Tag Archives: Consumption

Eco-Angst vs. Eco-Pleasure

Today in a New York Times blog, Daniel Goleman wrote a post called, “The Age of Eco-Angst

He defines it as:

“The moment a new bit of unpleasant ecological information about some product or other plunges us into a moment (or more) of despair at the planet’s condition and the fragility of our place on it.”

I cannot tell you how many times I have felt this Eco-Angst of which Goleman speaks. It seems like the more I learn about the incredible, vast, diverse awesomeness of the earth, I simultaneously learn exponentially more reasons humans are destroying that very “awesomeness” in some way. Educationally speaking, it makes it hard to go about college, “business as usual” when daily I’m faced with ideas of extinction, disrepair, and the literal demise of the earth. It’s hard to enjoy your dinner when you’ve been considering the malnourishment of millions of people all morning.

Anyway, today I gained some insight on how to deal with this dissonance. Allow me to elaborate.

  • First, I think it is important, even though it is hard, to be educated, aware, and prepared. This takes time and often a bit more money, but in the end, I think it’s worth it.
  • Second, I realized how important it is to specialize our efforts and knowledge. While I would love to solve (or simply contribute my help to) all the problems I am presented, that is obviously impossible and my time and mental energy would be wasted in trying. In ecology lab today, our conversation, while stimulating, bounced around from prairie grasses, to recycling, to ocean biodiversity loss… it showed me that the best I can do right now is to become inspired by all these things, but also focus my efforts to becoming an expert in one area and dedicate my time to that. Then, I can try my very best to live sustainably in other areas of my life. (This has been a hard lesson for me since I started learning more about the state of our environment.) The other day I read something that I liked pertaining to this (I wish I knew who said it):

    “Let each mend one, and the world is mended.”

  • Finally, I have found that in order to ward off depression and to be able to get out of bed in the morning, we must learn to fully and daily, enjoy a sense of eco-pleasure. That is, to appreciate the natural environments we’re surrounded by and value the assets the earth has given us. Whether a sunset, shady tree, breeze off the lake, or blue sky, I know even people unconcerned with the environment can have much to say about how great the outdoors is. Today in lab, our group went to the Pheasant Branch Creek Conservatory to learn about natural systems. Although it was a windy, cold, and misty day, I thoroughly enjoyed being in nature and witnessing our grad students, Samuel and Lisa, share their knowledge about the history and environmental importance of the area where we stood. I sometimes find it so hard to sit still in a padded lecture-hall chair in a well-heated building, but I would have stayed out there standing in the cold for hours listening to them. I’m rambling now, but today made me realize that even though there is so much to be scared about pertaining to climate change, it is only through gaining a deeper appreciation and taking the time to notice that I will be motivated to act.

Anyway, on the topic of doing as best as we can in all other aspects of our lives, Goleman focuses on our purchases (which is a fairly encompassing topic). He (and I!) suggests www.goodguide.com to find the most eco-friendly (but also beneficial pertaining to employee treatment, product testing, waste disposal, etc.) products. This is another way to be more aware and make better choices if you have the means to do so. In the article he says:

“It’s not that no one cared — no one really knew. Industrial ecology has only come of age in the last decade or two, and has yet to make its findings widely known. But as ecological transparency comes to the aisles of stores near you and me, it opens an opportunity for us to vote with our dollars with unprecedented precision for better ecological impacts.”

So, here’s to:

-Combating ignorance

-Taking time to take pleasure


-Learning, learning, learning in order to specialize and really do our part (no matter how big or small).

I’m excited.


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