It is hard to be an environmentalist. The average person might complain that recycling is too much work, or that organic food is too expensive, or that riding your bike is too much of a hassle. However, these complaints exist because the cultural infrastructure does not support the environmentalist ideology. The basic tenets of keeping the world healthy conflicts with so many other world views.
Many people in industrial nations for example, who live comfortable lives with lots of square footage between each individual, do not believe rising populations is an issue. Many do not see the direct effects of too many people in too little of a space on their infrastructure. Similarly, in developing nations where the infant mortality rate is high, large families are encouraged because of the basic need to have children that will survive their parents. They too don’t believe in overpopulation because they see more children die than survive.
Individuals with a 9-5 corporate job in the city tend to feel isolated from issues of the ecosystem, and often don’t feel the need to be more involved. They live in the concrete jungle and rarely bump into any green. They don’t regularly encounter deforestation or industrial waste being dumped into rivers. They won’t see the collective impact on the environment, when they are isolated from it. Individuals who live in the forest, on the farms, in the dirt and mud and bugs on the other hand would rather not let people’s concern for nature make it harder than it already is to feed their families and kill off disease carrying pests and poisonous plants. Chances are they also wouldn’t mind the opportunity to bring home some nice big, healthy game.
In the science community there are people who believe global warming and who acknowledge that humans contribute to CO2 emissions, in addition to the human populations’ contributions to other forms of pollution. However, many also have accepted the fact that a single supervolcano eruption, from America’s own Yellowstone volcano system, could dramatically affect the climate on a similar scale as the last 200 years of industrialism, and that this could happen any day. In the religious community many people, including those who follow Islam, Judaism, and even Christianity, have accepted Global Warming as a phenomena that affirms and precedes Judgement Day, the impending doom that has been read from their religious texts for hundreds of generations.
The more extreme conservationists tend to think that humans are the problem here, and that if only we would step off that nature would thrive and repair itself. Extreme anti-environmentalists like to cite studies that disprove or discredit the effect of humans on the ecosystem and believe that nature is doing just fine all by itself, no matter how much industry there is. The apathetic groups, such as existentialists, nihilists, fatalists, and anybody caught up in their own world, mind, or else paradoxes, tend to think that either none of this matters, it is supposed to be this way, they are exempt from the issue or else can’t meaningfully contribute, and therefore excuse themselves from the controversy of environmentalism.
Environmentalists caught up in the politics and economics of conservation and sustainability will tell you how hard it is to convince people to compromise their own values or adopt a new set, even if a healthy environment is an ideal one. Requiring people to ignore tradition, create new habits, and get creative is often too dramatic a change for whole populations of people. Many people give up the fight and just embrace the potential for an impending apocalypse.
Fortunately, there are many brilliant, innovative people out there, many people who are happy to change bad habits, and many more who love the freedoms of a non-conventional lifestyle. Top tech companies are integrating green technology into their infrastructure and minimalism in their work culture. Corporations are saving money by reducing waste by going paperless and investing in the increasingly affordable low impact green energy. Whole cities are seeking to better the health of their people by focusing on bike lanes, organic groceries, and water and air quality.
There is hope in the environmental movement so long as people continue to believe they can make a difference. Half of the battle is trying to change people’s ideas and habits, which is hard when they are already stuck in their way. The point here is not to think of environmentalism as just a world view, but as a way of life, one that affects not only the environment, but people too.