How Much Should I Care?

I like to think of myself as an active and aware participant in my community, keeping track of important happenings in the news and making it a point to follow stories of personal interest. I also consider myself to be interested in the environment, having spent some time in high school in an extra-curricular group concerned with the lack of recycling in our school and having gone on one or two brief outings to pick up trash alongside a road and mutter about the apathy of those driving by. I always wish I could do more, as I see friends on social media protesting various heinous deeds or as I read about current events in newspaper, but I still go to bed untroubled, convinced that the little bit I do to help is enough. But there are times when I read some facts online, or hear something on the news that makes me feel uncomfortable in my security blanket of “well at least I am doing something.”

The fact that there is a floating island of plastic in the middle of the Pacific Ocean the size of Texas, or that at the current rate of runoff from garbage, sewer and agricultural fertilizer, not to mention overfishing and spills like Deepwater Horizon, we may not have edible sea life by 2048, fills me with a sense of urgency to do something now — but what?

Should I skip my classes tomorrow and book a flight (with money I do not have) to Washington and start protesting? Should I drive up to Maine and converse with the fishermen who have been doing their job for generations, while I have barely even touched a fishing pole, and tell them how to do their job? I would be laughed out of either situation and have quite a few upset people calling about all the money I just spent and classes and work I missed. So then should I go online and find a nice sounding charity to donate to and feel better about myself in the morning because I am giving $2 a week to help stop deforestation in the tropical rainforests?

How much devotion and effort is enough to help make a difference? In order to truly say I care about this Earth and our impact on it, do I need to completely put my personal life on pause while I fight to stop the melting glaciers and rising sea levels that will directly affect half of the world’s population who live within 50 miles of the coast?

I may not have the answers to all of these questions, or an easy way to make a difference without making a few sacrifices in your free time and checking account. But I do believe that by doing little things each day, like picking up litter on the way to class, and conversing with my employers about ways to reuse packaging materials, and above all by bringing into everyday conversation topics like the prediction that global temperatures will rise possibly 10 degrees by 2100, I will hopefully be able to motivate others to start doing little things to contribute as well. Maybe a bunch of people doing little things each day will be enough to make a difference.