Week 2: Environment Isn't Just the Problem of the Left
This week, one particular topic kept wandering around my mind so insistently that I couldn’t ignore it anymore. For the first time since they had started, I went to a Fridays for Future protest and was immediately reminded of the reason why: alienation. I felt so out of place with the people attending as well as the speakers, one of which stood out to me in particular with a high-pitched, shrieking voice that made it grossly difficult to stand and listen and allow her to convince me of the points she was putting forward. Points that were disguised accusations for the most part. It was that kind of criticism that causes an urge to leave the event instantaneously and never look back.
But as I was stood amidst this crowd of left-wing, tote bag-wearing environmentalists, a very uncomfortable thought starting creeping into the back of my head: What if it’s not them who are the problem with their irritating extremeness, accusations and almost negatively aggressive good will? What if it’s actually me, being so busy pushing these ideas away just because I fail to relate to their representatives and in the course of it, completely overlooking the bigger picture? Our planet's well-being was never something I wasn't concerned about, but in all honesty, I didn’t want to be associated with the extremism that often comes with people passionately fighting for climate change or animal rights or really any kind of political movement. Even though they are completely right in what they are doing, I have always felt somewhat appalled by the idea of extremism, and in most cases it has put me off supporting the greater cause altogether.
What I realised in this moment standing in the crowd, though, is that it's not about me and them and how different we are, it's about the one thing that we actually do have in common: the planet we live on. It became poignantly clear to me that I have to start considering it my personal responsibility, too, to save this earth and that this also entails helping change the public notion that is still linked to it. It’s not an issue only the far left or the green parties should be concerned with. This is still a problem, and the one-sided makeup of climate protests is just one indicator of that. To help shifting this way of thinking, it would make sense for all different kinds of people to start showing public support, so that reversing climate change simply cannot be associated solely with environmentalists wearing self-knitted jumpers anymore. We should all be standing there, unitedly protesting for our home planet.
This is not about saving our planet. It's about saving ourselves. The truth is, with or without us, the natural world will rebuild.* - David Attenborough
Everyone has to start boarding this ship, one way or another. It's not enough anymore to just think about what can be done. Cut back on meat, substitute dairy for plant-based products, buy less clothes or invest in higher quality, avoid plastic packaging, reuse wrapping paper, take the bicycle more often, sort waste, buy a water filter, wipe your bum with recycled loo roll - it doesn't matter what we do, the important thing is to do it now. There is no need for 10 superhumans getting absolutely everything right. Much rather, it takes hundreds and thousands of imperfect environmentalists, vegans and minimalists to actually make a change.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to talk about this without sounding like a missionary or moraliser, or even worse, a hypocrite. For years, the sensitivity of this topic has been calling for an even more sensitive approach in order to be able to achieve a positive effect. But after weighing the different options, I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as one definite right approach. It all comes down to the person receiving the message and their willingness to learn and take action. I don't agree with finger-pointing at all, but in the end, my sensitivities do not matter. Refusing to be a part of the rescuing force that our planet needs so badly just because concern wasn’t expressed sensibly enough isn’t a very good excuse. It’s important to consider what we can do as individuals and to cast off our pettiness, egos and comfort. We simply cannot afford to be this selfish and naive anymore, thinking the others are going to take care of this, because everyone is "the others" and time is running out.
*From David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet on Netflix