From Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:
However much we despise the monstrous serial killer called global warming, it’s hard to bring charges. We cherish our fossil-fuel-driven conveniences, such as the computer I am using to write these words. We can’t exactly name-call this problem, or vote it away. The cure involves reaching down into ourselves and pulling out a new kind of person. The practical problem, of course, is how to do that. It’s impossible to become a fuel purist, and it seems like failure to change our ways only halfway or a pathetic 10 percent. So why even try? When the scope of the problem seems insuperable, isn’t it reasonable just to call this one, give it up, and get on with life as we know it?
I do know the answer to that one: that’s called child abuse. When my teenager worries that her generation won’t be able to fix this problem, I have to admit to her that it won’t be up to her generation. It’s up to mine. This is a now-or-never kind of project.
But a project, nevertheless. Global-scale alteration from pollution didn’t happen when human societies started using a little bit of fossil fuel. It happened after unrestrained growth, irresponsible management, and a cultural refusal to assign any moral value to excessive consumption. Those habits can be reformed. They have been reformed: several times in the last century we’ve learned that some of our favorite things like DDT and the propellants in aerosol cans were rapidly unraveling the structure and substance of our biosphere. We gave them up, and reversed the threats….
I share with almost every adult I know this crazy quilt of optimism and worries, feeling locked into certain habits but keen to change them in the right direction. And the tendency to feel like a jerk for falling short of absolute conversion….It’s the worst of bad manners–and self-protection, I think, in a nervously cynical society–to ridicule the small gesture. These earnest efforts might just get us past the train-wreck of the daily news, or the anguish of standing behind a child, looking with her at the road ahead, searching out our redemption where we can find it: recycling or carpooling or growing a garden or saving a species, or something. Small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren’t trivial. Ultimately the will, or won’t, add up to having been the thing that mattered.