Friday, January 18, 2008

Turning Off the Lights

Lately I have taken to turning off the lights in the bathrooms on campus after leaving. Of course, only when no one else is in there. And yet, even though I know I am doing something essentially good, economical, I feel somewhat akin to a fanatic. Perhaps I am. I feel that somehow I have to do the environmental good deeds for myself and my family as they are still not convinced that global warming is a scientific fact. I spent the whole of my winter break trying to convert them. I watched nature documentaries in the living room. I recycled everything I could get my hands on that was recyclable. I even stuck my neck out a little and spoke directly on the subject of the causes and effects of global climate change. And yet, they are unfased.

I know my family does not take me for a fool. I am the first on my father's side of the family to attend a four-year university and the second on my mother's side. I have made the chancellor's list every semester as I am a perfectionist by nature. My grandparents especially are thrilled with my success thus far and never cease to tell me how smart I am. Ok, so I'm smart on most issues but have been completely deluded by environmentalists?

I think the thing that most frustrates me is that, in my opinion, environmentalism is not a party-line issue. The left-wing branch of politics has taken up environmental awareness to a much larger extent than the right-wing, but this does not mean that it's a radical, leftist idea. We are all inhabitants of this planet. We will all live with the consequences of the environment we create. So what's the problem? Environmentalists are not going to get anything out of the bargain. There is no bargain. All we want is to be able to go hiking in twenty, thirty years and see thriving wildlife, a great view at the top, perhaps...We want our children to have this same honor: to be gracious stewards of the planet with all the benefits thereof. We too will have to make sacrifices to reduce our carbon footprints. Environmentalists demand action, but they do not demand that action only of others. They are often the first to make changes in their own lives, and often much more radical changes than others.

What really gets to me is the apathy that pervades my family and, so far as I can tell, most of America. Watching Planet Earth is enough to bring tears to my eyes--the earth is so beautiful, diverse, incredible. Did you know that there are species of cichlids so specialized that they eat only the scales off other fish? Did you know that the gizzard of a wild turkey can crush a hickory nut? The mating dances of some of the birds of paradise are at once so bizarre and so unspeakably graceful that I am agog at humanity's efforts at destroying all of this. We have reached a point where our excesses are so great that I would consider the species as trying to destroy the planet. Perhaps most people do not think in the same way I do.

In any event, if there is anything worth fighting for on this earth, it is the earth itself.

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