People who suggest individual action doesn’t matter on the scale we need to restore Earth’s ability to sustain life don’t know what they’re talking about. I don’t mean that figuratively.
What they’re saying is like telling someone there’s no point in playing scales on the piano to reach Carnegie Hall when no one goes there to see someone play scales and that, besides, you’ll just have to practice more anyway.
We practice scales (or other exercises for other instruments or to play sports, lead people, or other active, social, emotional, expressive, performance-based fields) to help us improve, to master ourselves and our art. We consider it a part of life. It brings us reward, even if it keeps us from doing other things. We know we value the arts. Yes, learning ourselves helps improve the arts, for which we’re glad, but we don’t really do it for the rest of the world. We do it because we can’t imagine not doing it. Could you imagine living with no hobbies or ways of expressing yourself beyond pedestrian everyday talk?
Most of my life, I didn’t think or care how my behavior affected others through the environment. I flew, ate packaged food, and bought things I didn’t need to indulge myself. Then I tried living more sustainably. Those actions taught me how connected we are.
Now I avoid polluting and pick up litter to help vulnerable, helpless people. I consider it my duty, not something to complain about. It brings reward, even if it keeps me from doing other things. I value human and wildlife health. Yes, acting sustainably helps increase Earth’s ability to sustain life, for which I’m glad, but I do it because now I can’t imagine not doing it. I couldn’t imagine polluting the environment or not cleaning others’ pollution for more than a moment.
Sustainability: the Most Human We Can Act
Stewardship and sustainability aren’t distractions from a better life. If our behavior hurts people and Earths’ ability to sustain life, acting to help those vulnerable and helpless to defend themselves against our hurting them is the most human thing we can do.
Feeling connected to others, to everyone, is glorious. Not visiting Macchu Pichu in favor of helping others is no loss whether because you’re a musician, athlete, leader, or a steward of nature.
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