Why I Chose Environmentalism, and Why I Let it Go | Teen Ink

Why I Chose Environmentalism, and Why I Let it Go

October 11, 2021
By brownof BRONZE, Naperville, Illinois
brownof BRONZE, Naperville, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

When I was younger, I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I had a fun, free childhood where I got to sing, garden, play video games, write bad plays, draw, and do so many other things. Why would I limit my future to just one field or activity? Why would anyone naturally want to? Around middle school, I reluctantly started thinking about my future career. I ended up settling for environmental engineering because I wanted to combat climate change.I thought that eventually I’d hate my job whatever it was, but with EE, I could at least take comfort in knowing that my work was contributing positively to the world. I saw this reasoning as my tether to work, a belief that, no matter how bad work got, would always keep me in line.

Throughout high school, I really took environmentalism to heart. I learned everything I could about plastics and metals, and I volunteered with forest restoration as often as I could. Environmentalism soon turned to environmental activism. Through activism, I one day met a fellow activist who owned a bookstore. They introduced me to books about anti-capitalism and, more specifically, the pitfalls with the nature of work. I read about jobs that demanded a lot from workers but created no real value to society, and about employees being both overworked and underpaid for the profit of their employers. As I was reading, I remembered my own fear of work, and that I chose my job specifically to numb the pain of it. This was when I knew I was thinking about my career the wrong way. If I choose a career to help me ignore the bigger problem of work, then it’s precisely the bigger problem that I need to worry about. My environmental tether was not strong enough to keep me in line. Indeed, its creation was the very thing that resulted in its undoing.

To be clear, self-actualization is still a very good thing. It’s good to think about what you like to do and how your ability with it can develop. I’m still an environmentalist and I want to get better at it. My argument is that the work institution should not take such an advantage of self-actualization, nor should it be the only place where self-actualization can happen. We need a global movement inspired by autonomist marxism that minimizes the valorization of work and challenges work’s position as the center of our lives. We as humans are richer than a resume, more valuable than a salary, and more creative than our work. It’s up to us to fight for the critical distance we need to realize what existence can be when it’s not subordinate to work’s imposition.

The author's comments:

I'm Evan Lemberger. I'm a college sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, studying environmental engineering. My favorite shows include Sex Education, Big Mouth, and RWBY. I like to read, play card games, and play the tinwhistle.

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