The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

It’s enormous September 3, 2009

Filed under: green angst,Tips — Alden @ 9:03 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I was reading Seth Godin’s blog yesterday, and really enjoyed his post about “Enormity.” What is enormity? Read on.


Pronunciation: \i-ˈnȯr-mə-tē\

Function: noun

1 : an outrageous, improper, vicious, or immoral act 
2 : the quality or state of being immoderate, monstrous, or outrageous; especially : great wickedness <the enormity of the crimes committed during the Third Reich

It’s doesn’t mean huge. It means overwhelming. And that’s what climate change is to me. Overwhelming. At times I feel myself dissolving under the weight of it, especially when I think of the conference in Copenhagen, and what will happen if politics gets in the way of actually doing anything. Apocalypse? The end of our race? Or even just my home deep underwater, or the Chesapeake Bay, where I grew up swimming and sailing, becoming an ecological wasteland.

My friends spend more time worrying about my mental health than worrying about climate change when I try to talk to them about it. “It’s ok,” they tell me. “Just relax.” or “Can we not talk about this?”

I’m not an activist. In fact, I haven’t yet found a place to volunteer yet in NYC. These little things I do often seem to disappear into the grand scheme of things like puffs of smoke from an herbal cigarette. Why try? That is where Seth’s quote comes in:

The problem with enormity in marketing is that it doesn’t work. Enormity should pull at our heartstrings, but it usually shuts us down.

Show us too many sick kids, unfair imprisonments or burned bodies and you won’t get a bigger donation, you’ll just get averted eyes.

If you’ve got a small, fixable problem, people will rush to help, because people like to be on the winning side, take credit and do something that worked. If you’ve got a generational problem, something that is going to take herculean effort and even then probably won’t pan out, we’re going to move on in search of something smaller.

Not fair, but true.

So for now, I’m going to just relax, breathe, and take little steps. Public transportation. Recycling. Trying to eat less meat and more local vegetables. The enormity will still be there, but this is what I can do. And people may ridicule No Impact Man for being ludicrous and not really doing anything important, but it’s the little things that will change the world. Yelling about global warming has done what so far?


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