I’m taking ‘Mammy Guilt’ to new heights. 35,000 feet to be exact. Not satisfied with abandoning my ever-clingy littlies, dumping some extra juggling onto my other half and having my parents drive a round trip up from Cork – all to facilitate one teeny, tiny night away in London – I now have an additional burden sitting on my back on, like, a ‘mankind’ level.
It’s even got a name: Eco Anxiety. Like life wasn’t hard enough.
Some beautiful woodland near Mullough More
Trouble is, I’m not even being dramatic. I had given my air miles a few thoughts pre-booking, but this was just one flight and probably one of the shortest commercial flights you can take. Well… between Ireland and England anyway. And it wasn’t like I’d be doing (much) shopping – I’d take only the tube or the bus and I was taking my reusable water bottle, because I’ve reached the stage where buying drinks in plastic bottles actually make me feel a little bit sick. Just a little. But I wasn’t there yet on the flying bit. Not quite. Until this trip.
My mother, the grafter up to babysit, gave voice to my internal gremlins, ‘Well, enjoy this break. I mean, think of the carbon footprint Laurie. The carbon footprint!’
There it was. Something else to give me the night sweats.
Of course I haven’t been burying my head in the sand for the last number of years. This isn’t exactly news. It’s just that it was much easier to help save the planet when it didn’t get in the way of me doing things I really like. Like flying to nice far-away places. Up until quite recently, saving the earth was a bit of a side show, a ‘nice to have’. I have a really cute reusable coffee cup and we’re on the cloth nappies (cute too) and there are the super cute bees wax wrapper-thingies that cut down on cling film and tin foil. Great. We compost, use muslin squares instead of wipes, buy our milk in cartons, buy only European wine (a first world conundrum, I’ll admit, but never the less…) and I have an ongoing dialogue with the smallies about ‘waste’ and ‘stuff’. My supermarket sweep has become like a head-melting test where I can’t calculate which is better – the Kenyan non-packaged pineapple or the Irish plastic-wrapped apples – avoiding palm oil is near impossible and don’t get me started on the toddler’s demands for elaborately packaged yogurty snacky things. Can my token efforts not be enough?
My sisters and I enjoying some time together – time I feel I don’t have to spend on a ferry
Like lots of other people, I’m doing lots of little things. But then you read about the dude in the dessert that is air conditioning an out-door stadium (true story) and you get the feeling you may need to ramp up efforts. Extinction Rebellion are making it clear things are getting serious. And Greta has me mortified for my entitled lifestyle, KeepCup or not.
The thought of our planet being in self-destruct mode is hard for me to fathom. And stressful in the extreme. I recently read an article about how our sun is scheduled to spectacularly burn itself out. I felt ill, imagining a scenario where the world’s inhabitants held drunken, tearful parties to mark the last ever sunset – like the Millennium New Year parties, but more sombre – and us tumbling into an era evocative of a Tom Cruise disaster movie, where everything is extremely grim and everybody fights all the time over tinned goods. I was relieved to read, seven heart-stopping-call-for-a-defibrilator paragraphs later, that this is not scheduled to happen for another 10,000,000 years or so. Panic deferred. But if mulling over the end of the world makes you appreciate anything it’s how beautiful life and nature is. And how it’s worth preserving and fighting for.
Part of the effort must be in passing on a respect, love and sense of responsibility to the next generation in relation to gorgeous Mother Earth. It may seem corny, but teaching them about the importance of insects or birds or seaweed, giving them a love of forests or the sea or the pond in the park – it’s important. It’s vital. When you love something, you want to make sure it’s looked after and a sense of awe, respect and appreciation wouldn’t go astray in our future leaders’ attitudes to lifestyle, technology advancement and policy-making. In fact, it may be the one element that might steer this oil-burning ship away from a very dangerous, if ever-melting, ice-berg.
As always, we have a choice. ‘Eco Anxiety’ can be something you add to the list of stuff to feel crappy about. Or, maybe it can be an awakening consciousness that spurs you on to be a slightly greener person. Most of us like to feel good about the kind of life we lead, so maybe all this panic and anxiety and feeling terrible about the state of the world can effect real change. Even subtle, small-scale change, like thinking twice before booking a flight. After all, every single effort makes a difference – the experts say so.