A few years back, my new years resolution was to “live in accordance to my beliefs.” I am not religiously devout, but I do consider myself to be deeply spiritual. I find hope and inspiration in Nature: in the beauty of its form, in the intricacies of its evolution, in the creativity of its solutions to abstract challenges. Even if I cannot see it, even if I cannot touch it, even if I don’t understand it, I believe in it. This belief is based on facts that I do understand, and the world that I can see and touch. And this world is in trouble.
It is impossible to study ecology without looking at the global threats to Nature: climate change, pollution, over harvesting, habitat destruction, etc, etc, etc. These things threaten Nature on a scale that is terrifying. Very often individuals, myself included, become overwhelmed with the scale. In 2014, more then three hundred million tons of plastic was produced. The fact that I don’t use plastic water bottles doesn’t make a dent in that number. An estimated three trillion fish are pulled from the global oceans annually. I don’t eat seafood, but that doesn’t stop overfishing. 2016 was the warmest year on record. I ride my bike, turn off the lights, don’t run the air conditioning, but the climate is still going to change. And slowly I become disillusioned with my efforts. As an individual, I’m not going to make a big enough difference.
I know that this isn’t true. It’s just how it feels. I know that what I do does make a difference. At the least it makes others think twice about their behaviors. But more importantly it makes a difference to me. It helps me live with my conscience. I know the truth. I understand the impacts my decisions have. So even though not ordering that shrimp taco doesn’t save the pound of by catch that was killed by bottom trawling, if I ate it, that destruction would be on me, and I don’t think I could live with that.
Living this way has its challenges. Sometimes I stumble. Sometimes I fall flat on my face. Sometimes I really just want that shrimp taco. And there is nobody stopping me from eating it but myself, and it’s easy to think that one taco isn’t going to change anything. But then I ask myself, how can I expect others who might not have as in depth of an understanding and knowledge of the threats to our planet to make lifestyle changes if I can’t make them myself? And the answer is always that I can’t. So I forgo the taco for a salad, I ask for my coffee in a mug, and I go about my day wondering how to inspire others to do the same.