Monday, July 16, 2012

on the opposite of love

A resident of the green belt (photo courtesy of Pasir Ris Greenbelt).

Hate is not the opposite of love; apathy is - Rollo May

OK. Today I just want to VENT. I am UPSET. I can't believe the apathy, the insensitivity, the callous indifference, the sheer dullness of some people.

I don't know, maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm being naive, or idealistic, or whatever you want to call it -- but I really believe, cliched as it may sound, that we all can make a difference.

Yesterday I gave hard copies of the petition to several family members to help get signatures at their schools and workplaces. Well, my daughter comes home with ONE signature -- her form teacher's (thank you, caring, enlightened soul!). I ask her, didn't you see any of your other teachers today? And she says, "Yes, I did, but none of them wanted to sign".

I ask, "You mean you explained to them what this was, and they just said, 'No' outright?" And my daughter nodded, sighing as she put the petition back in her folder. "I don't know why people are like that," she said. "I don't know why they don't care". And in that instant, I just felt so... SAD.

HOW could these people set such a lousy example to a child?? HOW could they even become teachers?? And then, as if to add insult to injury, my aunt calls and tells me that she had brought her petition to work, and NO ONE wanted to sign.

"Most people are just leery when they see this sort of thing," she said. "They don't have the courage to be activists, and generally they just don't care. They think that as long as it's not literally in their backyard, it doesn't matter. They don't see the bigger picture and they can't be bothered to try".

And all I'm thinking is, But they know you! It's not like you're one of those strangers who go knocking at people's doors asking you to invest in some weirdo project. Those teachers see my daughter every day -- were they worried she was trying to collect their details for her Mom's devious schemes or something? When you realise that even teachers -- our future's educators -- can be so uncaring/passive/cowardly, you just shudder at where this world is heading.

Honestly, I am on the verge of tears. At the basic level, there's the issue itself -- the extensive, indiscriminate deforestation, and the killing of countless species of flora and fauna. But at the next level, there are these... these... people. I understand now why my girlfriend, the one in the Green Belt committee, said she had had "so many such encounters, and was so taken aback and disappointed".

What is the problem, people?? Do we get that our carbon footprint is rising at a frightening rate? Do we get the importance of trees to our very existence? Read this if you need to learn more. An excellent point in this article, by the way, is Trees help stop inner city violence.

"A scientific study by the Human-Environment Research Lab has demonstrated that contact with nature may actually help reduce the incidence of aggression and violence in inner-city neighborhoods. According to this study, levels of aggression were significantly lower among people who had some kind of nature outside of their apartments versus those who didn’t.

"The impact of the physical environment on human aggression has been well-established -- crowding, high temperatures, and noise have all been linked to violent behavior. Some scientists believe that it’s because people living under these conditions suffer from something called chronic mental fatigue, which can make them inattentive, irritable, and impulsive -- all of which can be linked to aggressive behavior. Exposure to green spaces, it has been shown, can mitigate the harmful effects of chronic mental fatigue, reducing aggressive behavior in the process"

But hey, never mind the overwhelming evidence we already have here of "chronic mental fatigue" and "aggressive behaviour" which we encounter every day on public transport, in the office, at the mall, etc etc. I just care about trees and wildlife! They are actual, living beings!

Who gave us the right to just bulldoze our way through the homes of other species, without caring what they feel, or where they will go? I've never forgotten the words on my PETA Christmas cards back when I was in university: Be kind to your fellow earthlings. I believe we have a moral responsibility to protect those who are at our mercy.

On a whim, I typed "Why people don't care about saving the planet" in the Google search box. And up came this excellent article by Zachary Shahan, the editor of, entitled Why People Don’t Care.

"There are a number of reasons for it, but one big one is that there isn’t the societal demand for such action. People don’t care that much.

"Sure, if you ask people “Is the environment important?” or “Do you care if endangered species such as tigers and polar bears go extinct?” they will say “Yes.” Or if you ask them “Should the government do more to to protect the environment?” they will say “Yes.” But that doesn’t get into the depth of their caring.

"How many people are going to vote their political representatives out of office because of their environmental record? How many people contact or communicate with their governmental officials even once a year to push for solutions to our environmental problems? How many people are even aware of the environmental issues their political leaders could be helping to address?

"Here are a few issues we cover on Planetsave quite regularly that have strong scientific backing:

  • we are seeing catastrophic “natural” disasters killing or severely harming the lives of millions and millions of people more and more these days;
  • we are on the verge of a huge food crisis;
  • we are on the verge of a huge water crisis.
"All of these problems (plus many more related to them) are largely due to environmentally-irresponsible human actions and systems. Of course, these issues concern the basic needs of humans, what we need to live on Earth.

"So, if you care about human livability on our planet, they are very important to you. (And who doesn’t care about human livability on our planet?)

"Objectively, if you try to think about what’s more important, in the long term, not many things come to mind... But if you actually just skip that problem and look at what people spend their time on or say they care about in an open-ended question, you get the subjective answer.

"People spend their time on entertainment and, when asked what societal issues they care about, they say (most commonly), 'the economy'.

"Of course, our economy and the global economy as a whole are screwed in the long term if our food, water, & climatic systems fail. So, I guess the issue is just that people don’t get this (meaning, we need better education on this matter… from those who do) or they get the idea but have some faint hope that some genius or geniuses will solve these problems for us somehow. Or…

"People are afraid to care, [or are] too easily hurt to care. Perhaps it just comes down to this simple matter: it is difficult to care and tackle these problems. I think this is actually not true. I think people live a happier, more enjoyable life when they open up to these issues and work on solutions to them.

"But getting past the hurdle of fear, fear of the problems and fear that the solutions won’t be great enough to solve the problems, is a huge step.

"Finding creative, mind-opening ways of helping others get passed that hurdle is one of the challenges and needs of those of us on the forefront of an environmentally-friendly and sustainable societal shift" (find this article here; italics mine).

Thank you for letting me vent. And thank you to everyone who does care, and wrote to me telling me that they had signed and shared. You are surely the saving graces of a planet filled with callous-hearted people.

I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is Mine (Ps 50:11)


AntiquityTravelers said...

Apathy around this topic is truly shocking. I work in marketing and I have seen the statistics (at least here in the US). Most people that we can motivate to do something for the environment are those who a) won't have to be inconvenienced and b) could save money by doing this small token. I worked on a product that reduced the size of the dose/container size. Therefore reducing how much waste goes to landfill (of course the container itself was not biodegradable - sigh.). But the reason people used it was because it cost less vs buying the larger size. Really. Post research identified that.

I find in large metropolitan areas people don't think about the environment (at least not in New York). Everything just goes down the shoot to the incinerator. Some little man at the other end of the shoot is supposed to take care of that!? "Didn't I give the doorman, or super his tip?" sigh.

When I lived in San Francisco the city was serious about this topic. They recycled 85% of the waste ... literally in the city itself. Now that is a model that could be shared and used elsewhere.

gallerydarrow said...

I have been on your side of that fight many times and felt so passionate and wondered the same thing? How can others not even give a care.

SF is an enlightened place, everywhere else is light years behind.

Keep your chops up, it takes passionate people like you, to get these things accomplished.

xo Ro

PB said...

Walk a mile in the shoes of your child's teachers before you get so MAD. Some of them may be just plain afraid of what might happen to them later on in their careers if they sign something that turns out to be unfavorable. Some of them may think that if they sign your daughters petition, they will have to sign others, just to be fair- whether they believe in it or not. If someone approaches you at your place of work and wants to get you to do something for them- don't you think about the consequences first?
All of this is not to say that what you are fighting for is not good or important - it is. It is also important to realise there may be lots of reasons they didn't sign. They aren't perfect. None of us are.


Generally, one would sign a petition, make one's voice heard, if one believed strongly enough in the cause. My sadness is not that they did not sign per se, but rather that they did not believe strongly enough in such a cause as this. This is not about please build a bigger carpark, or remove so-and-so as town council chairman. This is something that affects our earth, and us universally. For a right and worthy cause, we cannot remain silent; in that silence, we show a condoning of what is happening.

Clearly, most of us would first think about consequences before doing something - that is wisdom. In this specific case however -- appealing to save a last pocket of forest and wildlife (much of it endangered) -- it is sad to think that people may feel that there would be negative repercussions from doing so.

However, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts.

Beth said...

It really is hard sometimes to understand why people in general seem so apathetic and indifferent to the serious threats to our environment. One of my frustrations here in the U.S. is how people keep buying big vehicles, even folks who seem to care about our environment.

On the other hand, we do have some wonderful land conservation groups, which I support regularly. They raise money and just buy the land when it comes available or sometimes work with the landowners to place a conservation easement on the land, so it can never be developed. So simple, yet so effective.

Unknown said...

I would sign it!

Pizziricco said...

Bless you 1022 Sea Shell Ave!

Contemplating Beauty said...

I agree that apathy is the opposite of hate...

i want to print this out and read it.


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