Monday, July 13, 2009

The Struggle.

My emotions and energy levels have been wishy-washy lately, as they relate to personal responsibility and environmental sustainability. Several days in advance, I cajoled several friends into going to the Esquire Theatre for an opening night screening of Food Inc. I knew what to expect from the film. but I could not have predicted my emotional response to several parts of the feature. Several times my eyes welled with tears. I immediately knew why.

Back to that point in a bit. First--I have high standards for others (and even higher standards for myself), which makes it difficult for some people to stomach my advice or criticism. My judgment is not based upon hatred or disdain but simply wanting people to challenge their limits, ideals, and ability to do more as global citizens. When I first became an environmental activist, I would have never admitted to it. I began to see the value of recycling and personal responsibility, as I became more uncomfortable witnessing a lack of both through off-campus living arrangements.

Upstairs neighbors in a house on Bishop Street had parties regularly. They would throw the countless bottles from their drinking games into the recycling bin, from the front porch, over the railing. Caps, labels, and whatever else would remain littered to the side of the house, between the porch and the driveway until I (or the landlord's parents) decided to pick them up. Even though I was brought up on having a recycling bin, at all but the last house in which I lived with my mother, I did not think so much about the volume of resource consumption or waste until my first independent domicile. Then, it was more an issue of personal responsibility and pride for one's abode.

While the aforementioned still holds true, since last summer, I have grown very sensitive about the conservation of post-consumer material resources. Since I moved into this apartment last September, I have diverged an unspeakable volume of recyclable materials from the garbage can. At the same time, more than ever, I notice the great deficiencies in our urban landscape of the simplest form of green street infrastructure: recycling containers.

Now, the reason for my emotional reaction to Food Inc. Despite all my activism--avoiding certain types of packaging, recycling, individual silent neighborhood and campus academic hall divergence campaigns, my current (yet fruitless, so far) research on urban agriculture at the UC Urban Farm--I feel like a hypocrite and I feel weak. I'm currently drinking a Mountain Dew Voltage, first allured by the beautiful color of the beverage, and next by the delicious taste. Before that was a Red Bull Simply Cola. When I think about my perceived hypocrisy, celebrity and political backlashes come to mind. Those people are vulnerable to the most petty insults, coming from those who are hardly perfect themselves. Now, me? It is what I battle inside my own head everyday--the self-criticism. (Not that I talk to myself but:) "Christian, seriously? A single-serving beverage? Wouldn't filling your Sigg bottle be more economical and sustainable?" Ohh, but sometimes that caffienated, sugary (sugar-like) sweet drink just grabs you by the neck and pulls you in. "Christian, did you really need to buy that 20 oz soda...that fountain Pepsi during break from class?" "Christian, why did you need that magazine? Oh, because it has a feature on urban farming?" Gotcha, self...that time.

One of the reasons why I refocused this blog was that I could be more transparent, struggling "greenie". Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from plastic, I'd like to say. Our habits are so ingrained yet despite my occassional break from my own ideals, I get frustrated with my roommates, when I cannot even count on them to check the plastic they are either throwing away, or placing into the recycling container for the right number. Twenty-four hours per day, I am conflicted about doing the right things--doing the things in which I believe. Consumerism is stilll alive and well though, and it is very hard to transform myself overnight into someone who packs his lunch everyday, phases out disposable towels, refuses every straw at a restaurant.

I nearly cried that night in the theatre for two reasons: I am a hypocrite and I have given in to the inherent customs of modern consumption and service. My tears also symbolized the endless struggle I have continued to assume, encouraging people I appreciate to buy into what I see as selfless desires. As those who know well my history of anxiety and academic struggles, I am a glutton for punishment. I do not desire to reach perfection, but I never see my efforts as being enough. I...we can always do more, but we rarely do. Despite the complaints about life's tribulations, most of us live a life of leisure by our own rules. We are inexplicably linked to the lives of others though, and we have a responsibility. It leads me to end with to self-manufactured adage to posted above the sink, about two months ago.


My mind and nerves are in a constant state of motion and activity.

1 comment:

Ian said...

You're hardly a hypocrite. When it comes to things like the green movement, any effort makes a difference. Obviously, it's pretty much impossible to live a completely sustainable lifestyle the way society is set up today. It's just not possible. But just think about how things would be different if everyone were like you - and what a gigantic difference that would make.