Caring too Much

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slowtraveler
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Caring too Much

Post by slowtraveler » Mon Dec 04, 2017 5:01 am

Every time I learn more about climate change, I feel sad and helpless. I watch a movie like Chasing Coral and know that I cannot do anything to stop the reefs from dying. Far smarter and more motivated people are dedicating their lives to the cause to little avail.

I already walk, eat locally, take short showers, avoid ac most days, etc. If I feel good as or adamant, I bug others to care more and end up less happy. This leads to a shorter lifespan and higher chance of consuming more carbon later due to higher dependence on the medical industry to survive. I found it funny that feeling happy has a large impact on lifespan but when I care too much, I feel sad. How have others come to terms with this?

It seems surrender trying to change the world, root for those doing good, and keep on living simply are all I can do in this realm.

slsdly
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Re: Caring too Much

Post by slsdly » Mon Dec 04, 2017 7:49 am

At some point, we have to acknowledge we are selfish creatures. After all, if you don't think your actions are a net good to saving the world (as such), then the most rational action of a truly selfless creature is to commit suicide. That's not a sane way of looking at the world.

I try to content myself with the fact I am doing less harm than most in the West. In a sense, I tell myself if you don't ask for too much, you don't have to give too much. We cannot assume the burden for everyone, especially those who desire more material goods or higher footprint experiences than us. They made their choices, and have damned us all at least a little more than I have. I doubt they even feel bad about it.

There is lots of messaging out there trying to make people feel guilty for living their lives the way they do. I don't oppose it, but it always makes me feel like shit nonetheless. I believe the most conscientious of us are the most deeply affected, even though by definition, as the conscientious, we are not the intended target. Our feelings and sanity are just collateral damage in this great experiment.

slowtraveler
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Re: Caring too Much

Post by slowtraveler » Mon Dec 04, 2017 8:05 am

You're right, they get mad if they even have to think of the possibility that their desires have any harm to anything else.

Yeah, guilting myself and others was a horrible strategy leading to shitty feelings on both ends. Suicide as the logical extension isn't a choice I want to take either.

I like to think moving the south east Asia, where the impact per person is supposedly far less than in the west helped offset most of my impact but still, maybe my old habits and not where I lived carried the blunt of the impact.

ThisDinosaur
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Re: Caring too Much

Post by ThisDinosaur » Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:21 am

Tying your wellbeing to preventing the inevitable will only lead to your misery. Yes, humans are selfish creatures, just like every other organism. The fact that humans consuming fossilized plankton is the cause of this particular mass extinction doesn't really make it any different than any other mass extinction.

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vexed87
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Re: Caring too Much

Post by vexed87 » Mon Dec 04, 2017 9:44 am

Yes, it's quite liberating to understand we can't really destroy the planet, or life itself, it will be here well after we (us individually, and a species + the others we take down with us) are long gone. When I start to feel down about this stuff, I acknowledge that it's ok to feel that way, it's part of being human to fear loss. Then, to put my worries in context of 'deep time', it all melts away.

http://www.ecosophia.net/terror-deep-time/

Nothing is permanent. We are a civilization in decline, just do your best to celebrate the little things that you can influence and not worry endlessly about the big stuff you have no control over.

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7Wannabe5
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Re: Caring too Much

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:04 am

I just finished reading "Learning to Die in the Anthropocene: Reflections on the End of a Civilization" by Roy Scranton. You might find it consoling. It made me feel like I felt one day when I found myself sitting with a few aging locals in a very old neighborhood bar in a decrepit industrial town full of foreclosed homes on the day a tornado caused the cancellation of the annual carnival in the park.

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Re: Caring too Much

Post by jacob » Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:24 am

One of my favorite quotes about this (and in general) is from Aldo Leopold. I think it's in Sand County Almanac which IIRC was published in the 1930s or so. That was 3 generations ago and already the problem was seen:
Leopold wrote: One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.
Note how this applies to things other than ecology, such as health, finance, social relations, choice of education, ... and is essentially a general problem for anyone who sees deeper or further than most others. The strategies suggested are valid. After you get over the need to bring "awareness" to others---the futility of the attempt will eventually drain/train it out of you---those are the better coping strategies. They're not 100%. You still detect signs of bitterness and resignation in older (age 70+, say) ecologists who've seen this for years and have a more visceral understanding of what has been lost---read their bibliography to see what the underlying development is. Compare to younger people at 50, 30, or 10 who have a different baseline to compare to. Psychologically, loss is not as perturbing when the baseline/bar is moving, thx to hedonic adaption(*).

For example, I'm already used to not being able to drink unfiltered water directly out of a stream---because that has always been the rule for me---so I don't feel the loss of that freedom in the same way that someone who was born in 1920 would. Similarly, people born today in some cities will be used to not breathing air outside w/o wearing an N95 filter and so that would be their baseline ... even if I would consider it a grave loss to have to wear a mask outside because I remember a time when outside air didn't stink. They won't miss fresh air in the way I will. Understanding how baseline perspective changes will also make it easier not to cry on the inside whenever others celebrate getting pregnant or having a baby. Whatever shit present newborns will grow up in will be more normal to them than to me. Empathy is easily misplaced.

(*) If you want a feel-good antidote, go talk to some software engineers about the recent marvelous progress in AI (since AI-winter), solar panels ... or anything Elon Musk. Maybe go read Wired.com for a year or two :? It works! 8-)

You can still care, but I suggest caring more in the palliative sense than in the curative sense. The frustration, bitterness, and eventual resignation comes about, I believe, mostly from the desire to cure the problem. I doubt that's possible. However, even if empathy is misplaced or unwanted, I think there's still room for sympathy. You don't have to "harden your shell" or worse "believe that the consequences are none of your business" (because being an expert, they're very much YOUR business) ... but rather focus more on cutting some slack whenever you see the marks of death when others don't or won't. I think that is a MUCH better way to go [about your mental sanity] than adopting a "let it burn, I'm just doing science"-attitude. But mileage may vary ...

In particular, if you can get used to the idea than homo sapiens is just a random species that happens to temporarily proliferate on a largely hostile planet in an extremely hostile universe... and reconcile that with what you observe in practice even for "friends and family" (or wherever you get emotionally attached); that will make it easier. Of course, if you are sold on the "eventual galactic empire of humanity"-vision of the future, that won't work. If not, consider that Earth's climate in the past has been unbreatheable to humans at times. There has been large---much longer than the current reign of Homo Sapiens---periods (post Permian), for example, when atmospheric oxygen levels have dropped low enough to kill humans. If we were to timetravel to that time we would need to wear spacesuits to survive longer than a few minutes. Hollywood, pay attention, and get it right. See, e.g. https://www.amazon.com/Under-Green-Sky- ... 06113791X/ ... OTOH, this is already a product https://www.amazon.com/Boost-Oxygen-Nat ... 00U1P3B1Y/ ... not much different from carrying a water bottle around if you're used to it. It's quite conceivable to me that "fresh air" will be a future utility, delivered to homes that can still afford it, much like potable water is today.

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chenda
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Re: Caring too Much

Post by chenda » Mon Dec 04, 2017 3:28 pm

@vexed87 That was a good article, I especially liked this bit:

'There’s a profound irony in the fact that the geologists who first began to figure out the true age of the Earth lived in western Europe in the early nineteenth century, when most people believed that the world was only some six thousand years old. There have been plenty of cultures in recorded history that had a vision of time expansive enough to fit the facts of geological history, but the cultures of western Europe and its diaspora in the Americas and Australasia were not among them...The brutal nature of the shock that resulted shouldn’t be underestimated.....if the universe was created for the benefit of human beings, as a great many people seriously argued in those days, how could there have been so many thousands of species that lived and died long ages before the first human being walked the planet?'

@slowtraveller - Some find religion helpful here, which can provide a sense of meaning and ultimate resolution. Jain cosmology and ethics has some interesting concepts about these sort of issues, if you're interested.

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Riggerjack
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Re: Caring too Much

Post by Riggerjack » Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:30 pm

If I feel good as or adamant, I bug others to care more and end up less happy. This leads to a shorter lifespan and higher chance of consuming more carbon later due to higher dependence on the medical industry to survive. I found it funny that feeling happy has a large impact on lifespan but when I care too much, I feel sad. How have others come to terms with this?
For the most part by letting go of most people. Allowing them to live as they choose, and recognizing their right to choose. People will do as people will do. Me getting worked up about their wrong choices frustrates me and them, without changing their choices. In the stupid/bandit/intelligent model, this is the heart of stupid.

So, I let it go. I focus on me and mine, and changing the world by example. This has real world improvement at my scale, and starts to normalize my fringe behaviors, which is what I wanted anyway, right?

If you want the world to be a better place, make your part better. In so doing, I find the weak parts of my theory, and work them out. This is way more effective than making a pest of myself while trying to force others to comply with my wishes.

If you legitimately want to make the world a better place, rather than just signalling, look at your inputs and outputs, and see what can be improved. Living in a European city, I humbly suggest you could start by looking at your sewer system, and bioavailable nitrogen. But I live in the Puget sound, and this is my issue, not necessarily yours.

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TopHatFox
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Re: Caring too Much

Post by TopHatFox » Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:35 pm

Have you ever read Enjoy the Decline by Aaron Clarey?

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jennypenny
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Re: Caring too Much

Post by jennypenny » Wed Dec 06, 2017 6:35 pm

@fox -- Did you really read Enjoy the Decline? It seems out of character for you.

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TopHatFox
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Re: Caring too Much

Post by TopHatFox » Wed Dec 06, 2017 6:46 pm

Haha nope, but I've been meaning to. Reading/filtering through some of Clarey's other books, I'd imagine it's something along the lines of human civilization is royally f*cked, so might as well enjoy your time here while you're here. I'm a mixed bag of whatever works at this point.~

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Re: Caring too Much

Post by Farm_or » Thu Dec 07, 2017 9:16 am

Thanks to everyone for sharing your feelings. This can apply to the whole ERE concept as well as the environment.

When you feel alone about your ways of viewing the world and surrounded by so many others with comparitively infant understanding, it's often a helpless feeling.

When you have done the dilligence of developing an advanced understanding of any subject, you must be self assured and patient. If you are so inclined to influence others, lead by example, but don't expect to witness the change.

Skepticism is rampant in our society, but education is improving in its ability to convey information without having to suffer through learning everything first hand.

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