Imperfect change, impactful change

I used to be one to not really post anything political on my social media accounts. I used to react strongly to other people’s post during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, yelling in the form of Facebook comments, feeling so angry and hopeless in fear of the future of my home country, that I didn’t realize that commenting on other people’s posts wasn’t actually getting us anywhere. So, I stopped being political on social media altogether.

However, more recently I’ve realized that if used in a non-agressive manner, using your social media platforms to fight for what you believe in can actually be useful to some extent. At the very least, it gives us a platform to really express ourselves and our beliefs. Our Facebook wall is our space after all, and as the 2020 U.S. presidential election is at our doorstep and as the climate crisis becomes a very real and terrifying part of our every day world, I cannot be silent anymore.

I recently read a New York Times article in which the author basically makes the case that planting a trillion trees will not be enough to defeat or even slow down climate change. Trump briefly mentioned that he is now going to be part of the effort to plant a trillion trees to offset carbon emissions. Of course he wouldn’t just out right call it climate change, and honestly, I do not believe that Trump ever says or does anything that isn’t for his benefit or his gain of money or power. So, even though I can give him some small credit for making this small effort, unfortunately, for the science and the reality of things, we are too far gone for planting a trillion trees to really mitigate the bulk of climate change. Though this a good step in the right direction, it is not enough, not in the least bit. (This is not to say that we shouldn’t do it. It just shouldn’t be the only thing that we do). We have to fight for structural and institutional change. We have to stop permitting the fossil fuel industry and companies from holding so much power in the American economy. In the article above, it mentions how the Republicans think that there is a way to offset carbon emissions without sacrificing the fossil fuel industry. Let’s be real. With fossil fuels being the number one contributor of greenhouse gases which in turn create global warming and climate change, they’re kidding themselves. They just can’t face the reality that they have to finally accept and tell those companies that fill their pockets and boost their egos that they are actually the real culprits here.

Now, again, planting trees is a positive step. Though I hate to admit that Trump is actually doing something right (if he actually does it and even though I’m convinced it’s only for his personal gain), it is, but it is not enough.

Well, when I shared this New York Times article on my Facebook wall and expressed my opinion as I did above, I am not surprised when at least one of my more conservative family members commented saying that 1) he didn’t believe in climate change (as if climate change is an opinion. I mean, it’s not an opinion. It’s science, but everyone is entitled to state that they don’t believe in climate change) and 2) he asked me what I was going to do to combat this unreal thing that I perceive to be a threat.

Well, at first I wasn’t going to answer him, because I know that many of my conservative family members are very stuck in their ways and are just seeking to disprove me rather than have a real and open discussion. So, I didn’t answer him, at least for a few days. Eventually, however, it made me realize that this is the perfect opportunity to attempt a real discussion, because we have to start somewhere. And if you are like me, you are tired of how divided this country is and tired of feeling like people are pitted against each other. Despite the fact that many conservative leaning people* and their opinions at this point in time in the United States make me angry, because I feel that they are blindly following an ignorant, power hungry, sexist, misogynistic man of a president instead of actively doing research and fruitfully discussing ideas and opinions and deciding for themselves, I think it’s important, more now than ever that we attempt to work together, though it seems like the hardest feat of them all.

(*I do recognize that not all conservatives in the United States support Trump and think this way. I’m talking more from those in my personal life.)

So, after thinking it through for a few days, I decided to answer him, because at the end of the day, it is actually a good question. Most people assume that when people have a strong political leaning, that they are all talk and no action. Well, first, I never want to be that kind of person, and secondly, when it comes to this, I realized that I am definitely action and talk, but not perfectly so.

So, I answered him, stating that in fact his question was a really good one and that it is one that I think about almost every day. Additionally, not only that, but it is a question that I think everyone needs to think about every day. Then, I proceeded to tell him all of the things that I am actually doing to fight climate change as best as I can as an individual person. Now, I will not name all of them, because my facebook comment alone was immensely lengthy, however, I will name a few that I think are highly important.

  1. I’m a vegetarian because the meat packing industry in the United States (and probably in many other parts of the world) is one of the largest contributors (though not the largest out there) of greenhouse gases (methane from animals) and overusers of valuable resources, such as water and grain that could be used to feed people. Additionally, because the demand for meat in the United States is so high, entire forests have been cleared to create these massive farms in order to keep up with the high demand of meat. Here is a really great video that really lays it out for you. Here is also a great Times article that discusses this matter as well, and if you are really on a gung ho research binge, here’s also a link to the United States Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change mentioned in the Times article, as well as what I believe is the report mentioned in the article.
  2. Taking the bus to my main job instead of driving my own car. Though I could definitely be doing more in this area, especially as I do take my car to my second job and to run errands, this is at least a start. By taking the bus for my main job, I’m helping cut out some of the fossil fuels that would be used if I did take my car.
  3. I’m attempting to eliminate as much plastic from my life as possible. The grand majority of plastic is created from petroleum, and if that’s not bad enough, most of it is not even recyclable and usually ends up not only polluting our lands in landfills (and thus producing more methane) or the grand majority of it ends up in our oceans, polluting the waters and even killing ocean life. Entire coral reefs are starting to die because of the amount of plastic pollution. Plastic is almost indestructible. It only just breaks down into smaller pieces that get caught in coral reefs and even sea life, sea life that many people and animals eventually eat.
  4. I buy mostly second hand, especially when it comes to my clothes. After the fossil fuel industry, the fast fashion industry is the second largest contributor to pollution, including greenhouse gases. With clothes being produced at a rapid pace, the quality of the clothing goes far down, and because most people do not know how to repair their own clothing and are starting with poor quality textiles in the first place, most of it ends up in a landfill. If that’s not bad enough, the fast fashion industry is one of the most inhumane, making people in countries overseas produce clothing at a faster pace, with exposure to dangerous machines and chemicals in structurally unsound buildings at longer hours with low pay. It’s horrifying. Here’s a great article from NPR, though it’s from 2013, it still is relevant to this day as many fast fashion companies still operate much the same. Though some are starting to make changes to hopefully do better, such as H&M launching a new clothing rental program, I still don’t believe it’s enough. Additionally, when clothes can be repaired, it’s so wasteful to just throw them away. If we are being real though, we just shouldn’t buy in the first place. I used to go shopping at least once a month, and even though I was shopping at second hand thrift stores, I realized that I had more than plenty. More than I need, even from second hand stores, is still more than I need. Hyper consumerism is what got us here in the first place. We do not need the amount of clothing (or things) that we own. So, I just stopped purchasing altogether, and I only purchased items when I really need them for a specific event.

So, though I do think that I am doing quite a bit (and I didn’t even list everything that I do), I even personally do not feel like I’m doing enough. So, rather than get angry at this conservative relative of mine, it actually made me sit down and write a list on the things that I do do and to see where I get better.

Additionally, it made me realize a few things. First, it made me realize that I’m not perfect in my environmental journey. I still use a lot of plastic. I still use my car to get places. I’ve even planned a trip to Europe in April. I’m not contributing enough money to campaigns for candidates that are fighting for a Green New Deal. I’m not giving money to climate change fighting nonprofits. I’m definitely not perfect. However, it made me realize something else. No one is perfect, but that is not the point. Combatting climate change and making this a better world for everyone and everything is not about perfection. It is about doing something.

To combat climate change and to make for a better society overall, we do not need few people doing sustainability and environmentally conscious purchases and practices perfectly, we need many, many, many people doing it imperfectly.

So, if you ever think that unless you can be a perfect environmentalist and do everything right before you can start, I’m here to encourage you to not think that way. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and everyone needs to do something.

I fully recognize that completely eliminating plastic and buying sustainable products can be expensive. I also know not everyone has the resources, but I encourage everyone to choose at least one thing. One thing is where it starts. Choose one thing in your life that you can change or reduce and do it. Doing that one thing is going to be immensely more powerful than doing nothing, and one thing is still something to celebrate and to be proud of.

So, don’t think to do this perfectly. It is so much better if we admit that we are not perfect. When I answered his question, I openly admitted that I’m not perfect and that even I could be doing better. When we admit that, we become more human and more approachable. When we recognize that it’s okay to not be perfect, then it opens us up to join together to make a big change, that may not be perfect but may most definitely be impactful.


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