keep fiddling about that while the world burns.
The fact is that stewardship of the planet earth is one of the few unarguable, unassailable positions in all of existence. Think global warming is fake? Great, but pick up trash so that our beaches look nice. Believe that mass extinction (even when it’s measurably caused by humans) is just part of the bigger life cycle? Fine, but buy your food in bulk to prevent waste from excess packaging. Feel like articles like this one, pushing people to lessen their personal ecological impact, are privilege-washed? Got it… but still maybe compost your trash?
Unless you’re living in the philosophical sweet spot where nihilist, anarchist, and narcissist intersect, there’s literally no reason you shouldn’t try to care for our natural habitat. No one is off the hook. There are no exemptions. I’ve heard your excuses. They’re trash. Try to be better in any small way you can manage, knowing that we all fail at times and that points are definitely awarded for effort.
In 2006, shortly after An Inconvenient Truth came out, I became the eco-columnist for a magazine owned by the Orange County Register. The job entailed profiling non-profits and environmental charities in the fifth biggest county in the nation. Over the four years that I held the post, part of me that grew progressively more jaded. Many of the 501c-3 charities I wrote about eventually crashed and burned. They didn’t have long-term sustainable plans and weren’t able to grow beyond their charismatic founders. All too many of them seemed to mismanage money to a comical degree or make ecological compromises that undermined their entire ethos (I once attended a speech about decreasing consumption hosted inside a luxury home goods store).