Hey Micha! I was wondering about how you deal with the stress and worry that comes with being aware of the terrible ways nature is being treated and the whole climate crisis thing? I find myself feeling terribly stressed and helpless sometimes and I really feel like whatever I do it will never help make a change.
I’m so sorry it took me a while to answer this!! I’m both very sad you feel that way, but also relieved that you care/understand how important nature is. Thank you for being thoughtful and empathetic
In spite of it seeming small, the little things we do on an individual basis do matter a great deal. The way you can help totally depends on your comfort level and how able you are, but any and every step we take to better the Earth matters. Using slightly less water in the shower, composting, recycling as much as possible (I learned how to make my own paper using water and recycled paper, it’s so cool!!!), not using complex chemical sprays on weeds in favor of hand-weeding or using simple soaps/vinegar, using baking soda to get rid of roof moss instead of nasty sprays, attempting to buy from local food sources with good business practices if you can afford it, try to use more reusable items and reduce plastic waste items (plastic bags can be recycled at Fred Meyer in Oregon, I’m sure other grocery stores do the same?), try to grow some of your own food if you have time and space, purchase from second-hand stores and local stores, for food farmer’s markets are ideal, and walking/biking/using public transit/carpooling/grouping your errands together while driving – all of these things help a lot in terms of lifestyle choices. but if you’re poor, chances are your carbon footprint is pretty low already, (mine is ~8 metric tons of co2/year lol), unless you have children/a family to support (the larger the family, the bigger the footprint of course)/more than one car. Even so, upper middle-class/wealthier families always have HUGE carbon footprints relative to poor families especially. When it comes to wealthy families, many are incredibly wasteful to the nth degree, in spite of the fact they have ample means to buy locally, and reduce their carbon/water/waste footprint with technology and the various comfortable lifestyle choices money brings. They have greater responsibility due to their greater hoard of resources, yet they waste like gluttons, not even realizing the consequences of their actions because they do not feel the repurcussions, and rarely even see them. In Portland – a city that prides itself on being green and eco friendly – looking up the biggest water wasters pissed me off so much and I realized just how much wealthy people do not care how much they waste.
In terms of more earth-related things… keeping yourself, your dogs, and children on the trail is VERY important, I cannot stress this enough. I know it seems fun, it is often glorified in the media,and it seems harmless to go off trail, but it isn’t harmless. Human disturbance and human affected climate change are the main reasons invasive species take over native plant habitat/niches in droves. I studied this for my job in the lab for three years. Going off trail in a disturbed, shitty forest near a suburb or city with no hope of recovery is fine, I guess… if the people living there have no motivation or hope to restore it, which is sad. One of the recovery forests I worked in was a city forest, covered in ivy – we were able to get native populations growing with simple hard work – the weed n pull n native planting method!
We all need to be much more conscious about where we walk, and we all need much more restraint. When it comes to the phrase, “take only pictures, leave only footprints”, I’ll only agree if those footprints are on. the. trail. ;D
Hand-weeding invasive plants in your region/area and/or planting new native seedlings is a great way to help reverse some of the damage humans have done to various ecosystems. If you are lucky enough to live on a private piece of property, turning your yard into a native habitat (you can get certified by your city/state in certain areas, which is really cool!) is one of the most effective ways to locally start helping. Also, it’s gross and please be careful, but cleaning litter in your local area is a highly effective way to reduce animal death and soil/water pollution. Trying to use less miraclegrow/weird chemical fertilizer in place of compost/simpler, more natural fertilizers is an excellent way to make sure no excess nutrients enter water bodies.
Volunteering for a clean-up party (the Oregon coast has clean up parties all the time hosted by SOLVE), planting party, or invasive removal party in your local area is an excellent way to contribute too!! I know that Portland, Oregon has a lot of groups that volunteer to kill invasive ivy and blackberry in the summer; I’m sure that googling would yeild some results in that city and others with similar organizations and planting parties? Maybe? I hope ;-; Friends of Trees is a great organization in Portland dedicated to studying the quality of life of trees and planting new native trees in the metro area. (A lab friend of mine helps run it, and he is a brilliant PhD graduate in botany who works with arguably the best plant physiology professor in the country, and they are all so nice! ). Oh, and watching nature documentaries, reading local news, and staying up to date on the science articles that make sense to you is the best way to keep yourself informed and sharp!! Knowledge is critical, understanding how earth’s natural systems interact is critical too. In order to help, we must better understand. I wasn’t some bleeding heart tree hugger before I went to school for biology and earth sciences…. what I learned motivated me. None of my teachers shoved their beliefs down my throat and they all played devil’s advocate for all information presented, as a good teacher should. I synthesized everything I learned and then looked among all the details, and realized how important all of nature is. How everything is connected. It was neutral knowledge, the truths of this world that led me to care, and I hope it does that for others too.
Oh, and I’d like to add that, (other than donating to habitat preserving organizations like the Nature Conservancy or animal protecting foundations like The Snow Leopard Trust,) staying aware of and calling your representative about alarming political measures involving land use is one of the most important ways you can stop further ecological degradation, especially with this current administration. This is also difficult, as most news groups don’t report on environmental issues with accuracy or emotion if at all, and both sides of the American political coin like to compromise harshly regarding the environment. Apparently in our society, it’s very easy to get away with, and justify, killing a forest and the animals in it. Hell, hunting is a recreational -sport-, right? ? /vomits/
I’m so sorry I don’t have time to write more (and I am SO sorry this is written poorly!), I have a ridiculous number of messages to respond to and I need to take a food break, but I wish I could have written you an even longer essay. Please take care, and you are amazing!! I believe in you bb. You got this.
Oh, and as a final note: I try to think about the resilience of nature/the wondrous life left in this world to inspire me in a positive way as well. It’s an excellent motivator!! We can learn so much from Earth’s diverse organisms. Thank you again for the question, and I hope it’s okay that I publish this.