Let’s redefine what it means to be “a good person”

I’ve been a sustainability freak for various years now. I’m that vegetarian who brings her own reusable cup (recycled wine bottle) to social gatherings. Hate me or love me, but here I am.

I usually understand where the people are coming from when they speak with me about how they see sustainability and their role as consumers. I nod my head in agreement. I know it is to reduce your waste, it is difficult to use your bicycle, it is so complicated to go vegan or at least reduce your meat consumption. I know you are just one person and your individual impact is very small. I know how you just looooove fashion or technology. I know the big companies are doing very bad things and I am glad that you are volunteering for the local dog shelter.

But then after a while I get the feeling that these people are looking for kind of permission to be excused from the sustainability struggles. They want to have an approval to keep on doing what they are doing and feel good about themselves. Then, while being surrounded by happy people and disposable plastics, I get depressed.

Good people are killing the planet. Some of the nicest and warmest people I know do not care even about recycling. Maybe we should redefine the definition of “good people”. Yes, when there were less people on this planet, and our consumption levels where much lower, helping out someone in your community, being good neighbor and being there for your family and friends was enough to be considered and consider yourself a good person. It is not the world we are living in right now. If you are not considering the global impact of your actions, you are not a good person. There, I said it.

There will be more plastic than fishes in the oceans by 2030, a million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute, we are losing species 1,000 and 10,000 times faster than the natural extinction rate, carbon dioxide levels are increasing faster than they have in hundreds of thousands of years, 46 million people are living as slaves in order for us to live as we are living and shop the way we are shopping. Should I go on? Do you get the idea? We are slowly killing and exploiting other beings one irresponsible shopping spree at a time and we must admit it. Caring about environmental and global issues is not an option. It’s not a hobby. It is an obligation.

I look at these truly nice people who do not want to think about climate change and about who made their clothes. These good people close their eyes in order not to see where their new phone comes from and where their plastic cup goes to. I feel sorry and scared. I am sorry, as I know it is not their intention to harm the planet. I am scared, because I see how hard and seemingly impossible it is to change this worldview.

Redefining what it means to be “good” is something we must do. It can not be done by screaming and finger pointing. We must speak to each other slowly, carefully and respectfully, truly understanding and accepting the complexity of looking at oneself with new eyes.