A Note on Sustainability & Environmentalism

You Can't Save the Rainforest if You're Depressed

People who struggle to function are not choosing between recycling and not recycling, they are choosing between letting the cardboard pile up and staying paralyzed and throwing the cardboard out and being able to get unstuck enough to move forward in gaining functioning. Either way the recycling isn't getting done that day. However, if we sacrifice one day of cardboard (or tupperware, or paper, or plastics) we may well have a chance at gaining a functioning human being capable of engaging in and making a difference in high level causes such as environmentalism. 

Feeling shame for not being sustainable, for eating meat, or purchasing fast fashion when someone is struggling to get through the day is not going to cause them to magically gain the ability to do something different. Shame is a horrible long-term motivator. It is more likely to contribute to dysfunction and continue cycles of unsustainable practices. Feeling anger at someone with clinical depression or ADHD for not engaging in eco-optimal behaviors is also misplaced. The overwhelming majority of environmental damage is done by a few companies. Individual consumer habits have absurdly little impact and there is no ethical consumption under capitalism. 

One of the major tenets of health professions is harm reduction. No one is made functional overnight and some people may always have barriers. The goal then is to take steps that reduce harm, first to self, then to those individuals around us, then to our community. You cannot jump right to community harm reduction before first addressing individual harm reduction. Therefore, if a newly widowed woman struggles to eat, she is released from the obligation to eat ethically. Not because eating ethically is unimportant but because when the real world choices for someone are eating dairy or eating nothing, it is always the ethical choice to eat. It is always the ethical choice to encourage that person to eat whatever they can manage. Harm reduction is always ethical. 

Now that you understand why this approach of harm reduction is what's best for both the person and the earth, if you continue to shame those with functional barriers for not being "sustainable" then you must reconcile with the fact your activism is nothing more than performance art. 


You Can't Save the Rainforest if You're Depressed

Please enjoy this song I wrote on my kitchen floor and be kind to yourself.