In the dark

Yoo Young Chun, Head Photo/Art Editor, Features Editor, Features Columnist

I am not afraid of the dark. Most of the time, anyway. Usually, I’m the kind of person that can only sleep when my room is completely dark. I invite the darkness.

But sometimes, on nights when I’ve drank too many caffeinated drinks and can’t seem to fall asleep, the dark calls to mind too many thoughts I’ve tried to suppress my entire life. It has the power to summon every awful memory from middle school and ever scary movie I’ve regretted watching. As these thoughts creep up on me, there’s always a point in the night when I turn toward the lamp by my bed, a cheap IKEA standing lamp that only illuminates a small area of my room, but gets rid of the dark nevertheless.

My hand always reaches for the on switch, but my fingers always falter.

I can never do it. I can never turn the lamp on. I would rather remember every single detail from when I fell rollerblading in front of my entire gym class in sixth grade than turn on a light that would be on for the entire night. I would even rather replay the trailer for the Human Centipede movie that kept me up for months in my head over and over again than commit what I considered a grave sin.

I wish this was a habit formed out of an interest in conserving energy to save the sun, or the earth, or whatever it is. But obviously, it’s not. It’s a vain concern about expensive electricity bills.

In fact, my knowledge of the environment mirrors the IKEA lamp by my bed: small, basically useless and gathering dust as every year distances me from that one unit in fourth grade where we learned about saving the earth by recycling and not showering for too long. As vague and elementary as the lesson was, it was still the most information I’ve ever taken in about the topic. I am incredibly ignorant and unaware.

I am completely in the dark.

The truth is, I’m only in the dark because I put myself there. Ignorance can only come from passivity, and I am appallingly passive when it comes to learning about the environment, or even caring about it in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, I truly despise this part of myself. I remind myself how awful I am every day when I use a plastic straw for my drink, every day when I use a disposable fork and everytime I throw paper in the trash instead of the recycling. But I still do these things anyway; it seems like nothing can stop me from killing the environment. To be honest, I just don’t know how to care about the Earth as much as I care about myself.

I don’t know where my attitude comes from. Maybe it’s because I’ve fallen deep into an egotistical complex where I only care about issues directly affecting me. The only negative experiences I’ve had regarding the environment are mosquitos in the winter and getting yelled at by an employee at Whole Foods for not recycling correctly.

Perhaps that’s why the only reason I started opening my eyes to my environmental habits was when it was right in front of me, in the form of a daunting warning.  

In October of 2018 we were told by the UN that we only have 12 years before the world enters a point of no return with climate change and negative environmental effects.

Reading about this scared the living daylights out of me. Not because of the various disasters that are predicted to occur once the 12 years are up, but out of fear for my own future.

Motivated by the desire to save myself, I started actually researching what kinds of materials go into the recycling bin and setting time limits on my showers. I know that these small actions aren’t exactly going to save the Earth, but I need the satisfaction of knowing that I’ve done everything I can do to save myself.

I know my intentions aren’t necessarily racking me many karma points. I know that as a member of the planet Earth, I should feel a natural pull towards helping the earth for the sole fact of helping the planet. But what am I supposed to do when I’ve waited all my life for that pull, and I only felt it once my own livelihood was threatened?

I am an innately selfish person and am extremely privileged to be in a situation where I won’t have to immediately feel the consequences of climate change in what I eat and how I live. I have to admit this to myself so that I can actually start taking action. The earth does not move me, so I must move myself.

So tonight, I’m going to go to sleep and, whether or not it’s for the earth’s benefit or my own, all of my lights will be turned off.