I haven’t written here in a while – mostly because I’ve been working on other projects but also because I’m now at my last year of my Master’s degree and very busy with school, so that’s my excuse. This post is going to be slightly different than the previous ones. It’s not so much a post as it is me ranting on the internet but perhaps it will get someone thinking.
I’m currently writing my thesis about changing water use behavior and an interesting but saddening thought hit me yesterday: studying climate change, working within the field, being an activist or just a person on the planet doing their best to change the current pathway we’re on might be one of the most thankless things to do in life.
I’ve been struggling with my mental health for years (yet another reason why I haven’t been so active here lately) and I recently started thinking more about the career path I’ve chosen. Trying to tackle climate change might be one of the most important jobs out there, especially when this complex problem becomes worse and a more pressing matter. But while that might be the case, there are people that argue that we’ve already gone too far or that irreparable damage is less than a decade away. In addition to these horrific thoughts that could make anyone feel their throat closing up, those who actually do try to have a mitigating impact on climate change by changing the way they live or taking up a career to fight climate change will most likely not be rewarded for everything they do.
Compare it to working as a healthcare professional. If you’re a nurse, a doctor, a dietician or care assistant, you will have some tough days (or many of them as we see all over the world currently) where you might not feel rewarded for what you do. Nurses, for example, have notoriously low wages (at least in Sweden and probably in many other countries as well) when all the work they are doing should be earning them so much more. But hopefully, they feel a sense of purpose in their lives because they get to see that their hard work has results. They get to help people, talk to them, hear their stories and try to make them feel better.
What does a climate change activist do? They march the streets, hand out flyers and have discussions with people who deny that climate change even exists. What do you do if you work for a company or an NGO that tries to mitigate climate change? In many cases, you’ll be bound by legislation that makes it difficult to have an actual impact. What does a politician who tries to change the system do? Well, they might not even be allowed to try because there are too many other issues or people or ideas standing in their way. People living affluent lives in affluent countries aren’t going to want to give up parts of their luxuries just because of climate change and its consequences. So they aren’t going to vote for someone who will prioritize these matters; hence, not many are going to want to take that risk.
This is of course a generalization but sometimes, those are needed too. No one who tries to fight climate change will see the results of the good they do. They won’t get to feel happy because someone’s life becomes better. Rather, if you live in an affluent country where living standards are high – chances are people are going to feel worse because of you – even if you try to do your best.
In short, sometimes it can feel a bit (if not a lot) hopeless and I’m asking myself: why am I doing this? Why am I studying to know more about climate change and what to do to halt its progress when I won’t get any personal benefits from it?
Because I feel like I have to even though I don’t want to.
No one person should have to devote their time on this planet to try to prevent their children from suffering and dying. You should be living a happy life, not one where you feel hopeless in front of a daunting task that seems next to impossible.
I’ve come to the conclusion that my life will not be easy because of my future career and sometimes, I wish I was a different person – someone who didn’t care so much about the planet and other people and animals. Someone who could live my life to the fullest in order to be happy. Working to fight climate change, however you decide to do it, is not an easy thing to combine with good mental health because you might never get rewarded for what you do and the purpose might feel very unclear.
But I guess we should try anyway, simply because we’re human and it’s what we should do. And maybe, that’s what will bring us happiness in the end – doing something completely selflessly while hoping that it will contribute to something good.