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A Sustainable Design Blog

We Are All Selfish Environmentalists

by Jennifer Stewart | May 20, 2011 | Opinions

It’s usually within a minute of one of my rants about the lack of #5 recycling in this town that I get accused of being a hippie. I didn’t always mind that term until one day I was talking to a person who said they didn’t care about all that “eco crap like you hippies do.”  Oh really??

Feeling my female duty to prove a man wrong, I rapid-fired questions at the guy until he mentioned his hunting hobby as proof of his hostility toward nature. “So how would you like it if you hunted a buck only to find cancerous tumors all over it thanks to chemical exposure?” I asked. Turns out he didn’t like the idea of that at all. I would call this man a selfish environmentalist, just like I am.

I know we’re all taught to avoid being self-centered, but the very fact that our experience is lodged firmly within our own brain and body makes it quite hard to be anything but egocentric. It is because of this that I appeal to myself when I discuss any environmental issues. I want to eat fish, so I’m angry over the plastic gyre contaminating fish in the Pacific. I get irritated when I see pluming smoke stacks while sucking wind during my run. Pollution isn’t just bad, it’s personally offensive.

I encourage you to be selfish about environmentalism as well. The pollution dumped on our earth isn’t hurting the planet nearly as much as it’s hurting you. Ever heard that expression “having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a pissing section in a swimming pool”? Well pollution doesn’t know that it’s supposed to stay out of your tap water, or your open window, or your vegetables. That duty falls to you.

Caring about the planet and being a self-proclaimed environmentalist can really be boiled down to caring about yourself. Outside of death and taxes, being stuck in your body, and the health that comes with it, is the only guarantee you have. So take care of yourself by taking care of the world around you. It’s the best selfish thing you can do.

Jennifer Stewart is the Office Manager and wanna-be organizational psychologist at Modern Species. For more posts from her, click here.

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Do right and you will be conspicuous.- Mark Twain