Yesterday I was reading about the record-breaking number of severe weather events in 2007. Today, I’ve been learning all about the bioaccumulative and neurotoxic nature of certain persistent organic pollutants. Anxiety is weighing on me like the air during a smog warning.
This environmental anxiety is not a new feeling for me. When I spent my summers researching environmental law, I found that it was more depressing that my studies on genocide and war crimes. The depression comes from the immensity of environmental problems, and the apathy of a large portion of the population. At least with genocide, there’s near-universal consensus that it shouldn’t be done.
When I told Paul yesterday that climate change was causing me anxiety, he said that he is cautiously optimistic that we’ll get ourselves out of this mess before we pass the point of no return. I am not as optimistic. I am not convinced that we haven’t already passed the point of no return, for one thing. And for another thing – I think that at this point in time, we are so far away from reversing the trend of destruction that if we haven’t reached that critical point, we’re not really doing much to ensure we don’t. I am constantly dismayed by how many educated and intelligent people don’t even recycle, if it’s going to mean walking a few extra steps. This is not the behaviour of a culture on the cusp of change.
The anxiety also arises from knowing that, even though I do more than most, I am still part of the problem more than I am part of the solution. I don’t buy wrapping paper or air-condition my house and I frequently bicycle, but I still eat meat, own a car (ok, not right now, but I did, and I will again soon), and buy cheap stuff that I don’t need at the mall. And I know that these behaviours are not sustainable, at least not at the rate we do them in North America, and people are beginning to do them in emerging economies around the world.
The sewers in Bangladesh are choked with plastic bags. There were tornados in Brooklyn yesterday. People up north are getting cancer from pesticides that were produced and used thousands of miles away. I re-use my coffee cup, but I know it’s not enough.