The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

December 19, 2012

The End of the World is Coming and I’m Still not Buying New Plastic

2012 movie posterOf course, I don’t really believe that the world is going to end this Friday.   That would be too easy.  The damage we are doing to life on planet Earth is a slower process and one that has the potential to cause much more prolonged suffering.  And as I sit here typing sentences and then deleting them, typing and deleting, trying to figure out how to express what I’m feeling, I’m unsure if a post like this is even appropriate.  But here goes.

I’m depressed.

A lot of really terrible things have been happening lately.  Every other day brings news of robberies and muggings and even shootings — both random and targeted — in my Oakland, CA neighborhood so that I’m often too afraid to leave the house.  And with the horrific news on Friday of the mass killings of little children in Connecticut, a terrible thought crosses my mind:  What’s the point?

What is the point of continuing to advocate for environmental change when humans just seem Hell bent on destruction?  What’s the point of the small personal actions I and so many others like you are taking every day when corporations pump out more and more toxic chemicals and try to convince us that they are safe?  What’s the point of dutifully bringing my own container with me for restaurant leftovers when there are people starving or enslaving other humans across the globe?  I don’t normally use obscenities on this blog, but to quote The Onion‘s brilliant piece from Friday, I just feel like saying, “Fuck everything.  Just fuck it all to hell.”

But what then?  What if we all gave up?  That thought is almost as inconceivable to me as the world ending on Friday.  Two days ago, I gave a talk on plastic-free living for the California State Waterboards in Sacramento.  It was fun.  The group was enthusiastic and asked a lot of questions.  I felt energized.  Hopeful.  One of the participants raised her hand and asked how I stay so positive when the plastic pollution problem seems so big and overwhelming.  How do I keep going?  I mentioned that there is a whole chapter in my book on what to do when you feel overwhelmed, and that drinking your cleaning fluid is not the answer.  I think I suggested something like playing with kids and pets to get some perspective.  (I call my kitties Prozac.)   But really, the answer is that working towards a positive solution simply makes me feel better.

I had a conversation with my friend Elizabeth the other day about altruism.  Neither of us really believe it exists.  Because to me, when I recognize my connection to this planet and all life on it, no matter how awful those life forms might seem to behave at times, doing something for them is the same as doing something for myself.  When we are truly kind to other humans, we are kind to ourselves.  When we pick up trash in the neighborhood, we are taking care of ourselves.  Reaching out to express myself to you right now is more than just reporting… I’m reaching into myself as well to connect to something deeper than words can actually express.

I’m grateful for the Internet which has enabled us all to reach out to each other during difficult times and to share information and make our collective voices heard.  I’m grateful to you for reading this post right now and in some way understanding what I’m so inadequately trying to express.  I’m grateful for Facebook (infuriating as it can be) for allowing so many people to commiserate this week because when we share our hurts and grief together, we lose the sense of alienation and separation that causes such violent acts to happen in the first place.

I hope to continue working towards healing the planet (whether I’m still collecting plastic or have moved on to a different issue) until the end of my life (whether it comes on Friday or in 40 years or in the next 10 minutes.)  Because it’s what I can do.  Because I don’t have a choice.  Because while I might sometimes get so overwhelmed that all I want to do is zone out in front of the TV watching episode after episode of True Blood and eating fudge sauce straight from the jar, eventually I will have to look up and say, “Fuck it.  Life is too short and precious to waste like this.  What can I do to make a difference?”

You might also enjoy...


Classic stainless steel bento boxes and cotton lunch bags.

I only post ads for products I use myself. Your support helps to fund my plastic-free mission.

Leave a Reply

39 Comment threads
5 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
25 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted
Notify of

I read this post late…..and, of course, we all know the world has not ended by now. The reading of this article came at the right time for me….I am glad to know that people who are really making a difference feel overwhelmed and hopeless at times. It helps to know that others have the same feelings…..thank you for that.

Rosa M

I wonder often about what point there is to an individual change, just like you said at the beginning of this post.But I have made so many changes the last few years becuase you took the time to do the research, and set the example, and speak up. Things I thought about doing but wouldn’t have done if it were harder to get the information or think up a solution. Because you made it so much easier to find those things, it was easier for me to make changes – and I know I’m not alone in that.So wallow and… Read more »


Well Beth, we are all still here! Aren’t you glad we didn’t all have a “to hell with it” plstic waste party! Christmas has come and gone, enjoyed, and to my delighted amazement (in our house at least) with only one small potato crisps packetful of waste to go to landfill! All else is recycleable or just what the children will want for “art” at preschool. Gifts were either vouchers, or wrapped in Christmas teatowels or red or green cotton bags wrapped in cotton ribbon. And I sewed my own Christmas table napkins, so no paper serviettes! Nice not to… Read more »


Beth, What you do is vitally important. Each Time I go to the store or shop online I take into account how the item is wraped and it’s long term impact on the environment. Your posts keep me diligent and inspired to do better and what you do and how you give is making a difference. I keep my plastic consumption in mind when I buy for my off farm job and when I buy for the farm. Rest assured that folks that have no idea who you are, are getting your message through me, and I’m not the only… Read more »

Valerie Teruel

Beth, you are only human, but you are the best kind of human out there, and we are all aspiring to follow in your footsteps (picking up any plastic you may have missed) :-)

Donna S

Beth; It is late friday night… so I think we are safe to say the world isn’t going anywhere tonight. I was lucky enough to be in the audience last week in Sacramento. I have been following your Plastic Free blog for a while now, and find your efforts inspiring. I am the one who founded a creative reuse center ( Truth is, about a year ago, I was ready to throw in the towel. I felt like my efforts to help make our community and world a better place to live were falling on deaf ears. I was out… Read more »


I definitley feel this way you described. The point is your awesome blog has touched so many people and helped inspire people (myself) to make big changes. I have a diva cup! I was so excited to get it. Who gets excited about a menstral cup? you know you’re a weirdo environmentalist when… lol. and the list goes on- and i find so much inspiration here.
ps. its friday, still here.

Heather Haynes Ybaben

Wonderful post. I feel the same way–thank you for articulating this issue so well!

Thank you for all you do. Maybe sometimes you despair but your efforts are making so many more people aware of the need to rethink plastics. We’ve gotta do something, it feels much better than watching in silence! I think it’s interesting that so many things seem to have come to a head right now. Things are happening that must be addressed, from violence in society to climate change and biodiversity loss. Take heart that apocalypse means revelation. Let’s hope we are all experiencing revelations about how we can and must make course corrections for a better future.

Beth Terry

Thank you all for these encouraging, supportive comments. For some reason, Livefyre is not sending me my email notifications, so I thought that only one person had left a comment. Then, I come to the blog today and wow. So much support and positive energy. Just what I needed. Not to mention all of you who have sent me private emails. It means a lot that we are all in this together.


One big thing is solace – finding others that are attuned and can share the load. That alone provides some substantial comfort. Another thing is the information glut of modern times. Nobody, but nobody can say “gee, I had no idea there was a problem.” and you can thank yourself for being a part of that. I am an atheist through and through, but don’t deny the power of the Bible to affect our thoughts, so consider in Genesis – “The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place… Read more »

Beth Terry

Hi, Clif. Did you watch all 8 hours at once or break it up? What is the best way to watch it? The Mahabharata has actually been on my “to do” list for years. :-)


I think most people would find it overwhelming in one go unless they have at least some knowledge of the story. When it aired originally it was in 1 hour doses with the director, Peter Brook, commenting on the action with some basic explanation of terms. The production is so spartan compared to what we’re used to that it takes getting used to, but once you do, you realize that the acting casts a spell on you and makes the production. Since the cast is international, the English is spoken with many accents (French, Japanese, Indian, British, etc.) but dialog… Read more »

Katie Ostrich

Your comment about altruism not truly existing is totally in line with leading behavioral evolution theories, which postulate that altruism is, in fact, selfish. That in the animal kingdom, altruism boosts survival. Not always for the altruistic individual, but at least for their genes.


I’ve only recently found your blog, but I love it. My sister says I’m a pestimist because I talk about so many of the problems that we face, but I feel I’m an optimist. I am aware that the problems can seem overwhelming, but I believe I need to take action to do what I can to improve things and be an example for others so they can see that they too can make changes to improve the situation. I consider myself a selfish environmentalist because I don’t do what I do for the greater good, I do it for… Read more »

Feed The Green Canteen

Same here, I am thinking of closing my business. I will always volunteer for the good. Every I try to speak about plastic people roll their eyes. I am so tired of it all.


Very well said for someone who ‘typed and deleted’ a lot for this post. It does all seem overwhelming and at times I wonder why I am bothering when it is so overwhelming and out of control; but, thanks to your blog, I know that my actions have negative consequences for more then just me. Once I was made aware that the choices I made harmed others I felt I had an obligation to continue to try to make better choices, regardless of what others are doing around me. Your blog has helped me and encouraged me to keep making… Read more »


Dear Beth, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us today. As I struggle to write my master’s thesis on consumption reduction and try to fit the whole MASS of issues into a tidy 100 pages, I often split downwards into: what’s the point? And will it make a difference anyway? (and for the record, your blog has influenced by research and encouraged me to tie my academic interests with my personal interests) What I can say that I’ve been learning about consumption, and activism and all these topics brought out on your blog, is that they help us create… Read more »

Margaret McDonnell

I feel exactly the same. Well said.


Thank you so much for this post Beth. For some reason it is immensely comforting to learn that even a stalwart like you can feel depressed and overwhelmed by the intractable nature of what we’re up against. I’ve always been a bit of a “glass half full” kind of girl, and I fear it’s all too easy for me to slide into the depths of despair and cynicism. (I read the book “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas several years ago and it sent me into a tailspin that took years to get out of.) And even though eco-perfectionism is not… Read more »


I love, love, love your blog Beth. Since you have made me the winner of your ‘plastic free’ goodies basket I have been cutting down and now my husband is also a ‘plastic minimalist’. You, your thoughts, actions, have made a difference is my, our, life. You are doing a great job; so Hang in there. Love you! Big Hug.

Joyfully Green

Well, first of all, thank you, Beth, for continuing to do what you do, because it IS important, even when the daily grind is grinding you down to a stump, or horrible news like the tragedy in CT can make you feel like curling up in the fetal position and just giving up. As you know well enough, blogging isn’t like writing a book where you have a finished product and then you can rest a bit before the next project–somehow, you have to keep churning out the work. I found it really hard to want to write anything (or… Read more »


Beth you have written what is at the heart of the human condition. Life is not easy for anyone, even those of us fortunate beyond the imagination of those who are not. It is not easy to do what you have done, to stand up against corporate, governmental and human wrong, and yet you have done it and I know, will continue to do it because this is who you are. Thank heavens for people like you willing to stand up for what they believe, to lead the rest of us on this journey in spite of your own challenges.… Read more »

Capital Naturel

Reading this felt really good… I was just telling my man we should buy a tiny house with a big backyard in the middle of nowhere and leave society forever as this world is just nuts… What’s the point in promoting veganism, organics, compassion, eco-conscience and intuitive living when it all seems so trivial looking at how cruel Man can be? But trivial, it is not… I find a lot of comfort in knowing people like you make a difference… Honestly… People sharing their ideas, just like you, got me thinking and deeply changed my perspective, viewpoints and core being… Read more »


Aww… Beth…. :( Confession: I was in this complete funk on Wednesday before we talked. Literally in tears over things I cannot change or control (long story)… but then *poof* our 2 hour conversation wiped it all away. :) Thank you :) Of course nothing is fixed… BUT… what I realized (once again) is that I can choose to focus on the positive or the negative. (granted this was before the tragedy on Friday) But nonetheless, focusing on the good in turn makes me feel good. Sure some people are hell bent on being miserable and bringing others down with… Read more »


Thanks for sharing this, I feel like this often. Why am I making so much effort and ‘doing without’ when people around me are oblivious and going through plastic by the tonne. I read a quote the other day that says it all, in my own words – the ‘right’ thing to do is always the hardest thing to do.

It does help the rest of us to keep at it when we know the ones we look up too struggle too :)


I’m sorry that it can get so hard. Have a rest and recharge your batteries. We all get down and need to rest. You will always try to do the right thing because that’s how you are. Once you know something in your bones you cannot unknow it. And there is a point and we have to keep going at doing the right thing. It makes a difference. Because of your blog I am aware of all the plastic rubbish my husband throws on the ground at my farm. He thought it biodegraded. I know better now, thanks to reading… Read more »

Natalie S. Mouw

Thanks for writing that. I often ask myself what’s the point, especially when people look at me like I am nuts, even those closest to me. It may only be a little piece of the world, but every little bit adds up over a lifetime!


Thank you, Beth.


The very act of sharing your thoughts when you are emotionally depleted and throwing your hands in the air is a very brave and honest thing to do, Beth. Your words mirror what so many of us are thinking. Play with your “Prozac” and play your favorite music, and keep the chocolate sauce : )


Beth, you ask “What’s the point…..?” and then you answer it yourself! The point is … there are far more decent, caring folk in the world than there are screwed up sickos – oh, if only the sickos could be persuaded either to get help early or just quietly suicide without hurting others!!! But … the majority of people do care for others, very many care about our planet, and those of us who care enough, even if we alone can’t alter the world, we can help the planet and affect how those around look at what they are doing… Read more »


If it helps any I now use glass containers in my home instead of plastic and I no longer buy plastic water bottles. I never thought about my own glass to go containers until I read this today but I want to start doing that too. You do make a difference one person at a time :-)


If it helps any I now use glass containers in my home instead of plastic and I no longer buy plastic water bottles. I never thought about my own glass to go containers until I read this today but I want to start doing that too. You do make a difference on person at a time :-)

Dom Chugi
Beth Terry

Diana Leigh Waldron absolutely! I don’t know why I wrote “humans” in that one sentence. It wasn’t meant to limit compassion to other human beings. I wrote the post fast this morning. When I have time, I’ll edit it. I meant to say “other beings”.

Dom Chugi

This helps me, maybe it will cheer you a little up. :)

Postmodern Rachel

Thanks for this honest post. I can relate. I’m sure so many can. I have been very depressed about the planet, and everything else you mention.

I find this quote helpful, too.

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief.
Do justly now
Love mercy now
Walk humbly now
You are not obligated to complete the work
But neither are you free to abandon it.
~ The Talmud

Beth Terry

Wow. That quote says exactly what I was trying to say so much more succinctly and beautifully. Thank you.

Postmodern Rachel

You’re welcome, I’m glad you like it. Onward we go!

Joyfully Green

@Postmodern Rachel That’s a beautiful quote–thanks for including it here.


Thanks Beth, it’s really been a hard couple weeks. I think many of us are feeling the same way you do. I think it is challenging for us to keep doing the good work to protect our environment and health, but is an uphill battle. If we get burnt out, what about those we’re trying to inspire? I just read a great post on Lori’s Groovy Green Livin about what dogs can teach us, and whether it’s her dogs, or your cats, there are ways we need to take care of ourselves to be in this fight for the long… Read more »

Diana Leigh Waldron

A lovely post. One thought to add on “When we are truly kind to other humans, we are kind to ourselves.” We needn’t, and indeed shouldn’t, limit our circle of compassion to our own species any more than we’d limit it to our own race or sex, especially not now when factory farming and medical research leave our nonhuman brothers and sisters in the grips of unimaginable suffering.

Diana Leigh Waldron

When change is too slow and my contribution seems unimportant, I like to think of this story: We don’t get to know if change will take a million people or a billion or what, but we can’t reach that number without every number along the way, of which you and I are two.

Laura Kocher

God bless you for being a lovely steward of the planet