It's Hard Being Green

Almost as soon as you commit yourself to caring about the planet (or anything else), you commit yourself to a lifetime of disappointment (but also infinite room for improvement). As proof, I present news I received in just the last 24 hours specifically related to my work. I am not even talking about the 200,000 potential Haitian earthquake victims, health care and the Massachusetts election, or the use of drones in the military -- I'm merely referring to some back burner conservation news:

1) The UK's Chief Scientific Advisor, John Beddington, is opposing plans to create the world's biggest marine reserve. His company holds a government contract to manage fishing in the area, which would be banned if the reserve were created.

2) Miami-Dade County commissioners are now considering creating a recreational area for off road vehicles in the middle of the Everglades. Yes, OFF-ROADING in the EVERGLADES.

3) To top it off, a new study shows that conservation biologists are slower than other biologists at submitting research articles -- with a median delay of nearly two years. In contrast, taxonomists took about 20 months, behavioral scientists 17 months, and evolutionary biologists a mere 6 months, the team reports in Conservation Biology.

That's just the last 24 hours. It is easy to feel overwhelmed but it is impossible not to care. Caring is the new nihilism. There will be good news to come...

More like this

One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.

Aldo Leopold, Round River

Antidepressant medications and ecological apathy.

It is extremely difficult for a western culture that is heavily medicated [Sedated] to really âCareâ or engage the powerful human empathy gene about our quickly degrading environment when our âFeeling Centersâ are glossed over with happy pills.

â...The CDC says between the years of 1994 and 2000 the number of adults in this country using antidepressants tripled...â Remember to figure in that this is stated for use up to the year 2000. The amount of antidepressant prescriptions has exploded since the year 2001.

This âHappy Pill Societyâ has been a major reality for years, and it has only grown in size and dependency on many levels. While I am not saying all of our environmental nihilism can be abated by altering our awareness about how the use of antidepressants can essentially make cultures habitat careless, but it is an extremely serious challenge. Yes, environmental degradation news is painful and depressing, but if cultures avoid downer news instead of embracing it, ignored degradation will fester and get worse. While not trying to judge this medication addiction reality as right or wrong because it is highly complex, the truth is, at least in America, the mantra of emotional prescription nirvana is rampantly dangerous. If anyone doubts this awareness, just attempt a serious conversation about any ecological crisis situation with anyone, who is medicated with an antidepressant. Has anyone ever noticed that humans that are sedated generally do not get angry when they should?

Well, now that I am totally depressed, perhaps I should ease my cultural/environmental angst and see if I can find a nearby âHappy Hour...â or âHappy Meal...â to soothe me.

Antidepressant Use: Are We Overmedicated? Article link:…

By Chris Martell (not verified) on 24 Jan 2010 #permalink

On my bad days, I just assume that one day I will be watching as we eat each other on the streets of New York, with air nearly unfit to breathe as we choke on our own sewage. On that day I want to go to Dan Inhofe and say "See you in hell -- oh wait, we're there! I hope you are happy."

On better days I think people will figure stuff out just enough to muddle along.

I don't think antidepressants, honestly, have much to do with any of this. I think it's that if you think for too long it can be really overwhelming, especially when faced with ordinary human stupidity. I mean. the problems are so big, why bother? Really? Why not just kill yourself? Why have children? This question appeared long before antidepressants did.

Sometimes putting the problems aside is the only way to get through your day. Sometimes, caring about anything bigger than your immediate family can be horrible-- it is the most depressing, suicide-inducing thing in the world. This I know, coming from a family of political radicals.

Some people see bad things and want to do something, some people experience bad things and come out of it with a renewed determination to do something. But I know that not everyone is like that, and in fact I'd argue the people that come out with renewed purpose are a minority. I long ago learned to acknowledge that, and try not to judge people too harshly for not being activists.

SOrry, James Inhofe.

Greed and power is the American way, when will it end? It's sad that The UK's Chief Scientific Advisor, John Beddington, is opposing plans to create the world's biggest marine reserve. This would be such an excellent project, which all mankind would benefit from. He is wealthy enough, but it'll never be enough. This man could've retired years ago and still have lived out the rest of his miserable existence spending his fortune. Wonder if he has an alternative motive. For people that don't know, his company holds a government contract to manage fishing in the area, which would be banned if the reserve were created. Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if there was money in doing the right thing, and being recognized for your actions not your bank account.

By chris donofrio (not verified) on 17 Feb 2010 #permalink

Hi Jennifer,

I saw this piece by you and wrote about it on my new blog. Here it is. Please check out my project.


I guess itâs true if you are the incredible Hulk. I was browsing in one of my favourite blog sites, Science Blogs and came across this from Jennifer Jacquet. I sympathise with Jennifer. It is indeed tough getting what you think is bad news for the environment. Well getting bad news pretty much anytime is always a challenge. In relation to the green/environmental movement though there is a special kind of badness that can go with it. They always seem to have real blockbuster attributes, corrupt fat cats resisting perfectly commonsense plans to save such and such from utter destruction, handsome/beautiful articulate champions rallying us all to the cause and at stake the future of mankind. Pretty much any envirodisaster scenario comes with these attributes. And I do admit itâs pretty depressing if you let it be.

As a life and organisational coach I get to see up close and personal just why people get stuck in certain emotional and perceptive responses to environmental issues. There are stages and certain personality types tend to respond in certain ways. Once you figure out what your own personal response set are most likely to be then you can create a plan to manage them.

I am then luckier than Jennifer in a way as my contribution to the environmental cause and, in particular, getting us as fast as we can to a new energy economy focuses on people and how they think and what they believe is possible for themselves.

The P10 Earth project is about that really. If we strip out the emotional baggage of the blockbuster the answers are simple. Going green is very easy. Huh? Who said that? Well it is. I happen to have nailed my flag to lowering carbon emissions. Not only because that is an incredibly important thing to do but because the act of lowering them intelligently also increase demand for clean energy. That demand will get us where we need to go faster.

So it is easy. Set a date to be carbon neutral. Use a few Dollars or Pounds or Euroâs to get to offset carbon neutral while you figure out how to reduce and change a little the way you live and the decisions you make and tell 10 friends. Then with a spring in your now carbon neutral step help them to do the same!