There is a problem in our culture. I have noticed it more times than I can count over the course of my adult life, and I despise it. It’s something I’ve come to refer to as AllOrNothingism. Its the idea that if an action you are taking won’t do much, it is never worth doing. If you can’t do something all the way, then you shouldn’t bother doing it at all. I want to call bullshit on this idea right away.
AllOrNothingism is a major problem when it comes to environmental issues. Far too often, people’s excuse for not doing anything is the fact that they can’t do everything. At the same time, those who see themselves as doing everything make it their point in life to ridicule, shame, and harass those that they see as not doing enough, and this is even worse, I dare say. It’s not too hard to convince people that their small contributions are still worthwhile, but it’s easy to turn them off to doing anything at all if what they are doing is never good enough. We are not considering that many people have many different circumstances, values, and motivators. If we can’t be flexible enough to accept small steps towards greater sustainability, we’re going to find ourselves pushing a lot of people away from doing what they can.
One example of this is our attitudes towards sustainable eating. There is a lot of debate as to what is the most sustainable way to eat. Some argue that we should be eating no animal products at all. Others argue that animals are crucial in making our food systems sustainable. Those of us who venture somewhere in the middle ground between the two ideas (which is what I advocate for) are often villified and criticized by people on both sides of this debate. But, assume either side is 100% correct (which I don’t believe either side are), having more people move more in their direction, even if they don’t make it all the way there, would still be a good thing. So, if eating animal products is bad for the environment, isn’t it better if people reduce the amount of animal products they eat, even if they don’t eliminate them entirely? Likewise, if the problem is conventional, CAFO production, and sustainably raised, pastured meat actually helps to sequester more carbon than it creates, then isn’t it better if people reduce their consumption of meat, either to better afford at least a small amount of pastured meat, or at least just cut into the profits of conventional meat production? What good does it do to criticize people who are trying to take steps to make their diet a little more sustainable for not going totally vegan, or totally pastured? All it does is discourage them from making any effort at all. With encouragement for their small steps, who knows what those small steps could eventually evolve into. But with criticism, you are likely killing the chances of future evolution.
Lets celebrate the small steps. Lets encourage people to do what they can. Lets collectively break down barriers to doing more, and pave roads to bigger and better actions. Lets remember who the real enemy is, and not level petty accusations against each other for not doing as much as we ourselves are. Let’s start a revolt against AllOrNothingism, and start lifting our comrades up in this battle, instead of competing to see who does the most.