Community | Culture | Environmentalism | Habits

Falling Buildings and a Changing World

We don’t know all the details about that building collapse in Florida as I write this, but what is trickling out in the news indicates that they’ve known there was a problem and they’ve been battling internally to correct it for at least a few years. I imagine a few thought the problem was urgent, a few thought it was overblown, and the vast majority were somewhere in the middle, just trying to figure out what it’ll cost them to fix the problem and make it go away. And then the building answered the question of “how urgent is this?” for them.

Habits and momentum tend to dominate the conversation we have in our heads about what we do next. If things seem fine, then we keep doing the same thing again tomorrow. But what if that thing is slowly killing us? People quit smoking or drinking all the time because they recognize that these habits, whether in excess or moderation, are part of an identity they no longer want to embrace as theirs.

The evidence indicates that the world is spiraling down into ecological turmoil , yet humanity doesn’t appear to be doing nearly enough to change it. So when does it shift from an intellectual question to an existential crisis? When it’s your tap that runs dry? When it’s your own home burning? Or when the rebar and concrete holding it all together is crumbling underneath you? If we can’t get people to reach consensus on climate change or the power of a vaccine or the obvious corrosion of your building’s foundation, what chance do we have?

That old expression be the change you want to see in the world is exemplified in people recycling or maybe driving an electric car or putting solar panels on the roof. You do things like getting vaccinated when it’s your turn and vote for positive change when elections come along. You even buy local produce and pasture-raised meat from a farmer near you. And maybe you even join the condo association board to tackle once and for all the problem with the building you live in.

But then you feel the resistance to change. The perceived cost of change. You might look around and feel your efforts are cancelled out by the ignorance or bad behavior of others. And maybe you start to wonder whether any of it makes a difference at all. Why fight the fight at all when so many don’t choose to listen?

If that building collapse tells us anything, it’s that it all makes a difference. That building didn’t care which side of the debate you were on about fixing the foundation, it swallowed them all up just the same. Maybe we can’t fix everything, but collectively we can try. And maybe, if we’re lucky, we aren’t too late. The urgency of now has never been more apparent.

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