I guess one reason why it is difficult for me to feel too worked up in terms of my personal impact on the environment, or feeling condemnation towards other individuals (in contrast to, for example, people on Craigslist seeking new roommates who list their hobbies as 'renewable energy, renewable energy and renewable energy' and states they will only live with someone who is equally committed) is because I feel like my personal efforts will have almost zero impact.
Not just because I feel I am only one person. A drop in the bucket that won't matter. Because I realize drops in the bucket add up and create something larger. (Although it is discouraging knowing that in just one hour someone in their private jet can do more damage than my car does in a year.)
But because I feel that even if we, as individuals, were all doing about as best we could with what we now have, it still wouldn't be much.
While many of our personal decisions can be harmful, it is the infrastructure we operate in that is flawed. We have built up a system, that regardless of how lightly we step, it is by its nature harmful to the environment.
On Npr I heard a story comparing the carbon footprints(I don't like that term, but it effectively conveys the intended meaning succinctly) of two couples, one living in China, one in New York City.
The Chinese couple were fairly well off. Lived luxuriously for where they were, and paid little or no heed to how their actions effected the environment.
The New York couple on the other hand, while also probably well off, were very aware of and concerned about the environmental impact of their actions. They made considerable effort to minimize the harm they caused.
Yet, when the numbers were tallied, the unconcerned indulgent Chinese couple had about the same carbon footprint as the stringent New York Couple.
Because despite their best efforts, the New York Couple lived in a framework where even their best efforts were more harmful than no effort in another.
While I DO make an effort to have environmentally friendly behavior (I don't eat meat. I practice the 3 R's. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, with particular emphasis on the first two, I walk or bike whenever I can.) I don't feel too strongly about it. Or too critical of those who don't. I don't feel much emotional investment, or sense of importance in my own behavior, or the behavior of others.
More than anything it strikes me as an lifestyle that is more beneficial to the individual in terms of being of aware of and concerned one's actions and their impact. Rather than something practical, with real results. As well as the benefits that come from restraint versus indulgence.
No matter how hard, we as individuals try, it is not until both new technologies are invented, and existing ones exploited on a large scale will our personal decisions be able to have a significant impact. I am optimistic that this will happen and is currently happening. I think our energy would be better used in advocating those in power to take advantage of the technology available and invest in the development of new ones.
I don't think we are bad for having gotten ourselves in our predicament. Our technology developed incredibly fast, and for mostly good purposes. There is no inherent reason wanting to travel with ease or make products cheap and widely accessible would be harmful. And soon we will be able to continue doing these things without it causing any harm.
Had we evolved in such a way that we could be directly aware of how our daily habits effected the earth on a large scale, it is unlikely we would have gotten into this mess, but it took lots of experience and study to realize the harm we caused. And even now some people are not convinced. I think we all find it more difficult to be motivated based on something we know rationally, but can't feel. We can know our garbage production fills up landfills, but if we felt actual pain from it, I'm sure we would all throw away less waste.
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