Dealing with Eco-Anxiety: Feeling Less Guilt, Being More Green

How to combat green guilt

What do you do after you've changed all your light bulbs? San Francisco magazine takes a long look at the rising tide of green guilt by chatting up some Bay Area residents who stay up nights worrying about drowning polar bears, having to drive anywhere ("I feel like I’m taking a spray can to the environment," says one eco-anxious respondent) and drinking Bisphenol-A with a bottle of water.

The guilt from engaging in behavior that ultimately damages the environment is a growing problem for these people, who fear the consequences of not recycling, buying new things, and letting once-used water go down the drain. It causes crushing paralysis in some, where there are so many problems to deal with, they seemingly can't move under the weight of the world. But it doesn't have to be that way.The solution, according to the piece: embrace relativity, please. Using the oft-quoted starfish parable -- a parent and child come upon a beach of thousands of starfish, drying out in the sun. The child reaches down, picks up a starfish, and tosses it back into the ocean. "That's not going to help," says the parent. "But it will help that one," says the child. -- as an example, the conclusion is essentially this: work hard at it, be reasonable, do what you can, and keep learning about the next step. We think that's pretty good advice.

We know that singular, one-off acts like changing your light bulbs will not save the planet alone, and, while there are a lot of potential planetary problems hanging over our collective heads, there are a lot of solutions, too. The article suggests (and we second their recommendation) to concentrate on what you can do, rather than what you can't to help assuage whatever guilt your eco-lifestyle inspires.

We aren't going to cause the extinction of the polar bears individually; nor can we save them all by ourselves. But by buddying up, taking the pledge (or taking this pledge), and/or joining the march, it's easier to feel pro-active and positive rather than consumed by green guilt. What do you think? Is green guilt a problem? How do you deal with it? ::San Francisco magazine via ::Re-nest

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