How To Be A Superhero

So, ah, I missed Earth Day. By a few days. It was one of those times where I was incredibly scattered and then I showed up on Facebook for a few minutes (hours?) and saw all of the posts reminding me to recycle and be aware of plastics and litter and energy consumption, and I immediately felt guilty. I grew up incredibly invested in the eco-friendly movement, and yet these days it has begun to feel more like an extra worry instead of a truly relevant responsibility. In fact, the entire way that we think about being green just feels strange to me, and as the last wisps of Earth Day float away for the year, I want to take the time to talk about it.

See, our cultural lineage (at least, over here in the US/Western culture) is essentially birthed from the idea of heroism, and the power of a hero (through a hero cycle) to change the world for the better. We’re incredibly comfortable with the idea of one person taking a problem into their own hands and tackling it until the world is saved…but somehow when it comes to the environment, we’re always keen to hand the job over to someone else. The feeling of agency dies — in lieu, all we feel is relief at having dodged the “mundane”, daily efforts towards being eco-friendly: recycling, organizing carpools, reusing, finding and purchasing fuel-efficient transport. On this hero’s errand, we find the trials to be simply inconveniences with little observable effect. Nothing to, say, write a novel about. Even as we endeavor to save the world, we can hardly dress up in capes and point to the monsters we have blown up. We can only point to a small, festering local compost pile. In truth, saving the world from pollution, global warming, and excessive waste just ends up being infinitely less sexy.

Short of going out and purchasing our own superhero onesies to wear while we take out the recycling, we need to realize that our own hero journeys in this push for more environmentally conscious living aren’t always going to show up on the silver screen (even though sometimes they do), but just because it isn’t loud doesn’t mean that the world-changing goal in the end isn’t worth it.

So yes, I missed Earth Day. I am probably not alone in that. Yes, sometimes I let myself go and skirt past the small things I can do to make the world safer and greener and better. I think we’d all like to be heroes, though (at least I would), and all we are doing to cutting corners is cutting ourselves off from actually helping. So take the extra second to figure out whether you can use the backside of a paper, or whether you can hitch a ride from a friend or public transport. Not just on April 22, but every day.

Maybe it ain’t as culturally sexy as the swashbuckling of the hero cycle. But it’s worth it.


One thought on “How To Be A Superhero

  1. Isabella K

    I completely agree. When people think of “saving the world”, they generally think of some Superman swooping down instead of a stinking pile of compost. Like you implied, the hero cycle is really about one person doing something big than many people doing something small, which still collectively builds up to something big. I just sometimes worry that in sweating the small stuff, people forget about the bigger things. For example, people rush to recycle plastic but they don’t consider that plastic is not biodegradable and takes a lot of resources to manufacture in the first place. It would be better for the earth if people just avoided buying plastic altogether.


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