A pandemic and the over-exploitation of our natural resources are very different in many ways, but they are also very similar in simple ways. In both scenarios, a community of science experts passes along warnings and recommendations to the general public.If the recommendations are followed, the experts hypothesize that negative outcomes and suffering will be reduced. If ignored, they will be maximized.
Here in Florida and the United States in general, it has been disheartening to see how many people have not taken warnings about the coronavirus seriously. Such illogical behavior makes me wonder why? Do people simply not understand? Maybe they understand but just don’t care? Perhaps, in the face of overwhelming stress, they use denial subconsciously as a coping mechanism? These are all valid ideas and in some cases, they are likely true. But overall, in the broadest sense, I think there is something else going on.
I call it the Apathy Trap, and for those not familiar, apathy is defined as “lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.” It is pervasive in the world of environmental conservation and is rearing its ugly head during this pandemic. Here’s how it works. When faced with a large scale problem, people often rationalize that their individual contributions are statistically irrelevant.
Why should you recycle when only 9% of plastic globally has been?
Why should you curb your emissions when China is polluting even more?
Why should you vote when it won’t make a difference?
Why should you practice social distancing when you are just one person and it doesn’t really matter?
When it comes to big problems that affect large populations, you are just one of nearly 8 billion people on this planet. You feel insignificant. You rationalize that the world will keep on spinning with or without you, so you might as well do whatever the hell you want, right?
You have fallen into the Apathy Trap, and it’s a dangerous place to be.