I don’t miss the guilt.
Once upon a time, I was an ecoactivist.
I make it sound simple, because in a way it was. I “woke up” on evening, by watching an episode of the Colbert Report. One evening I was your average person who didn’t care or think about the environment overly much. The next evening I was a Green.
And I went all in.
I gave up buying things. I gave up toilet paper. I gave up paper towels. I gave up driving. IN LOS ANGELES.
But it was never enough. There were always the things that I wasn’t ready to stop doing, the things I agonized over.
Like eating meat. Or flying.
I was tormented by the whole flying thing. I’d argue with people about it. Try to justify myself to myself. I’d say to myself, “Hey, Vanessa does it. Other people do it.” I’d spend ages on those carbon calculators trying to figure out a way to fly and still not be one of those terrible people who were destroying the Earth.
But I couldn’t ever do it.
Here I was an ecoactivist, and yet a total fraud. I cared about the Earth enough to give up god damn toilet paper, and yet, according to some Internet site, if everyone lived like me, we’d need seven Earths. Lord help us all.
Ultimately, I wonder if it was the constant guilt, the feeling that nothing was ever good enough that led me to break down. To look at my desperate acts of individual ecoactivism and conclude that there was no there there. That the couple dozen rolls of toilet paper and paper towels I was saving were pointless. That turning down the thermostat just made me uncomfortable and wasn’t actually going to stop climate change. That what I was engaging in was nothing more or less than political theatre.
I don’t miss the guilt that fueled my constant striving to be the best eco-nut that I could be.
But I do miss the optimism.