Articles Comments

Dickinson to Durban » Conservation » Am I making a difference?

Am I making a difference?

As I sit at my desk, staring into the eyes of the Lorax (yes, I brought “the Lorax” with me to colege), I can’t help but feel a certain amount of resentment towards the article “Individualization: plant a tree, buy a bike, save the world?” by Michael Maniates. This resentment does not stem from a difference of opinion, rather in the fact that Maniates has sadly convinced me of how futile my daily efforts in support of the environmental movement are.

Since reading the article a few days ago, I have frowned at each can I put into my recycling bin, and sighed every time I go to grab my purse made from recycled plastic bottles. I shake my head as I unplug the coffee pot and toaster, roll my eyes at the organic blueberries in my cereal, and ride my bike with a little less enthusiasm than normal. Of course, I know that I am being dramatic here but after a lifetime of hearing that one person can make a difference, the Maniates article has left me a little disheartened.  

 I agree with many of my fellow classmates, who have concluded that performing small individual actions, will not be enough to put an end to anthropogenic caused climate change. I agree, but at the same time I am left asking myself: Now what? Do I stop turning off the lights when I leave the room? Should I go running to the store for the steak I haven’t eaten in four years? Of course not! Although Maniates has pointed out the flaws of “individualization of responsibility” in regards to the movement to prevent climate change, I do not believe he is asking us to stop our individual actions to live a more eco-friendly and sustainable life. What he IS saying is that it is going to take a whole lot more than planting a few trees to slow global warming on our planet. It is going to take more united and widespread support to create new regulations and further creative technologies which WILL be able to change the course of anthropogenic climate shift on our planet. 

So while I melodramatically contemplate the significance of my re-usable coffee mug and “eat local” sticker on my computer, I will try to find comfort in the conclusions of Maniates article. Even though my small actions might not amount to much, they connect me to a growing movement of people who will, one day, (hopefully sooner than later!) find a way to save the world.

Written by

I think GIS is ok.

Filed under: Conservation · Tags: ,

One Response to "Am I making a difference?"

  1. Michael Maniates says:

    Well, yes, we’ve been bamboozled. That doesn’t mean that we still ought not to do the little things. Doing them are instances of mindful living; they remind us of what is important, and serve to remind others as well. Let us draw on the little things for strength to work with others to re-engineer society so that doing these “right” things is as natural as falling off a log, and living sustainably is something we needn’t continually push ourselves to do.

    The real danger (which I’m now writing about) of this “easy/simple” stuff is that it generated a politics of guilt within mainstream environmentalism — I recycle but you don’t, and then I guilt trip you. Ditto for reusable cups, riding a bike, driving a gas guzzler, etc. If we think that we save the world one small act at a time, we endlessly hassle those who don’t behave in the same way. That’s why we don’t get invited to parties 🙂 And it’s bad politics. The great political agents of our history — Gandhi, MLK Jr., Susan B. Anthony, Miles Horton — built movements based on hope and engagement and respect for where people were and what they knew. We need to start doing the same, instead of obsessing over small acts of individual consumption and guilt-tripping others who don’t.

    Thanks for tolerating my intrusion…

    Michael Maniates

Leave a Reply