Monday, April 18, 2011

What do you get when you talk to an eco-radical?

I keep thinking maybe it's time to be a vegetarian, but then I remember all the meat I have in the freezer. So far this has been the year of guilt, and feeling like I personally (along with billions of others) am destroying the world. Being in a biology department that has people in it who study the energy crisis, water crisis, and numerous other crises leads to depressing discussions and debates over how and to what extent humans hurt the planet and each other because of our over consumption and over population.

I take the city bus to school, but occasionally I'll drive if I forget something or if I need to make a quick stop. I drive to the grocery store. I have to take a plane whenever I go to see my family. I don't eat organic because I think it's just to damn expensive, but I do get what's local and in season when it's available. However, how much do individual actions matter? That bus is going to school and that plane is going to CT whether I'm on it or not. Our country's infrastructure is 50+ years old and falling apart, yet we think we're going to add however many million more cars to our bridges and roads over the next few decades. We have no energy plan, yet we think we're going to keep right on growing. Our entire economic model is based on the premise of indefinite growth, which I can assure everyone is not realistic in a world of finite resources. When I really think about it, I'm no more guilty of the stupid crap my government does because I'm an American than I am of the Inquisition because I'm a Catholic. I vote, I tell the higher ups what I want and what my values are, I pay my taxes. Beyond that, I don't know what more I can do as an individual, or if not eating meat would even matter. Those virtuous actions get so diluted in the grand scheme of things.

This week at the very least I came to a decision: I'm going to conscientiously have no more than 2 children in my lifetime. If I want more kids, I'll adopt. That's reproducing for population replacement, not growth. In the United States, reproduction is still a personal decision, the government doesn't impose any kind of restrictions (actually they encourage baby production and population growth through tax incentives, which is madness). A tremendous amount of material and energetic waste comes out of a human life, so this seems like the most ecologically responsible action to take. At least in this regard I can do what seems to be ethically worthwhile.

As far as the meat thing goes, I'll probably get there eventually. Even if individual actions don't really mean much, at least I'd be setting an example. A lot of ethical behavior actually falls into the "doesn't really matter if I do or don't" category, but most people have values none-the-less. For my own sanity, I think I'm going to stop participating in discussions and debates about how the world is at a loss because of people. It's just too depressing. I'm already here and I already know there's a problem, but I can't stand it anymore or else I'm going to end up drinking myself to death (not really, it's a figure of speech, don't worry Mom).

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