“Bzzz!” my alarm sounded. It was a typical Saturday morning.
I scrolled through my Instagram feed. A ceaseless barrage of posts from environmental nonprofits—World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and SavePhSeas—greeted me.
“It’s #internationalcoastalcleanupday!” one post read. “Today, we harvested 80 kilograms of plastic. Let’s keep our oceans clean together!”
In 2022, International Coastal Cleanup Day fell on Saturday, Sept. 17. It was an occasion that was welcomed and celebrated by nongovernmental organizations across the globe. Posts, reposts and projects were advertised across platforms. Legitimate projects went into force, including a mass cleanup drive along the coast of the polluted Manila Bay.
As an internationally recognized environmental day, Coastal Cleanup Day is not alone. Earth Overshoot Day 2022 was July 28, and Zero Emissions Day was Sept. 21. Society makes waves for these designated “environmental days.” Social media erupts with conviction. People band together with calls for action.
Then a week passes.
After these occasions, the fires of environmental passion seem to die out as quickly as they were lit.
So, is there a point to these campaigns? Why is the fortitude of activism attenuated?
Activism breeds hope
These “awareness days” are ubiquitous. Every day, it seems like there are multiple campaigns going on. We double tap, repost and call it a day. Sometimes, we engage with them. Sometimes, we genuinely try to take action. We set a goal for the day, ground ourselves in the nobility of our cause and get working. We continue our work with the tenuous hope that our actions make a difference.
Yet, each awareness day is an ephemeral light that distracts society from the more somber status quo. The planet is warming. Constantly. The climate crisis is imperiling our livelihood as a species. A hashtag won’t change that. Awareness is futile when society is stagnant. Reality is frustrating because it is devastatingly familiar.
Despite over 100,000 protesters at COP26 in 2021, little binding legislation was enacted. This development was nothing special. The cycle of ineffectual activism is constantly repeating.
This is my thought process when reflecting on the current state of environmental activism. Despite immense efforts, it often seems futile. And, this ideology is not unique: The American Psychiatric Association has dubbed the term “eco-anxiety,” “the chronic fear of environmental doom.” It often affects social activists and members of Gen Z due to their constant exposure to environmental news and disasters. We breed fear because we are surrounded and consumed by physical threats to our existence.
What can we do?
The scale of the threat we face calls for a global, systems-level solution, based on radically reforming our current fossil fuel-based economy into one that is genuinely sustainable. It requires multilateral cooperation between governments and corporations across the globe. Cooperation breeds transformation.
Thus, it is impossible to single-handedly eliminate all ecological issues.
Here’s a tip: Pause, and recognize that you are not alone. You are a piece of a much larger puzzle, a collective movement of individuals who want to see society thrive. They share your passion and purpose, and they too want to effect change.
Allow yourself to take a break from carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Through daily reminders, whether on your walls or your phone, concentrate your thoughts on what you have control over.
With focus on the potential of your actions (rather than the catastrophization of global affairs), you will be able to ensure an intrinsic sense of sustainability, one that regards both personal well-being and the state of the physical environment with equal value. As you work towards your cause, this sense of balance will allow you to maximize your own impact while enjoying the life afforded to you by nature’s gifts.
“Bzzz!” my alarm sounded. It was a typical Sunday morning.
I scrolled through my Instagram feed. A ceaseless barrage of posts from environmental nonprofits greeted me.
I scrolled down a bit more. I saw a quote by Jana Stanfield.
It read, “You cannot do all the good the world needs, but the world needs all the good that you can do.” —CONTRIBUTED