The other day I had a minor existential crises. It’s one I’ve had many times before. As a person that tries to both live and teach sustainability as part of my daily life, I occasionally have that bout of, “why am I doing this?!?” Questioning the “why” of things can be just as liberating as it is oppressive. In the past, there is one phrase, familiar to us all, that I keep landing on as an answer:
Be the change you want to see.
But this time, the lingering doubt, the knowledge that nothing really matters, weighed more heavily in light of a new thought; a sentiment that rings in our ears, a mantra of the eco-minded, this concept that has morphed into familiar refrain: Save the planet. But this time it registered. We often chant of saving this ball of earth and mineral and life, but this is the misnomer that is significantly hurting our cause. There is a truth that we all need to acknowledge before we can truly begin to affect change:
We’re Not Saving the Planet…
… Because the planet doesn’t need saving. It. Will. Be. Fine. This ball of spinning matter in a vast universe is not under threat by humans. It has gone through many lives, incarnations of time and substance, and it will continue to experience existence long after we have left. Instead, what we are saving is us. We are saving people and animals and plants and our current-eco-system-dependant way of life. While Earth is secure in its place in space, we, on the other hand, need a very specific set of circumstances if we want to continue breathing and loving and experiencing our existence. — which brings me to my current existential crisis.
I’ve never been a huge fan of the human race. Individually, there are people that I meet and cherish and appreciate, but as a whole, I have a hard time getting past our faults. As a natural optimist, it’s becoming more and more difficult to maintain my positive attitude in the face of facts. So if we’re facing the possibility of an extinction-level event (the operative word is “possibility” – this is not about debating the science), how can I not embrace it as an opportunity?
The idea of wiping the slate clean and starting over is refreshing, I’ll admit, but ultimately I realized something important. I may not love what we are, but I’m ecstatic about what we could be. The potential of the human race is wondrous and exciting, and I know, only by making the right choices for myself, can I ever hope to see those same choices reflected across our race.
Be the change you want to see.
So I’ve ended up exactly where I began. By living the best way I can right now, I am encouraging a better future. I often say, “if you don’t buy it, they won’t make it,” and this crisis of faith is simply an extension of that idea. If “I” act responsibly, then all of the “I’s” together can affect the change that so many of us have been longing for.
Admittedly, this idea still requires some amount of active participation. Writing or calling your local representative about the issues important to you, participating in peaceful protests (I can’t believe I have to put that word in bold!), and volunteering for relevant organizations are all mandatory actions in the fight for a better world. But the passive aspect is also part of the process. Spreading ideas is as much about demonstrating their effectiveness to those around you as they are about living in a way that is sustainable for our future.
So this is my call to you: if we are going to get those individuals more involved, who are not interested in living more harmoniously with the environment, we need to change the dialogue. We need to stop giving deniers a technicality to exploit (they’re already using technicalities as a matter of daily course) and start linguistically shoving it in their faces. Stop with this “Save the planet” nonsense and start calling it what it is: Save the humans, save the animals, save life.
Now say it with me, ring out in chorus, and change the refrain: Save Life.