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How I'm Trying to Combat Environmental Hobbyism

How I'm Trying to Combat Environmental Hobbyism

As I've written before, I struggle with managing my ambition. Many of my goals are rooted in dreams of becoming an ideal future version of myself. A flawed system, I admit, but one that has introduced me to the hobbies I love and enjoy. This blog exists because of ambitions to become a writer and I found hand-balancing after initially seeking the planche. While ambition sufficiently introduced me to these things, I do think this system is unsustainable.

This mindset becomes precarious when the ideal is realistically out of our reach. At a certain point, we recognize the overwhelming discrepancy between where we're at and where we want to be.

I've grappled with this reality when reflecting on my environmental values. I've always believed I cared about the environment. I've recycled when possible, (mostly) rejected consumerism, and within recent years, limited my weekly meat consumption. I dove deep into books like On Fire and The Story of More and educated myself with podcasts such as Pricing Nature.

After these practices became nearly habitual, I began to feel a sense of doom over the state of the environment. The world is not on track to prevent global temperatures from rising 2 degrees Celsius by 2100 and despite immense pressure, the US is struggling to negotiate on Biden's infrastructure bill. In this case, the ideal I chased was an Earth that wasn't rapidly heating. Of course, individual action helps spur global change, but this goal is not one an individual can achieve alone.

This realization only perpetuated the sense of doom I felt, and so, I complain more and consider actions even less. Further lifestyle changes like vegetarianism or zero-waste began to sound inconsequential. And in its place grew complaining and worrying. Being alarmed felt productive despite it being quite the opposite.

I learned that the act of relentlessly complaining about an issue without action is not unlike political hobbyism. In Politics is for Power (which is succinctly covered in this Hidden Brain podcast), Eitan Hersh condemns political hobbyists, well-meaning and well-informed citizens who consume political news, but do not take political action. Hersh urges political hobbyists to reject politics as entertainment and instead, spend their efforts lobbying, building organizations and taking action.

Hersh helped unveiled the truth behind my own climate advocacy; I'm an environmental hobbyist. An individual with hopes of a cleaner globe but with emotions much larger than my list of environmentalist contributions.

Of course, I believe that lifestyle changes are significant, and in massive quantities, instrumental towards building an environmentally conscious culture. However, to combat environmental hobbyism, we must accept that contributions should scale to one's ability. The sense of doom that I felt emerged from mistaking my passion for my ability. Climate change alone is a multifaceted issue, and the impact it has on the planet and its inhabitants are overwhelming, but part of curbing hobbyism is finding what you can do, and doing it well. In the Story of More, Hope Jahren deconstructs this global dilemma into individual contribution by saying:

Where does world hunger fall on your list? Extinction of species? Weirding weather? Green energy? Pollution of our oceans? Animal rights? Public transportation? Beach erosion? Healthy school lunches? National parks? Organic farming? Arctic warming? Women’s health? Some of these issues may be very important to you and others less compelling. Identify one issue to focus upon: the one that you are willing to sacrifice for.
- Hope Jahren (The Story of More)

Jahren reminds us that climate change is (unfortunately) a monumental obstacle, which is concerning as a global issue, yet promising for those of us willing to do our part. All we have to do is identify the one issue we are willing to sacrifice for — and sacrifice.

Personally, I'm now just reconciling my environmental hobbyism and identifying ways to contribute given my ability. The mental strategy I've adopted to combat the sense of doom and hobbysim is the following checklist.

How to Combat (Environmental) Hobbyism:

  1. Identify the issue you care about (i.e., climate change).
  2. Identify the part of the issue you can help solve (i.e., industrial agricultural pollution, carbon tax, etc.).
  3. Determine your ability by assessing what you are willing to sacrifice (i.e. time, money, convenience) and your applicable skills (i.e., volunteering, lobbying, etc.).
  4. Find existing groups and/or solutions to the issue (i.e., organizations to donate to, lifestyle practices).
  5. Contribute!
  6. Return to step 3 if you believe you maximized your contributions with your current ability and degree of sacrifice.

This strategy has solidified my own environmental advocacy. I've determined that I care about climate change and implementing legislative mechanisms to mitigate its effects. With the guidance of the Citizens' Climate Lobby, I'm willing to volunteer my time and writing abilities to inform others and urge my local representatives to implement a carbon tax within budget legislature.

I'm proud to share that on October 15, 2021, I officially shed my environmental hobbyist title when the San Antonio Express-News published my letter to the editor. Writing this short 150-word piece was my first non-lifestyle contribution to the issue. And rather than feeling the dread of environmental destruction, this new avenue for advocacy gives me hope and tempers my unrealistic ambitions.

San Antonio Express-News October 15th, 2021 Letter to the Editor.

Despite my best hopes, it may not have even reached Rep. Doggett, or even remotely impacted Biden's infrastructure bill (since it currently doesn't include a carbon tax). Regardless, I remain hopeful. As an Environmental hobbyist no more, the goal isn't to succumb to the sense of doom and complain, rather, it is to contribute. So, I'll do that, and I hope you do too.

Thanks for reading! If you liked it, please share it with a friend! If you didn't, I'm sorry. :(

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