I’m writing this knowing I am not innocent of committing atrocities against the environment and that I am not a perfect human. I am writing this as a sort of wake up call, a call to arms for people to make a difference.
I’ve been a self proclaimed environmentalist for probably the past five years. As a typical environmentalist youth, I was introduced to the movement by An Inconvenient Truth. My 9th grade science teacher showed it to us during a lull point in the year, and heavily stressed in the discussion following the viewing that our generation has to change the world, that it was up to us to save the planet from ourselves. The message he gave us has stuck with me since that year, and has shaped me possibly more than anything anyone else has ever said to me.
In high school, I started to become an “active” environmentalist by joining my high school’s environmental club and becoming president. I also became a vegetarian, mostly because of the environmental benefits, but also for my health, the animals, and my girlfriend at the time was also one. I am now a vegan, for most of those reasons. This single act alone is an enormous act of selflessness in the name of a cause that isn’t as important to me as it is to other people around the world and for future generations.
Today I had a this “revelation” when I was riding in the car with my mother and we somehow came to the topic of environmentalism. I told her that so many things had to change, like me becoming a vegan because the animal industry is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases to the environment. She replied: “Well, I’m not giving up my cow”.
This left me without a response that would be appropriate for the woman who gave me so much in her life, and is still providing for me. But it made me realize that if the woman who I have gotten to buy mostly organic, local meats and enact some other environmental acts was unwilling to change her diet to something that is not only better for her, but better for society and the world as a whole, then the rest of society must be unfathomably worse than I want to think about. Then, I thought about what we would have to change and what that would mean.
Modern society’s current consumption of goods is alarming. We eat, use, and dispose constantly. Need a water: buy a bottle instead of reusing one or finding a drinking fountain. Need a meal: go buy a pre-made, pre-cooked, pre-processed chemical filled frozen one. Need some veggies: buy them pre-washed, pre-cut, wrapped and ready to eat instead of buying fresh, local, or growing your own. Throw away whatever you don’t use, food, wrappings, clothing, or recycle it to make yourself feel not so evil.
The modern environmentalist movement is no longer making any serious headway. It has been written off as unimportant, or a lie (depending on what sources you get your information from). What steam the movement had died out, and any opportunities it had to make drastic changes are gone (I’m thinking Deepwater Horizon). Major changes do need to happen at a national and global level. Energy sources must become green: nuclear (in reality, the best), biofuel, wind, solar, and tidal. We must control what toxins are poured into our air and water, or buried in our soil.
But these changes are not the only changes we need to make. As a society, as a group of people working together, we must change our ways of life. In America, our lifestyles are disgusting: we drive, we pollute, we over-fertilize, overuse water, and waste an incomprehensible amount. It’s astonishing to look at the disposable lifestyle we live. Everything is about convenience, instead of what is best for us and the environment. We must realize that our society cannot exist indefinitely the way we currently live.
Everything we own is borrowed. The old Native American saying is:
Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children.
We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children.
But it is not just the future generations we borrow from, it is from Earth itself. What we take, we also return. Often times, in our society, what we return is toxic, or is unusable in the natural environment.
So I ask you, how do you return what you borrow from Earth?
I propose that anyone who cares enough becomes a sort of militant environmentalist. I’m not suggesting that you go and join ELF and start Molotoving your local SUV dealership. What I am suggesting is that you drastically change your lifestyle. Bike the 15 miles to work. Be a vegan. Buy local. Never buy processed food. Make your own soap. Line dry your clothes instead of using a dryer. Don’t think about how inconvenient it is for you, think about what it is doing for you, your health, your attitude, future generations, and this rock you call a home.
When people mock you, lecture them. Stop giving a damn for seeming like the crazy hippie who grows his own marijuana. When people ask questions, answer them honestly, and provide balanced, pragmatic arguments on why it would benefit them. If people don’t ever hear the truth, they will never change.
So I ask again, slightly modified: What will you return to the Earth?
I’m trying to be a better environmentalist every day. Now I’m riding a bike to work every day I can.
What else do you do for causes related to your veganism/vegetarianism?