I suppose when you are carnival host, you are really not supposed to wait until the last minute to post. But it's a tough question. I mean, okay, okay, I know, I SET the damn question!!
Because here's the honest truth. I don't know.
I don't know if Earth Day matters. I don't know if anything matters, really. Seven months into academia and I don't know that I know anything anymore.
It's ... I've had a difficult time blogging these past few months. And it's not exactly the time commitment which everyone warned me about. It's more that ... I've felt like I've changed somehow. I've been less than optimistic more often. I've been less convinced that one's personal life choices can make a difference. At the same time, I'm not really trusting that governments are committed to dealing with the crises we face. I've felt sort of ... well, lost really.
At the same time, I feel like I've been shouldering this heavy, burdensome guilt. You see, ever since I started school, I've been letting old bad habits slip back into my life. Like, for instance, buying pre-packaged meals. Or not always bringing my thermos with me when I want a tea. Or buying candy from the vending machine. And I feel horrible and guilty and all, and yet, I also am not really working hard to mend my bad habits. Instead, I excuse my way in one form or the other (I'm at school! I don't have a desk or a microwave! It's hard to bring my own lunch!! or if I'm a cranky mood, Oh, what does it matter anyway if I use a damn disposable cup. We're all headed to Camp TEOTWAWKI anyway.)
This makes me feel like a fraud to you, my blog readers. Because really, what business do I, who knows nothing about anything, who does not know what to believe anymore, and who doesn't even always bring her own stupid thermos even though it is really so simple and everyone should do it, what business do I have to write a blog that purports to be about environmental issues? What right do I have to pretend to be some role model? What right do I have to claim to be an environmentalist?
Of course, the ironic thing is that my carbon footprint is lower than it has been in years for one very simple reason: I no longer drive.
And this brings me to the whole, "Is Earth Day relevant?" thing. Because here's the thing. When I was in LA, I worked my freaking ASS off to lower my carbon footprint, and even then, I could never get my transport allowance down that far. I think the best I did was something like 35% of the average American's. Here in London, I can try not at all, and I'll still come out with flying colors because it's just so much easier to live lightly in London.
We can try to reduce our emissions wherever we are, and we should, but the truth is that without bigger infrastructure changes, some people will have a much more difficult time than others. It is reasonable to ask Londoners to walk and bike more. It is not reasonable to ask the typical Angeleno to walk two miles to the subway, and then take a subway to a bus to work, thus tripling their commute time. Yes, that might be what I did in LA, but I don't think it's particularly fair to expect that level of commitment from all Angelenos. Individual reductions are important, but we can't really expect people to change their practices without reforming our institutions. Without making it easier to change.
So yes, Earth Day is important. Yes, you should, I should, we should all bring our thermos with us. We should say no to plastic bags and we should walk more and drive less. We should try to eat more fruits and vegetables, and try and buy them organic and local.
We're going to run into walls ... many of us have already run into walls, if social institutions are not reformed, if we cannot build better cities, if we cannot change public policies, if we cannot reform our governments. I mean, here I am worrying about disposable cups, what about all the money I paid in taxes that went to fund wars that are, among their many faults, fairly carbon intensive? My share of the war in Iraq probably more than outdoes any good I have done in the world by buying my pasta in bulk.
Does Earth Day matter? I don't know. But, I am reminded of what Lord Stern said today when he was asked why he was optimistic. He asked pointedly, what the alternative was.
For me, what is the alternative to buying my sodding bulk pasta, and being better about my reusable mug, and hoping that by coming together with all of you, by writing, by communicating, and by living life in the pursuit of a better world, we will create that better world?
So, really, I don't know if Earth Day matters or not in the grand scheme of things. But what's the alternative? Maybe, instead of fretting about Earth Day and whether it really matters, I should just make it a day that is important for ME.
So, I will celebrate my Earth Day in recognition that I am fallible, but that I can do better. I will remind myself to stay optimistic, because, like Lord Stern I am familiar with the alternative and it's kinda the suck.
And I'm going to wash my damn reusable mug so that I can take it with me to campus tomorrow.
Happy Earth Day, everyone. We may not know what the future will hold, but I know that I'll get by with a little help from my blog friends.
9 months ago