Every week, I receive emails on the environment. Silly old me, I subscribed to many organisations and now, the emails are dispersed in my Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and Facebook accounts. Often, I will just glance through their titles and move most of them to the bin unread. It makes me wonder. What happened to me? The me, who was so eloquent in my passion for this cause. What happened to her?
I used to be so passionate about the environment. In fact, I was blinded by it that it might have annoyed people. Once, my sister and I went from class-to-class in our high school and college to collect signatures for petitions to save the rainforest and stray animals. Since high school, I’ve joined environmental competitions and organisations. Two years ago, I purposefully chose Sweden for my one-year overseas exchange just because it is the green capital of Europe. But, what happened to me? When once I would stand tall to proudly tell others that I’m an avid environmentalist, now I find it quite distasteful to call myself one.
Going to Sweden changed me. Being there, interacting with its people, enjoying the beautiful nature, it really opened my eyes to think differently.
I will bravely declare that saying that we belong to a particular sect called ‘environmentalism’ is absurd. I think it is very vain of us to label ourselves as ‘green’ or as ‘environmentalists’. I think the creation of such labels is just a self-egoistic attempt to justify one’s goodness, instead of a real understanding on what is it to care for being part of the world. In my opinion, we should simply care because it’s natural. That’s what I sensed from the Swedes. They recycle and they appreciate biodiversity and nature, but do they call themselves environmentalists? No. It’s simply instinct to do so. It’s true for the American Red Indians too. We are part of nature and it’s simply natural to want to preserve it and not want to harm it.
It is true that the worst critics are usually formerly ardent lovers. These days, I find myself terribly harsh on the social campaigns around me. First, let me say, I do appreciate those who are still actively campaigning and equipping others with the awareness for the environment. I was part of that community once. But, I think we are marketing all this so wrong. We are not out to ‘save the environment’, nor are we out to ‘save the world’. We are saving ourselves who belong to this planet.
Recycling ought not to be a habit to save the environment, but it should simply be done because it’s common sense. Protecting the welfare of domesticated animals ought to be done, not because of sentimental reasons, but because ultimately, it creates a more balanced ecosystem and it is healthier for humanity. To feed and to rear a large amount of cows, feedstock is grown in expense of large amounts of water (in countries like Saudi Arabia, water is channelled to breeding cows despite its extreme water scarcity) and land (some even displacing tropical rainforests housing thousands of species affecting the delicate balance). A free-range chicken gives us more nutritional benefits compared to an antibiotic-pumped, artificially fattened chicken.
Talking about nobility, do doctors and engineers who save lives every day call themselves people who save the world? Seriously. This is so ironic.
Some might be indignant about this post of mine, but I think manipulating people’s emotions for a cause is far too tiresome and unpredictable (because this tactic is so often used, people are getting turned off by words like ‘environmentalism’ and ‘sustainability’) when you can just tackle issues using rational arguments. Saving electricity is common sense as you will get more reliable power while reducing your expense. Eating more vegetables and less meat is common sense because it is a healthier and cheaper diet. I don’t understand why, in this society where people are so drained after a hard day’s work, are we abusing people’s sensibilities even further by inducing fear and relying on their ability to dedicate time and energy to a vague cause like ‘saving the world’ when they are striving so hard to save themselves?
I’m giving up on this idea of an evangelistic movement for the environment. I don’t expect others to support me, but I’ll just do it anyway because it’s common sense to recycle, to reject non-biodegradable plastic bags, to protect biodiversity to maintain the stability of the ecosystem, and to save water to maintain the hydrologic cycle. We should believe that we are one with nature, not apart. That’s why I believe that none of us are environmentalists, but all of us are caretakers of the environment.