Eco-Living Magazine

The Extension of Personal Commitment

Posted on the 06 February 2013 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

As graduate students, my peers and I are faced daily with workloads that seem at times, insurmountable. The prospect of “keeping up” is a mere physical impossibility for many of us. To succeed, to capitalize on the opportunities that abound as students in a well respected, well connected, and well-directed institution requires sacrifice on a personal level. Giving up the freedom to pursue other interests, properly relax, take intellectual shortcuts, and nurture relationships are all examples of this sacrifice. To step away and allow for immersion back into impairing habits or alternate passions is to squelch the steam of motivation. Success requires constant pressure on the gas pedal. It is perpetual. It is unnatural, considering the human affinity for diversification of activity, and tendencies towards distraction or sloth.

This kind of discipline is tough to maintain, but a lot of people do it. Immigrants surrender the comforts of home to pursue higher wages in foreign countries. Soldiers forfeit the security of civilian life to fight for their peoples’ freedoms. Fitness athletes adopt strict diets to acquire body-fat bereft physiques. Most successful graduate students, successful doctors, and successful parents have all, at some point, chosen to accept sacrifice in hopes of achieving something greater in the end. What if we accepted sacrifice in shifting our lifestyles towards better alignment with environmental health with the same kind of vigor?

None can cogently argue that the magnitude of change necessary to halt the modern world’s engendering of environmentally harmful activities will come easily. It seems, at this time, against our very nature to halt the brakes of activity in a forceful enough manner to execute real improvement. But with most of the scientific community and an increasingly large portion of the general public looking uneasily at alarming signs of impending environmental catastrophe, consensus exists: change must happen.

US environmental policy that allows for incomplete solutions to environmental problems is the standard. With so many players influencing political action, the inevitable pathway for policy acceptance involves compromise between powers. While the bipartisan structure of our party system stands, there appears to be no alternative to this truth. But the acceptance of compromise in environmental policy can be compared to the allowance of exception in a graduate student’s commitment to a life of strict study; of devotion to practices unnatural for our psyche in the pursuit of a knowledge that will beget a better future.  When allowing for exception in commitment bars achievement of a goal, the allowance of exception must be forgotten.

To push for societal goals that are in line with true sustainability will be painful. It won’t come “naturally”, considering that “natural” for us has currently placed ‘environment’ at about 14th place on a list of the US public’s policy priorities: below ‘terrorism’, ‘tax fairness’, and ‘moral breakdown’. But we choose to sacrifice in the name of future gain all the time, as evidenced by the exemplary self-enforced discipline of hard-working graduate students. What if our personal capacities to accept difficult challenges were translated into a unified commitment towards environmental improvement? How can commitment be extended from the micro-scale, to the macro-agendas of policy makers, educators, and leaders? Because achieving the changes required to bring about true environmental health involves the acceptance of practices “unnatural” for our current model of economic functioning, will this difficult achievement ever be reached without such unwavering commitment?

It is evident that people willingly change their behaviors in pursuit of very personal goals. A priority of environmental advocates should thus be the translation of environmental destruction into the ill effects it will bring unto ours, and our children’s, lives. Because hopelessness tends to cripple motivation, hope cannot be absent in these messages; but censorship should also be warily applied. Make these messages personal, for yourself and for your audience. Were everyone to accept the imperative nature of hard-fast commitment to complete environmental policy, perhaps such an extension would become possible.

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