Hopelessness

For pretty much the entirety of my life I’ve been extremely aware of the problems that plague my nation (try growing up as a queer lower-middle-class Asian woman in a society that believes wealthy white cis-hetero males are superior to everyone else). I’ve often felt hopeless in the face of all of these problems, all of these ways in which this society oppresses myself and others who are considered minorities. But I’ve kept picking myself back up, because I know what is right, and I know that’s what I want to keep fighting for.

In recent weeks, my feeling of hopelessness has increased exponentially. The US government’s extremely inept responses to a devastating earthquake, multiple category 4 and 5 hurricanes, and a mass shooting were extremely disheartening. Here are all of these wealthy white men wielding their unearned power to perpetuate ignorance and add to the destruction. Here is a media that perpetuates the status quo by continuing to blame my generation for everything from the increased use of a certain color of pink to our current economic crisis, dismissing us as “millennials,” ignoring our cries for change, and doing very little to advocate for actual solutions to the problems they report on. Here is a society where those with exorbitant privilege and wealth feel okay just sitting idly by, unwilling to fight for what’s right because that would mean giving up one of their many, many comforts. I feel overwhelmed by the injustices of our world.

But I won’t allow myself to be apathetic toward these problems and lose interest. I can’t allow myself to think of this as the new normal. Because these issues affect us all, whether we want to admit it. Although by no means am I in the highest echelons of society (not that I’d ever be allowed there anyway), I certainly have enough power and resources to do something. So I have to do something. I have a duty to my community, a community called humanity. I think we all have this duty, and those who can most afford to act on that duty should.

My heart goes out to all of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting. I will keep advocating for gun control, because no one should have to go through what you went through. When it is easier to buy a gun than it is to buy contraception in some states, there is something gravely wrong with our country.

And my heart goes out to all of the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and to the victims of the earthquake in Mexico. I’ll keep fighting to curb climate change, because I know that the poorest and most disenfranchised people of color are those who will be impacted first. I’ll keep advocating for a government that cares about all of its citizens, because Puerto Rico is a part of our country and Puerto Ricans deserve the same rights and care as those of us on the mainland.

I’m going to take action by upping my donations to organizations advocating for gun control and to organizations fighting climate change. I’m going to continue reducing my carbon footprint. I’m going to work with progressive activist organizations to elect candidates who actually care. And I’m going to pay  more attention to my representatives and hold them accountable. Even if my representatives are progressive and are already fighting for my values, they can always do more.

If you’re feeling hopeless too, I’d advise coming up with a game plan. Donate your time and/or money to help the victims of these climate change disasters. The Hispanic Federation is a great place to start, as they will distribute your donations to areas in need, like Mexico and Puerto Rico. Another good charity is Earthjustice, which uses the legal system to fight against climate change. If you would like to vet a charity before you donate to it, organizations like Charity Navigator provide comprehensive rundowns of various nonprofits’ efficiency and transparency. Call your senators and urge them to fight for gun control and fight for reducing carbon emissions. If they say they’re already working on that, urge them to work harder. And don’t stop thinking about these issues. Don’t let this wash over you and become just another blip in the timeline.

Listening to this podcast also helped me snap out of my feeling of hopelessness. The hosts have a really nuanced, caring, and important discussion about the current events of the past week, specifically the shooting in Las Vegas. They reminded me that, as overwhelming as all of this is, we can’t just stop in our tracks. We’ve got to keep talking about all of these issues. We’ve got to keep acting. Apathy is part of what got us further into this mess.

This blog will return to its usual programming of discussing sustainability and ethical fashion in the next post, but I thought I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge current events here. I know I do a post like this every couple of months, but with all that is going on, I’m surprised I don’t decide to do this every day. (Admittedly, that’d be exhausting for both you and me.)

Stay safe, keep resisting, and don’t give up. Movements are built through the power of many individuals working together toward justice.

❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

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Five Ways to Show Mother Earth Some Love

In recent years, our planet has received a whole lot of hate. Even with all of the scientific research that tells us we are in the middle of a climate crisis, giant corporations continue to drill for air-polluting fossil fuels, mills continue to dump toxic chemicals into sources of drinking water, and the meat industry continues to factory farm.

Well, Saturday is Earth Day, and I think we need to show this green planet some love. So this Earth Day, I’m going to:

1. Eat a vegetarian meal.

As I’ve mentioned before, research shows that reducing meat consumption can help lower greenhouse gas emissions. I’ve been sticking to my “part-time vegetarian” diet, and I’m not going to stop anytime soon!

2. Compost.

When organic materials (like garden trimmings and food waste) end up in landfills, they create loads of methane, which is a greenhouse gas that is often considered a bigger culprit than carbon dioxide when it comes to global warming. One way to keep organic matter out of landfills is to compost. Composting is a process that takes food waste and other organic material and converts it into a rich soil that can be literally given back to the Earth. A few weeks ago, I signed up for a zero emissions composting service in Chicago called WasteNot. They provide you with a (lidded) bucket for your organic materials. You fill up the bucket with food scraps, pieces of your greasy pizza box, etc., and it gets picked up every week or every other week (depending on which payment plan you opt for). Ever since I’ve had the bucket, I’ve really paid attention to how many organic materials I toss into the landfill, from the paper towels I use to clean a dirty table to the trimmings off of the bok choy I cooked for dinner. Thinking about how much organic material I’ve thrown away over the course of my life scares and shames me because I know how much all of that has contributed to the current state of our planet. I hope composting will be a free (or government-supported), nationwide service one day. For now, I’m happy to pay for the services myself and return some nutrients to the earth!

3. Bring my own takeout container.

Sometimes I just don’t want to cook. But takeout can get really wasteful. Not only are you given loads of plastic utensils, your food also comes in a plastic or cardboard container that often isn’t recyclable or compostable (many cardboard food containers aren’t compostable because they have a thin coating of plastic on the interior, and most recycling facilities don’t accept number 6 plastic, which is what styrofoam takeout containers are made of). So I’m trying to bring a small glass container with me whenever I go out to eat. If I have leftovers, I don’t need to ask for a takeout box. I can just pack it in my reusable container and feel good that I haven’t added more plastic to the landfills.

4. Participate in local efforts to clean up the environment.

On Saturday afternoon, I’ll be joining the Chicago chapter of the Sierra Club for one of their annual beach clean ups. I’m excited to help clear away debris from the shoreline, because the less manmade debris that lands in the ocean, the healthier the marine ecosystem will be.

5. Shop smarter.

Nowadays, manufacturing is concerned with quantity more than quality. The idea is that the cheaper an item is, the more people will buy it, and it doesn’t matter if that item falls apart and ends up in a landfill a few weeks later. This model is clearly not sustainable. One way to avoid contributing to this trend of quantity over quality is to buy less, and buy items that are built to last. Another way is to buy secondhand. Much of my furniture is vintage or secondhand. Much of my clothing is too. Buying secondhand saves items from entering the landfill, and, because the items being sold secondhand have clearly lasted long enough to be sold again, there is some assurance of quality over time.

(Pst, Buffalo Exchange, a consignment store that has chains all over the United States, is having a $1 sale on Earth Day! So head over to your local shop and buy some gently used, fashionable clothing. The proceeds will go to the Humane Society and you get to keep some pounds of clothing out of the trash.)

Your turn: let me know what you’re doing to show the Earth some love! 🙂 🌏

❤ S. (a.k.a. AMisplacedPen)

Disclaimer: I was not compensated in any way to write about any organizations or businesses that I have mentioned. This post expresses my honest opinions.