My sustainable living existential crisis

Kate Hall

“Your work doesn’t matter, you’re going to die, the planet will too, so get over yourself”.

One of the first conversations I had this year, in the early hours of the 1st of January 2018, went exactly like this.

I was working at a New Year’s music festival in the green room, stone cold sober, talking deep topics with musicians. They had Chinese character tattoos on their chests, record deals in LA, and egos that could fill a room (or two).

This was the moment I had my first full blown sustainable living existential crisis.

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Naturally, me being me, I made friends quickly with the most chilled out musical duo at the festival. Over the course of the weekend, we chatted regularly. Our small talk and brief discussions, all built up to the crescendo conversation that lead us into 2018. I’ll never forget it.

You can’t spend much time with me before picking up on my strong passion for people and the planet.

It will probably slip out when you first ask me “what did you get up to this weekend”, and I reply “made kombucha, homemade bread, and picked up rubbish on the beach”. These two guys found out about my passion, when they asked me what I do. I answered something along the lines of “I’m an ethical fashion and living writer, brand advocate, and activist.” It’s a mouthful, but gets the message across quickly.

We started talking about meat first; one of them was a vegetarian. We then moved topic to the feelings of the eldest of the two, who had recently become a father. He said he suddenly had to assess how his actions affected another human, and the planet that this little human would grow up on. He was interested in my work. Controversial to this, the other pessimistic of the pair, said the words I quoted at the beginning. Perhaps he was not quite as harsh, but this is how I perceived it.

“Your work doesn’t matter, you’re going to die, the planet will too, so get over yourself”.

My reaction: huh (mouth open). You’re right. My efforts to protect the planet are pointless. I should spend my time being selfish. I should only do things that are convenient for me, and make me happy. I’m just one person who can’t make a difference. I’m caught in a mainstream wave of ‘greenies’ because it feels cool to be part of group and belong. I only have a short time to live, so I shouldn’t worry about the planet, and simply have fun. End of story.

After six months of consideration, I’m happy to report; I’ve moved on from my crisis. Here is how I rebut the thoughts that went through my mind that day.

1. Protecting the planet is pointless/your work doesn’t matter

The earth is the only thing we can stand on and thrive off. Politics, feminism, art, culture… none of this will matter if we don’t have a place to exist.

2. I should be selfish/get over yourself

Although it’s in our human nature to be selfish, we also have a desire for the rest of society to continue existing. On a basic biological level, our internal need to protect and care for each other, stems from the fact we want humanity to survive. I can be selfish, but it won’t be as rewarding as being selfless. I don’t like being selfish. I have a deep desire to care.

3. I’m just one person/you’re going to die

In my opinion, humans are far too clever to keep using this statement as an excuse.

Imagine if Barrack Obama, Albert Einstein, Mahatma Gandhi, or Mother Teresa thought this too. They are literally just people, but it’s hundreds of years later for some of them, and we are still discussing their teachings and accomplishments today.

We simply don’t have time to keep thinking this if we want to continue evolving and thriving as a human race. I will die one day, and I want the world to remember me. I better up my game.

This will be the first of many existential crises, I know. To keep life in perspective, I’ll always remember the quote that lived on our family fridge during my teenage years:

  1. Life if hard
  2. Your life is not about you
  3. You are not in control
  4. You are not that important
  5. You are going to die

-Richard Rhor

If you’re on the verge of a sustainable living existential crisis, I encourage you: embrace it, because you will most certainly die one day.

Kate Hall

I live and breathe sustainable living and ethical fashion. This alternative way of consuming and existing dominates my every waking moment- and sometimes more. Ethical fashion and living are no longer my hobbies, it has become my mission... to change the future of fast fashion and the way we consume. My husband and I strive to live a zero-waste lifestyle, live at thrift stores, and always look to 'up-cycle' rather than throw out. Eco-living is not a choice for me, it's in my blood, and I am trying with all my power for it to be the new 'norm'.