PVC follow upApril 30, 2010 —
One thing that struck me about the whole PVC incident was that my roommate who bought the curtain got offended when I wanted to get rid of it; she had bought it wanting to a nice thing for the apartment. I completely understand and appreciate this. I tried to make it clear that my short-lived activist fantasy wasn’t an attack against her. I was grateful at the intention; our previous shower liner was so old and disgusting it probably had probably given birth to new shower curtains. She made a completely innocent mistake that I might have made just two days before that. I was more frustrated that these things happen so easily; anyone can make a purchase that has infinite unknown and unintended consequences. And annoyed that Target, which is trying to make a name for itself as being a socially and environmentally responsible company, still has serious faults.
I think that this also brings up another issue with the current environmental movement: the feelings of guilt. We environmentalists feel guilty about almost everything. We all agree that the best way to protect the earth is to CONSERVE. We can try to find more efficient cars or light bulbs, but the fact of the matter is that no matter how hard we try we are still consuming nonrenewable resources steadily throughout the day. We try to find better options because we feel guilty about this.
And this guilt can be a good thing; it shows we care about the world and are claiming some responsibility for destroying it. We sympathize with our surroundings and don’t want to be the cause of harm. Guilt is a necessary and healthy emotional feeling.
But when we lay guilt on others, they become defensive. They don’t want to feel the guilt that we are constantly burdened with; they’d rather believe we are not the cause of anything, at least on the individual level. This is why, in order to make change, we shouldn’t be laying guilt on others in the community, because this will not motivate them to change. We should only give positive incentives to move forward.
So much of the environmentalism movement seems to be negative and hopeless. Don’t waste water. Don’t eat meat. Don’t drive cars. Don’t use plastic. Don’t… do anything. Most people like having comfortable lives; environmentalists come in and say that this is not okay, Instead of telling people what not to do, we need to start telling people what they can do. This is where the difficulty lies.
The biggest thing is awareness. Try to put thought into everything you buy: where did it come from? What potentially harmful chemicals or ingredients are in it? Can you reuse or recycle this? Can you buy a used one somewhere else?
The other thing I always strongly advocate is to GO OUTSIDE. Spending more time in nature increases appreciation. Attachment to nature increases moral responsibility. And once everyone feels responsible for their actions, hopefully they will make better choices. The world is so beautiful in so many places, and it deserves to be appreciated while it lasts.