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Why I care about the environment, and it’s not because of the environment

posted by Joshua on November 22, 2016 in Nature
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I find nature beautiful, but that’s not why I care about the environment.

If you know me, you know I do more than most to avoid polluting and contributing to global warming. I contribute, but probably something like 10% what a typical American does. Not eating meat, not driving, avoiding flying, avoiding packaged food, wearing sweaters instead of heating, and so on probably add to some savings.

So why do I care about the environment?

Two reasons.

The first is caring that my actions affect others—that is, responsibility.

The second is considering how they feel from the effects of my actions—that is, empathy.

As much as I care about how animals feel and the air and water look, I care incomparably more how my actions affect other people, even future generations.

When I turn off a light on leaving a room, I don’t primarily think about carbon dioxide in the environment or coal soot darkening the sky, though I do think of them. I think of future generations of people who have to deal with sea levels rising, fighting over resources that could be plentiful but for them no longer are, and effects like that. I think of how I wish past generations had thought of us, since I see garbage and pollution all over that make my world less beautiful.

I don’t take responsibility for other people’s actions or emotions. But I do take responsibility for mine, so I try to do what I consider right.

A big part of maturing for me has been transitioning from avoiding responsibility to taking it, and seeing how considering how my actions affect others improves my life. Same with empathy and considering how others feel.

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