BY: DUSTIN BATTY
Since Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring brought environmental concerns to the public eye in 1962, there has been a steadily increasing awareness of humanity’s many unsustainable practices. Despite this increased awareness, though, most people still take little to no action toward having an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.
There are many diverse reasons that people are not living eco-friendly lives. Some people are simply unaware of the environmental crisis, for example, and others don’t believe that environmental issues such as climate change are actually the fault of human action. These people are merely lacking information and may convert to sustainable practices if they are shown the truth.
More worrisome are those who are fully aware of the human impact on the environment, and still take no reparative action. They largely fall into four main camps, which I have designated the Apathetic, the Despairing Individual, the Patiently Hopeful, and the Passive Activist.
The Apathetic are those who are familiar with the damage that humanity is doing to the Earth, but honestly don’t care. They may be nihilists, who think that nothing matters—why worry about the Earth when everything is meaningless? Or, they may think that they will not see significant negative consequences in their lifetime, and argue that it’s not their problem. People in this category will need a drastic change in their worldview before they support the environmental cause.
The Despairing Individual is the one who sees the enormous magnitude of the environmental crisis, and is overwhelmed by its scope. They believe that their individual efforts will make no difference, so they don’t bother putting any effort in. These people need to watch or read Cloud Atlas, for it words this so well: “My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?” These people need to realize that they do not live in a vacuum. Though they are individuals, they are also part of a community, of a society, and of a species. Individually we can do very little, but together we can change the world.
The Patiently Hopeful are similar to the Despairing Individuals in that they are aware of the environmental crisis, yet they do nothing to help fix it. Their motivation is quite different, though; rather than worry that nothing can be done, the Patiently Hopeful are fully confident that we will come up with a solution to all of our problems sometime in The Future. The Future is a magical pastoral place where everyone lives happily and all of the current world issues have been resolved. The main problem with this view is that they are so confident in everyone else’s abilities that they see no need to put in any effort of their own toward making The Future happen. People in this category need to realize that The Future isn’t going to just pop into existence one day, and that if it’s going to become a reality, we’re going to need their help.
Finally, the Passive Activist. These people are not only aware of the environmental crisis; they keep up to date on all of the latest developments. They read environmental books and articles, they watch environmental documentaries. They even recycle. They are constantly informing their friends and families about the harm that humans are doing to the planet, and prophesizing doom if this or that governmental regulation is not changed. But they don’t actually do anything to help. Even recycling isn’t that environmentally friendly (as I’ve mentioned previously); it’s much better to minimize consumption than to buy the same amount and just recycle some of it.
These people feel bad about humanity’s role in the destruction of the ecosphere, and that makes them feel like they are part of the solution. Unfortunately, awareness isn’t enough. Some of them are simply lacking direction; they want to help the world, but they don’t know how to. These people just need to be introduced to a specific cause that they can join, perhaps a local conservation effort. The others, those who are satisfied with keeping informed about the environment but are not willing to actually change their way of living to help fix it, need to realize that large-scale environmental damage control can only happen if everyone plays their part.
To recap, the environmental crisis is a real and imminent threat, and solving it will require an active effort from everyone. Ignorant, apathetic, patient, despairing, and passive attitudes won’t cut it. We need people to get on board with saving the world before it’s too late.