Utne Blogs > Literature

When Going Green Seems Pointless

by Staff


Tags: Environmentalism, green living, big business, feeling small, Maisonneuve,

Sometimes, it feels like a lifetime’s efforts at living green will just be swallowed up by big business the way a little kid’s sandcastle gets engulfed by the inevitable, indomitable wave. Sure, you can turn off lights when you leave the house, recycle old newspapers, use public transportation, write letters to your congressperson, and avoid bottled water—but at the same time multinational companies are busy pouring chemicals into the air, water, and soil, getting drunk on profit like it was 1899.

In "The Green-Thumb Blues," for Maisonneuve, Pasha Malla writes about how being environmentally conscious isn’t just about recycling and composting, it’s about getting over that hopeless hump. It's about realizing (or perhaps remembering) that a lot of little actions can add up to big change.

The modern environmental movement hinges on the hope that tiny real-world actions can build up to create sustained, potent change. This requires considering the world from a broad perspective, and pulling back to a viewpoint in which car exhaust turns to acid rain and CO2 bestows Minsk with the climate of Antigua paradoxically makes human beings look like tiny, ineffectual gnats. “Environmentalism can make you feel small,” Malla writes. “You are fighting against something unwieldy and ingrained—like trying to combat the idea of winter with a PowerPoint presentation and a shovel.”

But the thing is that there is plenty we can do. We just have to do it. Malla writes:

What can you do? You can do what you can do. Can you type? Type something. Can you walk and talk? Walk around and talk to people. Can you use your Ph.D. in environmental science to test for and uncover the alarming release of polyvinyl chlorides from shoreline industry into the Great Lakes, then publish a report, coordinate a media campaign and pursue legal action based on your findings? Then by all means please do that, too. Ride a bike, write a letter, save a plant. We are not powerless against the They we’re up against. Let’s take Them down, whoever They are, wherever They’re hiding, in whatever way we can.

Brendan Mackie