It’s undeniable - we’re living in truly terrifying times when it comes to the wellbeing of our environment. I feel like I’m barraged with headlines pretty much everyday telling me that we have about ten years, as a species, to get our act together and save the planet. Otherwise it’ll be too late, and we’ll all burn here, or die of some virus that melted out of the icebergs, or choke on a single-use plastic fork… or something equally morbid.
It’s inescapably depressing, and it has really been wearing down on my mental health for the last year. It feels like, as an individual woman in her twenties living in little old New Zealand, I have virtually no power or control when it comes to determining the likelihood of my own future.
And I think that feeling of powerlessness is pretty universal, particularly within my generation. Everyone before us has scorched the earth, and we’re left to deal with the consequences. So, a very common attitude that people tend to adopt seems to be summed up in two words: “we’re fucked.”
I get the “we’re fucked” attitude, and maybe we are! I get the helplessness. I get the lack of faith in the powers that be, because how many governments and corporations have put in any meaningful, non window-dressing effort to solving these issues?
I see this attitude in my friends, who seem to look at me as some kind of environmental extremist if I refuse to buy something because of excessive plastic packaging. I hear it thrown around lightly in everyday conversations - “haha, the world’s ending, lol... Anyways, anyone want a burger?”, as if it’s just a fact that we should all be resigned to. I see it in viral tweets like this one from @legnarika, which reads: “ppl on this site r so funny how r u going to solve environmental problems caused by decades of colonialism & capitalism by not using plastic straws how” and has over 130,000 likes and 30,000 retweets.
Like I said, I get it!
But I also do think it’s entirely unhelpful. What’s the point of smugly smirking at people who think their individual consumption habits could have an impact on the future of our planet?
Believe me, no one believes they’re going to solve decades of environmental issues by asking for “no straw” when they order a drink at a bar, but what’s so wrong with doing what we can? What’s wrong with cutting out red meat and having shorter showers if it makes you feel better about your personal carbon footprint and waste output? If we all evaluated our lives and made as many changes as possible (no matter how small), it would make a huge difference. If we are all resigned to thinking “we’re fucked” and don’t change any of our personal habits, then how can we expect anything else to change?
Further to that point, we do have a bigger impact than just our personal output! Money talks! If we keep changing our consumption habits and demanding change from the corporations that seem to own every corner of this earth, they’ll be forced to make changes. Because, while many of them clearly don’t seem to give a crap about rising sea levels and deforestation, they do care about having as much of our money as possible. They’ve got to lock down that third superyacht, ya know?
Not to mention, I firmly believe that the “we’re fucked” attitude is doing absolutely nothing for our collective mental health. If I had to go through my life believing that we’re absolutely screwed, and there’s no point in trying, I genuinely would not be able to get out of bed in the morning. My eco-anxiety is already bad enough, but if I gave up hope entirely and resigned myself to doing whatever because nothing matters, I don’t think I’d make it through those ten years to find out what happens.
So, change your attitude, I say. Have some hope. Try. Or, if you can’t do that, at the very least, please stop judging people who are just doing their best to control what they can about this environmental emergency. I haven’t used a plastic straw since September last year, and if that makes me feel better about myself and my place in the world, what’s so bad about that?Support Villainesse