Its common sense to care about our environment, right? – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Its common sense to care about our environment, right?

In high school I was unable to understand how there could be people that just don’t care about our environment, their carbon footprint or climate change. At all. 

I came to recognize that there are those who are skeptical of the data and the effects and also those who don’t believe the science and in fact consider themselves climate change-deniers. In these types of situations there’s hope in trying to convince the opposers by showing them statistics, sharing data, etc. Its not necessarily a lost cause.

But what do you when you actually come across those who actually believe that climate change is occurring and actually just DON’T CARE. Its true. There are people that actually just don’t think that it will affect them and that the earth is just here for us to use it up and mess with for our pleasure.I’ve actually heard someone tell me that they “don’t give a shit about the environment”. While I usually don’t like to force my unwarranted opinions on othersor make someone feel bad about their opinions, in this situation I was in obvious, wordless shock. How do I respond to something like that? How do I defend an issue or opinion that I hold at the forefront of my values, something that affects every decision that I make? I’ve never thought that way before.

Am I wrong?

It just seemed so natural to me and my naive, idealistic self just accepted the facts presented without questioning it. And even now when I’m actually more educated about the facts, it’s actually been proven that most scientists (not paid by the Koch brothers) agree and that climate change is an actual threat to our future. 

Trying to gather data to create a streetlight inventory for my fellowship at  Southeast Michigan Regional Energy Office, I often meet with different city local officials multiple times a week. Through these interactions I’ve begun to get a better understanding of different viewpoints on energy efficiency and sustainability. Some cities just do it for the cost savings and to better their image as a city with brighter lights. Other cities are interested in implementing this program to light up high crime areas and increase public safety. While only a minority of cities in the region are actually highly invested in and interested in sustainability projects and actually just want to reduce their respective community’s carbon footprint. Cities, such as Ferndale, Ann Arbor and Royal Oak have a more socially liberal viewpoint, citizenry, image and culture and are actually the cities that are the most progressive in terms of their energy outlook. On the other hand, cities like St. Clair Shores and River Rouge were struggling to get their cities to pay any mind to sustainability. 

So this got me thinking. Who actually cares about this kind of stuff? It tends to be millennials, democrats and other liberal or progressive people. These are they types of people that are more likely to be interested in renewable energy, waste management, recycling, etc. But to be able to get involved in these campaigns or programs you need to have financial security and time. Many “green” technologies, projects and programs have a high capital cost and require effort and multiple hours. If a community doesn’t have curbside recycling, a resident would have to go out of their way to drop off recyclables at a recycling center, if even that exists in a community. So when I came to terms with these ideas it made more sense to me why many financially secure middle class or upper class citizens were more interested in energy management and worried about climate change in contrast to many low income residents. So when I came to work at the Regional Energy Office I wash’t surprised to learn that our member communities consisted of mostly middle class suburban neighborhood communities and that our most active and willing members were the wealthier communities. 

Likewise, I would describe the staff at my office as generally financially comfortable, young liberals. Not surprising. But what really interests me is seeing people that are not classified in the categories I just listed that are ardent environmentalists. Maybe it’s their culture to respect and protect the earth—maybe its religious or traditional. When I worked with urban farmers in low income areas they were interested in sustainability because of the food security, and community aspect. Some cultures naturally just teach their youth to conserve and reuse instead of being mindlessly wasteful. I know I didn’t really answer the blog’s prompt but these types of cultural cues are what I am more interested in exploring through my time here.

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