Sunday, March 28, 2010

Environmentalism, dirty dishes, and good friends

After I drive a car a few miles, there’s a little less oxygen and a little more carbon dioxide (as well as some partially combusted hydrocarbons and maybe some additives) in the air. The amounts of oxygen and so on are so small that they make no perceptible difference. But when lots of people drive lots of miles, they create a remarkable difference in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.

The same is true of many environmental issues today: they are not caused by huge destructive acts. Rather, they’re caused by little things that have almost no impact on the environment. But, in aggregate, they can cause all sorts of change to the environment. For so long, humanity’s numbers and technology have been insufficient for us to impact our world in such a subtle manner, so we’ve generally adopted the attitude that any difference that seems insignificant is actually insignificant, no matter how many times it’s multiplied.

This type of thinking manifests itself in other aspects of our daily lives. For example, one plate or cup left out or a few bread crumbs on a table or counter hardly make a huge difference. But several people who live together, each one routinely leaving dishes out and surfaces neglected will quickly find that their living conditions have become unacceptable.

More significantly, we can fail to care for others. Not taking a moment for a friend or loved one once is usually not a big deal. A friend is still a friend, even when we fail to be the friend we should be. However, habitual neglect will destroy any relationship.

So take a minute to talk with a friend. Wash a few dishes. Take a walk instead of driving once in a while. The little positives add up in the same way that the negatives do.