Environmental Paralysis

By Jason Menard

The old adage states that you have to walk before you can run. So doesn’t it go without saying that we need to be shown a little affection before we can fully go out and hug every tree we see?

A recent study predicted that, due to global warming’s effect on Himalayan glaciers, southeast Asia and China could be facing a devastating lack of drinking water within 50 years. We’re now also being told that the devastation caused by hurricanes in the American South-East is partly our fault, due to increased water temperatures caused by – you guessed it – global warming.

It seems that no matter when a natural disaster strikes, there are always willing environmentalists ready to jump on the pulpit and start wagging their fingers at us. It’s a morbid game of “I told you so,” and it does nothing to help the actual problems that exist in this world. While some environmentalists feel we’ve been burying our heads in the sand and ignoring the problem, the reality is that we’re weighed down by the enormity of the issues.

In general, people want to do the right thing. We all want to leave this world a better place for our children and grandchildren. We all want to save the environment, breathe cleaner air, and make a commitment to a greener life.

However, we find it hard to move when the weight of the entire world is on our shoulders. For years, environmentalists have been stating that we need to make drastic, wholesale lifestyle changes to save the world from human-inflicted doom. But, instead of sparking us into action, statements like this end up overwhelming us with fear and paralyzing us into inaction.

Worst-case scenarios don’t help. They only serve to make us feel powerless to make a difference – they make our efforts to reduce, reuse, recycle, and be better global citizens seem insignificant.

The Utopian world that the most rabid environmentalists see as being the solution doesn’t exist. Our society isn’t set up for it. We’re too dependent on fossil fuels. We’re too enamoured with convenience and disposable items. To cut society off cold turkey would paralyze it.

So, what we need to practice what we preach. If one message has come forth from the assortment of telethons and fund-raisers we’ve been exposed to over the past little while is that every small action adds up. Individually we can only do so much, but when our actions are multiplied exponentially by all Canadians, and then all the citizens of the world, the impact we can have is astounding.

But we don’t hear that. We never hear the positives of our actions. Our current efforts at living a better and greener lifestyle have been met with a collective, “Yeah, but…” from the environmental community. As earnest and honest as they may be when forecasting global doom and gloom, what our environmental advocates are missing is that we, as average citizens, need positive reinforcement. We need to be encouraged with tangible results for our actions. And we don’t need to be chastised for the sins of our society’s past.

No matter how small the effort we make as individuals may be on a global scale, we need to know that it’s having an effect – even if it’s an infinitesimal impact. That way, when we see the results of our actions, we’ll be encouraged to do even more. When our baby steps are acknowledged, it will give us the drive to work ourselves up to a full-scale run.

We need that organically grown carrot dangled before us to make us strive for greater things. We’ve seen what power society wields when it comes together in a common cause. Whether it’s been Tsunami relief efforts, or the overwhelming funding coming in for those impacted by the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, we’ve seen how each and every dollar counts. Yet, nowhere has there been a person chastising us for not donating enough. Simply put, every dollar counts.

That attitude of communal support and encouragement needs to be extended to the environmental world. Instead of doomsday predictions and earnest declarations of impending doom – no matter how true they may be – the point remains that to mobilize our society you have to engage its belief in the fact that it can make a difference. Just as every dollar counts, so too should every recycled can and every time you choose to walk to the store instead of drive matter!

Because, when we’re told that all of our current efforts have gone for naught, it makes us want to throw up our hands in defeat – and that’s when we all lose.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

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