It seems to me that the most common way someone gets "turned off" from activism is when they begin to feel as if they don't know or do enough. I've seen people get overwhelmed because they aren't doing as much as others, and consequently, stop doing anything at all because they doubt themselves. This is so unfortunate, because anyone who's passionate about something should, of course, be able to advocate for that passion without any expectation for how much or how well they do it.
I recently saw a well-written post of affirmation:
Seeing this, I realized that we aren't giving ourselves enough credit. Plenty of us are dedicated to a cause that we're passionate about but don't have the time or energy to add more to our list of things to be concerned with. It doesn't make us bad people, because it isn't that we don't care. We do! We just need to realize that when we're doing our best, we should be proud of ourselves instead of feeling guilty about the things that we aren't doing.
Guilt, however, is exactly what you're supposed to feel. The photos of fish caught in plastic bags or videos of the little plastic bits floating around the ocean are intended to guilt you into responsibly taking care of your waste and being a better environmentalist. It's a good tactic, honestly, because sometimes you have to pull at people's heartstrings to get them to pay attention to the real issues. But there are plenty of circumstances where good people just simply don't have the time or ability to live up to the standards of those hardcore environmentalists.
In this Twitter thread, I was introduced to something I had never thought about before: the incredible amount of waste generated by the medical industry for the sake of sterilization.
Of course, this can be viewed from many different perspectives. You're bound to have environmentalists who want to find an alternative, while the medical professionals will tell you that single-use plastics is the only way to truly guarantee sterilization, which is so critical to the success of modern medicine. This example just goes to show that someone may do everything they can to try to save the planet, but there will always be exceptions that are out of their control. I'm sure there are plenty of vegan doctors who use cloth grocery bags and reusable coffee mugs, but generate tons of plastic waste in their profession every day because so many medical tools are plastic-wrapped in packaging that cannot be recycled.
This is only one scenario, but it's a good example to those who get frustrated when people aren't doing everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint. And you can argue that those extreme environmentalists who may be living vegan, zero waste lives may be blind to other issues in our modern world. Many people care a great deal about climate change but don't have the ability to buy carbon offsets when they fly or purchase sustainably made clothing because of the high price tags.
So, the lesson to keep in mind is that no one is perfect. We're all passionate about different things so no one can be expected to be aware of all the problems in the world that need addressing. If you are working towards one goal, there's nothing wrong with focusing on it. Just don't close yourself off from others' goals, because it's important to keep an open mind and see where they're coming from. Climate change has become a severe enough problem that no one can afford to ignore it. However, not every single person has to drop everything and dedicate themselves to a zero waste, vegan, environmentalist life. It comes down to the little things. If every state in America bans Styrofoam like Maine did, then we will be able to stop adding Styrofoam to the oceans where it will sit forever. Similarly, if everyone remembers their reusable bags and responsibly recycles as many things as possible, then together we can eliminate the need for plastic bags and greatly reduce the amount of waste going into landfills.
Not everyone wants to be an environmentalist, and that's okay. Just like we can't all cure cancer or solve world hunger, it's going to take a lot of people working together to begin to reverse climate change. It isn't going to require massive sacrifices from everyone, but it's going to require us to make eco-friendly choices when we're presented with the opportunities, and it's going to require us to think about the consequences of our actions. We can start small, and we can achieve great things together!