"Life’s but a walking shadow, the poor player struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more," said Macbeth.
We strut and fret to make a change in our world, be it politically, socially, or environmentally, but it's like treading water. It’s Sisyphean: we work hard, we advocate, we donate, only to see our country pulled out of climate agreements. Just like Sisyphus rolls his boulder up the hill only to have it roll back down, we toil with one another to elicit some semblance of change in our world, only to see it all unravel at the whims of a few powerful people.
So why even bother? If we’re just the walking shadows, tugging at boulders and fretting upon a stage, what’s the point?
Too often, we act noncommittally, excusing our nonchalance with the trite defense of "Well, I’m just one person, so what does it matter?" We smoke, we litter, we throw everything in the bin labeled "landfill," and, worst of all, we are complacent through the waste, spillage, and disregard. We leave these consequences—of a warmer, stormier earth—to someone else, be it the leader of the Environmental Caucus or forthcoming generations. We feel guilty that we do not do more but excuse it, reasoning the lack of immediate consequences. And so the boulder rolls back down the hill.
As BC students, it is hard, from our spot atop the Heights well above sea level, to see the benefit of environmental consciousness—the time it takes out of our days, the rearranging of disposal practices it entails. It is onerous for us, as literally elevated individuals, to partake in such small, seemingly inconsequential practices when the problem is so grand, so far away. So why should we do anything?
"One must imagine Sisyphus happy." Yes, this quote from Albert Camus may be the key to confronting our insignificant size.
Doing the right thing for our environment, whether it is activism, lobbying, or something as small as swearing off plastic cups and bottles, is rolling the boulder up the hill. It seems pointless, inconvenient, frustrating—as if it won’t pay off in our lifetime. It might not, but it will in the lifetime of children to come.
Once we nix complacency in the face of the arduous, unrewarding process that is environmental advocacy, we will stop doing things half-heartedly. Through this conviction, we find resolve. As Camus said, "The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart." Call them what you will—activists, advocates, do-gooders—but they live with a purpose unknown to many.
What is most optimistic is that the ripple effect is real, and has been proven to work. Take the success of reusable water bottles made by companies such as Nalgene and Hydroflask; by presenting reusable water bottles as trendy, these companies presented “small” individuals everywhere with a means of change.
We should neither give up nor remain complacent about the earth. Doing so would condemn future generations to a boulder even heavier and a hill steeper than our own. Any more, there is no excuse for leading wasteful lives. The change we need is not insurmountable. We need baby steps that reverberate and accumulate, until we have made the earth a better, more livable place.
If ever you feel like you can’t make a difference, know that pushing the boulder alone, you probably can’t. But, if you take to the hill anyways, then others will follow, lightening your load and expanding your mission.