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Source: Pronus (Deviant Art)

Caught in the Middle: An Environmental Tug-of-war

By Jomiro Eming

A final indulgence in the face of an irreversible environmental emergency, a noble sacrifice and unified struggle to preserve the planet we live on, or a conflicted dance between the two?

In a world plagued by floating islands of plastic, capitalist interests, landfill cities, pessimism, nihilism, hefty water restrictions, oil reliance, and a host of other destructive behaviours, we wannabe-environmentalists find ourselves navigating a conflicted space: do we give-up trying to fight a (seemingly) losing-battle against those who are killing the planet, and spend our remaining years enjoying life, or do we band together in a final effort, sacrificing luxuries and making uncomfortable adjustments, for the sake of saving the environment?

“Goshdarnit. Why is it such a difficult decision?”

Well, at least the answer to that is easy, I guess. Sigh.

More often than not, we fall somewhere in the middle of the above scenario. We kind of want to do everything we can to save the planet, but we want to do it with a really nice car, a running bubble bath, and as much steak as we want. We’re only human, right?

On some days, we remember to sort our recycling for the rubbish removal vans, and spend the afternoon feeling proud of our efforts to save the planet. And on other days, we drive past thousands of cars on the freeway, with fumes pouring out from their exhaust pipes, and wonder whether we’re all just screwed anyway.

But here’s the real conundrum: if we want to save the planet – and I mean really save the planet, not just do something once and post about it on Instagram – it is becoming gradually more evident through research and climate studies that we need to make uncomfortable changes and sacrifices in our day-to-day living. This means forgoing baths, moving to using solar power exclusively, installing proper insulation everywhere, making a habit of recycling, and correctly disposing of the things we can’t repurpose. But that inevitably takes time, and effort, and in most cases money, which means adopting that kind of lifestyle isn’t an easy step for everyone to take. Presidents won’t change, politicians won’t change, people born into privileged homes probably won’t change, people living in regions that haven’t felt the effects of global warming yet won’t change…

So what’s the point, right? If not everyone is going to make that sacrifice, then why should we? We’ll end up putting huge amounts of money and time into something that won’t even help save the planet. If we’re screwed anyway, and the world will burn regardless of what we do, we may as well live while we can and enjoy the time we still have.

It’s a really narrow-minded thing to say, and I don’t think that it’s a great stance to take, but I do understand where the sentiment comes from.

What we need to do, however, is decide whether we’re helping the planet by being caught in the middle. Then, very soon after that, we need to realise that there actually is no “middle” at all – because, let’s face it: we only have one option here. This “choice” we think we have is an illusion, and we’re lying to ourselves if we think that saving the planet has options “a” through “d.”

Sure, throwing all conservation efforts into a forest fire is easy. And sure, dumping our recycling initiatives into landfills is a quick-fix, and a time-saver. But what time are we saving, really, if the only end is a fast-approaching one?

At the end of the day, after a lot of back-and-forth with ourselves, and after driving a car to hand-in our diligently sorted recycling (another double-standard that grates my cheese), we find all doors locked except for one. The catch, of course, is that it doesn’t come without a sacrifice, and we aren’t all willing to make that sacrifice just yet. We’re still caught in the middle, juggling this limbo-state of emotions, unsure of what to do and whether there’s any point.

The decision is difficult, but it’s because we’re not making it for ourselves; we’re making it with 7 billion people in mind. It’s tricky, I agree, but we can’t keep arguing.

So: what’s it going to be, kid?

“If not now, when? If not me, who?”

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