Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why Sustainability?

I don't know if you've noticed, but there are a LOT of problems in the world.  Every time I open up the Huffington Post, I brace myself for whatever depressing news is going to be scrawled across the opening page in giant, huge caps, as if Arianna Huffington herself is personally screaming at me about the horrible tragedy from that day.  It's a rough world we live in, and you've got to be pretty resilient or be a firm practicer of the phrase "ignorance is bliss" to get through.  Have I got you down yet?!

I remember my last week in my Introduction to Sociology class in college.  As many of you know, this was the turning point for me, and was one of the first times that I really began to think about the world in a different way, and the intersection between my faith, justice, and politics.  We had learned about all of the different institutions (i.e. gender, race, class, etc) and by default all of the inequalities/unfairness that came along with them that affected people's lives in deep and serious ways.  The world, it seemed, was a huge shit hole.  Fortunately, my professor didn't leave us all wanting to bury our heads in the sand, and spent our last class focused on what we COULD do--after all, she said, while you may be one person, one person can have a huge impact.  She urged us, that in light of all of the problems we had talked about, to pick just one to focus on.  It is my belief that when people become so overwhelmed  with so many problems, that it actually moves us to inaction, thinking that we have no capacity to make a difference.  But by focusing on one, collectively we can change a lot of things.

My interest in various issues has ebbed and flowed, but, through trial and error, I've found that my issue is environmentalism and sustainability (and gender, though I won't highlight that in this post).  If you want to know the truth, I hate that this is my issue some days.  Mainly because, admittedly, there are a lot of silly stereotypes that come with it, and I feel the harsh eye rolls when the topic comes up or I ask someone to recycle something instead of throwing it in the trash.  I don't like that people immediately think "granola hippie," or joke that "you must not shower" when in fact, I believe it is my civic responsibility, and the call of everyone to contribute to the solution (and my actions ultimately affect YOU).  By stereotyping, people get to remove themselves from being a part of the solution.  I don't like being painted in this way.  Sometimes I think environmentalism gets sort of a bad rap because it's seen as a "trendy" issue--again, this is an easy way to write things off so that they seem less important (if something is "trendy," it means it is not going to be around forever), even though we need to completely re-alter our thought process and actions in order to move forward.

But sustainability is close to my heart for the following reasons:
*It turns out what's good for the planet is good for me! (riding my bike vs. the car, healthier, local, unprocessed foods, spending less money on consuming needless products, etc)
*It allows me to exercise my love for justice.  I've always been concerned about issues pertaining to poverty, women, people of color, etc. and these are all enveloped under the umbrella of environmental justice--that is, those that will be most affected in the long run are those that are currently most societally disadvantaged.  The divides between various groups will only become more exacerbated as resources become more scarce. Exploring the intersection of these things is vital to the sustainability movement.
*It contributes to my overall daily mindfulness in practical ways.  While sometimes justice issues can be more big picture or theoretical, or things that might be more ambiguous or that you don't see every day of your life, environmentalism is something that requires daily action steps, and this keeps me mindful.   Everyday I have to think about things differently than I used to.  Do I need to buy that item, or can I reuse something in a different way (and as a fun-employer, this is important!)?  Do I need to use a paper plate just because it's easier to clean up, or can I spend an extra 5 minutes doing the dishes and creating less trash?  Do I really need to drive there, or can I make one big trip, or ride my bike or walk?  Just because something has always been one way does not mean it has to continue being that way.
*It helps me to be creative!  Sort of similar to my third reason, but a little bit different.  I consider myself to be a fairly creative person, and I love that trying to live a sustainable lifestyle consistently has me thinking of different ways to do things with less overall impact.  I love crafting--can I refurbish an item I already have into something new?  I ran out of ribbon or an envelope--can I find an alternative instead of rushing out to buy new stuff?  Can I find a new way to wear an outfit to avoid purchasing a new one?  Can I find a way to think outside of the box and do something in a different way than I always have or is the cultural "norm" that is greener?

This is not to say that other issues are not vitally important, or that other issues are not near and dear to my heart, or that I will never help out with another cause (silly!).  Gender issues are a point of concern for me as well.  But in terms of my passions, this is the thing that I think about most deeply, and has very radically changed my lifestyle in the past year in so many ways.  So for now, this is what I will keep exploring, keep reading about and keep thinking about!

What's your issue that you are passionate about?  Why have you chosen it?  How have you taken action?

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