One in Seven: An Essay

by C2C Fellow Shayna Koczur

I am one in seven billion order essay, and on a geological timescale, I will be here for a second. If I am so small in the grand scheme of our planet, if I am only a tick of a clock, then the idea of  sustaining myself and being healthy seems exhausting. Depravation of junk food and other vices is almost a display of obedience to vanity and expectations without any reward. Why should I govern myself to practice good health if my good health only means securing my  full potential life span that is only a second long anyway? The reason is because I am responsible for what is inside of me, and I care what happens to me during the time I am here.

This mentality of having the capacity to put effort into something that seems to be noting but a fleeting moment makes me an activist. It drives me to prevent the pending apocalyptic conditions from happening, because even though I am here for a second, it is my second and thousands of years from now it will be someone else’s second with a heart and a head like mine.

The previous statement sounds poetic and it is.  What I find today after my freshman year in college is activism is a fad now. It is trendy to be green and to drive a Prius. There is a sub-culture where one can gain acceptance and status for practicing particular behaviors. In sub-communities that diverge from the mainstream, sustainable living can be seen as life choice that one must adopt to be part of the group. This seems shallow, but it may be what saves us. I volunteered for the People’s Climate March this summer because I craved to add some sort of weight to my second. I wanted to say I was there and helped. I felt an obligation to help, almost to satisfy my need for an adventure. I made so much noise about the event and made sure everyone knew it was me who had plastered the town with posters. It was not until my first return back to school when I realized the truth of the situation. A girl I once knew asked me how to get to the march after  saying other things like mentioning how much she loved Neutral Milk Hotel and Wes Anderson. When she listed a protest next to artists and film directors who were considered trendy, I felt a strange twitch in my brain. It was then that  I realized that it was fashionable to go to the march. I am not doubting anyone’s passion, but being an activist is a lifestyle for  those who have the time and the resources to make education and activism a lifestyle.

Ironically, the actual event of the protest was redundant. The rich man who it is cool to hate supported the march. There is a hypocrisy that lies in modern environmental activism. The people in the street’s goods and transportations and jobs are supported by companies or labor forces that abuse the resources that they are defending.  They probably took gas-filled busses to get there. They used paper to make their picket signs. They fought waste with waste and indirectly funded mass industries. Clearly, it wasn’t the efficacy of the event that brought people to it.

This desire to go to a march like this despite the clear redundancy of fighting waste with waste proves that seven thousand people wanted to be fashionable. What will save us is the status that comes with being green. Maybe using resources will become barbaric. Whole Foods and farmers markets only pop up in expensive areas; eating organic, fresh foods can be associated with custom essays moving up in society. Culturally, many diets and products that are now mainstream started with imitation of the wealthy. Cars, TVs, and evens sugar where once trademarks of higher society that served as a sign of wealth. In the 1950s with the boom of the suburbs, everyone bought two cars on margin because it was a symbol of wealth. It was a way to announce success to the community. In a way it was a justification that a person belonged. The average initial cost for a solar panel system is $50,000 for a 6.25-kwh system. This cost is almost larger than the income of the average American. Green cars add another $20,000 and Whole Foods is twice as expensive as the average grocery store. So, where does change come in a system where only the rich can make the choice and apply the assets needed to see change?

Now let’s talk numbers. There is a one percent. 14 million people in the United states are below the poverty  hence, can not afford eco friendly products. In fact, resources like oil  support  a mass part of the population that are dependent  on the exploitation of resources in order to get to their jobs – even if it leaves them in a paradoxical situation where they are denied advancement in a capitalist system that controls the wealth between a few people.. The fact these two extremes live day to day creates a lifestyle in which environmental concerns are not the most pressing issue on their agenda. The poor man can not afford it and the one percent can afford whatever the world throws at them.  So what will save us if real sustainable practices are not accessible?

The answer is in the very core of human nature. The strive to be part of society is what causes demand and conformation. This is what makes activism become a trend and imitation of the rich effective. The original availability of the first automobile was scarce. Cars on average cost $5,000 (compared to about $60,000 today). As a middle class grew, however, and the prestige of buying a new car became viral, cars became part of the mainstream and the market met the demand. Cars became processed in factories quicker and cheaper This obsession with possession has fueled a societal change that can now be used to reverse damages made by fossil fuels. Fresh food can be seen as best food and therefore marketed as a symbol of wealth, hence desirable and eventually mainstream. The market can gear its attention towards accommodating demand for anything that is wanted. The more supply, the cheaper the product. Who knows?

Wanting to be part of a trend  or a group is what will save us. There are particular values attached to the green movement that create pressure to be green. Reports of the march consisted of my friends booing at the Fox News building and bonding with other vegans. The march itself was not ever about the climate summit. It was a gathering of people of a particular ideology and lifestyle where like-minded people can walk amongst their kin. Politics would not have come out of it, but what is present is the power of the group. The mentality of acceptance and drive to be a symbol of change was remembered and that is what will save us. That is where change lies.

So me, one in seven billion—why do I care to tend to myself and the earth when I don’t really matter? To be one with seven billion is my desire. To be with them is my nature and in that nature is change.

About C2CFellows

C2C Fellows are young sustainability leaders from across the country committed to pursuing meaningful careers in sustainable business and politics. Leaders join the national network through participation in a weekend long leadership workshop, and remain engaged with the network moving forward into their careers after college. For more information, visit www.bard.edu/cep/c2c.