Da Mayor: Always do the right thing.
Mookie: That’s it?
Da Mayor: That’s it.
Mookie: I got it. I’m gone.
If every American were to make every single lifestyle change suggested in the film, An Inconvenient Truth, it would only result in a 21% decrease in carbon emissions. In fact, while the average human produces 2500 pounds of waste per year, the average per capita waste output is 26 tons…because 97% of waste is produced by agriculture and industry.
Individual lifestyle changes won’t do anything to “save the planet,” so why bother?
To help answer that question, I defer to Valter, one of the catadores (pickers of recyclable waste in Brazil) featured in the excellent documentary, Waste Land. “One single can is of great importance,” Valter explained, when asked about the value of recycling, “because 99 is not 100.”
My translation: Never lose sight of the big picture but always do the right thing.
Who wouldn’t want to witness a major reversal of some of our current catastrophic global eco-trends? But, as the legendary journalist I.F. Stone once said: “If you expect an answer to your question during your lifetime, you’re not asking a big enough question.” Making daily—even hourly—choices of resistance isn’t necessarily about being present when the current corporate-dominated paradigm shifts (or is shifted). It’s about doing the right thing…here and now. It’s about defying the dominant culture in any way we can.
For example, when you buy a used shirt at a local thrift shop instead of opting for a brand new article of clothing sold by a store that supports sweatshop labor, you don’t expect that specific purchase to end workplace inequality and put a halt to conspicuous consumption. You buy the used shirt simply because it’s the right thing to do.
This mentality counters those who say stuff like: “Why should I use public transportation instead of drive? All those other motorists are still using their cars anyway.” Sure…they are. But you’re not. 99 is not 100 and you, dear comrade, are doing the right thing.
Whether you aim to recycle your old cell phone or to knock over a cell phone tower—again—it comes down to remaining aware of the institutional framework while still doing the right thing many times a day…all with the same ultimate goal: dismantling a societal system that’s relentlessly assaulting our planet and everything that lives on it.