We're f*cking this up.
I know, I know. You didn’t sign up for this.
But man, as a species, humanity has been failing at sustaining its own environment. Or in simpler term, “we’re making a mess”.
In 2015, I went almost a full year plastic-free. It sucked. It sucked even more as most alternatives to animal products didn’t come without plastic. I had managed to find cow milk and cheese in bulk, but almond milk and tofu… not so much. My somewhat restricted vegetarian diet became close to impossible to achieve. Plastic or slaughter, pick your poison.
So I gave up (the plastic resistance, not the vegetarian diet).
In 2018, my partner and I discovered the existence of the Citizen’ Climate Lobby - CCL. This felt like a great way to participate in a communal effort to make a difference. A *real* change. I signed up to the local chapter. After three weeks, 23 emails, 2 long meetings, I realized the CCL in my neighborhood may not be the life-saving opportunity I was looking for. All positions were taken by long-term volunteers who simply refused to do any communication outside of tables at local Farmers Market and couldn’t figure out their password to Mailchimp.
This is not to criticize their work. They did important work. In a way that made sense for them. But for the introvert that I am, distributing tracts to uninterested pedestrians felt like climbing Mt Everest wearing scuba diving fins.
So I gave up.
In 2019, lost with my career path, I started creating data visualizations about subjects that mattered. To me. The climate crisis was just one of them. And somehow, I ended up receiving positive feedback (*likes, yikes*), threats in my DMs, and making it my full-time job.
So I didn’t give up.
It’s 2021 now. And I find myself wonder if data visualizations are still the way. Our job as data visualization practitioners is often to “raise awareness”. These days, raising awareness is not enough. In fact, according to the Stanford Social Innovation Review, raising awareness can have “ineffective and even harmful effects”.
Now, I’m back to my original position, again, asking myself: how can I help to prevent us, humans, from f*cking this up? And in a world where I’d like to make a good living, while doing good, this question becomes an even heavier one. Am I f*cking this up?
How to live sustainably in a world without sustainable choices?
How to be financially comfortable without selling my soul to evil corporations?
How to be part of the change when I am, by birth, part of the problem?
This is not a letter of despair. This is a reminder for myself - and maybe some of you too - that feeling powerless is part of the process.
Also, take a break. We’re human after all.
On the dehumanization of the visa process (if only you knew!):
Your Papers Have No Personality
— Nereya Otieno
A quote from Massimo Vignelli
about the vulgarity of design created by marketers: “I consider this action criminal since it is producing visual pollution that is degrading our environment just like all other types of pollution.”