Earth Day and the Feeling of Futility

Oh, loved ones. Reading my friend, Carmen Spagnola’s post on Earth Day, resurrected so much within me. I remember the once held feelings of naive might– the one individual can take on the ugly world of big corporations, the machines of government, the systems of isms. I can do this, using the stronger, faster, smarter, louder, harder mindset, and wouldn’t you know, it burned me to a crisp. I was formally trained in communication design, surely if anyone can reach the mass, it’s someone who knows how to speak to her ‘audience’? But in design, I quickly understood that my gifts were used to sell mediocre things in clever packaging, with even more clever words. Well, maybe what I needed to do was to reach children instead, I mean, children are our future, right? So off I went, leaving a well paid but overworked domain, and ventured back to school to become an educator in alternative, emergent-curriculum pedagogy. Inspire the kids to “do more” Earth Day things, right? But the same, exploitive mechanism of psycho-educational babble and toddler-sized blond wood furniture, along with arbitrary school rules of no-packaging foods which meant most parents just removed the wrapped plastic-foiled granola bars and placed them inside the Earth-Day looking tiffins or soups out of cans into glass mason jars. Earth Day keeps being a static picture of what ideally it should be, without factoring in any real-world considerations. Feeling helpless, I thought maybe I could go do something in clean tech, use my branding and writing skills there. I worked for a startup with immense dreams to reclaim the metals from obsolete digital devices, urban mining, as it’s now called, so as to divert less metals mined from the Earth. But the issue with urban mining is that it comes with its poisons. From chemical solvents for extraction to smelting, but beyond that, marketing plays a big role in clean tech, especially clean tech. Most of my interactions with men (which was 98% of my interactions), was utterly appalling. Does Earth Day need to come with such a high price of self-immolation? And then I thought, perhaps the impact is in spirituality and self-help… Reader, you are probably laughing at this point, as I obviously still haven’t learned a thing, as the same mechanisms of harm, distraction, and extraction exist in these spaces, too. So back to Carmen’s post (I’m so grateful you brought this up!). We are bound by a system that most of us don’t want to be bound to, but it’s grown monstrously and the feeling of futility is undeniable: we can keep recycling toothpicks, virtue signalling to each other, and posting Earth Day art and not even know the original makers. I think the first step is to understand this is what happens when the system is human-centric (and certain humans at that). That is all on this year’s Earth Day. End of rant (for now). 

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