Why bother with sustainability


I don’t know about you, but there are days where I’m about ready to throw the towel in on some of the things I should be doing in the name of environmentalism.

I’m on track to spend my life as an ecologist, and it still sometimes seems so futile I feel unable to do anything. A large part of my education has been understanding and analyzing the facts and figures that tell us just how fucked we are, so it’s easy to look at the state of the world and decide my actions don’t matter because we’re too far gone anyway.

But they do — if not because they will make a huge impact, but because they are simply the right thing to do. My two core reasons for making the choices I do stem from a sense of responsibility to care for both the earth and the people who will live on it after me.

First, I want to make sure the descendants of my generation get to experience the same beauty we did, and I want the earth to survive the plague of humanity.

Second, I know that I take and use much more than a lot of the people on this planet who have less than I do. My responsibility is not only to my children and their children, but it is also to the people who are not creating the same negative impact as me or are more affected by my actions than I am.

I know just as well as the next guy that the richest 10% of the world emits nearly 50% of the carbon that ends up in the atmosphere. Unfortunately, it seems like the people who impact the planet the most care about it the least. This makes resolving the climate crisis seem hopeless, but that’s exactly the kind of mindset that leaves us with no options. That is what we have to avoid at all costs.

The issue is, since our planet is a shared resource from which everyone benefits freely, we abuse it because no one immediately feels the cost. We will eventually, but when someone throws their trash on the ground, that does not directly affect my day. This phenomenon is known as the tragedy of the commons, and it is the reason people can so easily deny their own responsibility to the problem. Somehow, we have to change our own minds and the collective consciousness to prioritize the health of our earth, because one day it will become our health.

Once we decide it doesn’t matter, we automatically lose. We give in to the inevitability of Earth being destroyed by humanity, and we let down everyone who comes after us. I want to be able to say we put up a good fight. That’s exactly why we have to continue making the changes that reduce our personal contributions and speak decisively for policy that will change the inherently destructive nature of our systems and society.