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September 22, 2021 - Image 15

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Design by
Cara Jhang

I am single-handedly running Earth into the


I know this because I had to calculate my eco-

logical footprint for my environmental studies class
last Thursday. For reference, an ecological footprint
is a measure of an individual’s personal impact on
the environment — a comparison between the
demand one puts on Earth’s natural resources
versus what the Earth is actually able to supply. To
determine mine, I answered questions about my
food intake (how many animal-based or processed
products I consume), what type of house I live in,
my modes of transportation, how often I buy new
clothes or gadgets and so on.

Upon finishing the survey, the result page came

up and presented me with the statement, “If every-
one lived like you, we would need 5.3 Earths.”

Ah jeez. I scrolled to the next statement. “If

everyone lived like you, by March 9th, we would
have used as much from nature as Earth can renew
in an entire year.”

“Oh gosh,” I verbally announced. I could seri-

ously be the sole reason we’re in a sixth mass
extinction right now.

I then turned to the response questions for

the assignment, where I was asked how I could
improve my footprint, more specifically, how
I could “be the change.” I sat back and thought
through my past week, trying to identify times
when I had tanked nature’s future.

From reflecting, I realized that while my ecologi-

cal footprint was through the roof, my actual foot-
print was
possibly higher —
my activity app

other day. During my first week of
classes, I was so overwhelmed that I
called my mom crying from the floor


tion provided no
huge insights into
bettering my ecologi-

cal footprint, only proof that the
Earth and I were actually in tough
competition for exhaustion lev-
els — I’ve been energetically and

socially stunted from the


“It’s hard,” I panicked. “I don’t

know how to do regular school.
I have to walk to my classes. I
have to figure out where to walk
in-between them when I don’t have
time to deep-dive into a huge assign-
ment but also have too much time to
just eat a snack. Then I walk back and
forth from the house all day for my meals. And
of course, I have to interact with everyone while I
do it.”

“You’re just not adjusted to regular life,” my

mom told me. “You’ll get there.”

Continuing to reflect on my week, I thought

about my first game day as a Michigan Wolverine:
entering the Big House, chills rising on my arms
as I looked down at the sea of students, beaming
and cheering, all overjoyed about making their
debut from two years of hibernation. I was again
exhausted that night from such a surreal yet over-
stimulating day.

I guess I could’ve skipped the half-time hot dog?

Avoided food from animals? I laughed to myself as
I pictured my Graduate Student Instructor reading
my response that I’d “be the change” by boycotting
stadium meat.

The reality was, I had no idea how to fix my eco-

logical footprint. I had no idea how to even navigate
normal life on campus, and here I was, trying to
cough up ideas on how I could “be the change.”
While I was unable to find a legitimate way to
improve the Earth’s life, I had identified a pattern
of overstimulation and tiredness within my own.

This week, a hundred percent of my effort has

gone towards trying to figure out what floor of
what library is a good spot to do my work, how
much of the professor’s words I should get down
as he spews into the unpausable abyss, and if I have
time to stop at home for dinner or go straight to
dance practice before then going out for the night.
I may be a

sophomore in name,

but I feel like a freshman in mind

and body. And I’m not the only one.

My friends and I joke that we’re like astronauts

who returned from space with bones and muscles
ill-equipped to handle the pressure of gravity. It’s

an odd concept — having to “catch up” to a

“normal” life, struggling through what

is supposed to be “an average day.”

I, along with my entire age group

and perhaps even the entire

student body, am realizing

I didn’t know what I was
missing while I was missing
it. I regressed as a function-

ing, social human without even knowing.

Being a stranger to the school at which

I spent a year of my life is weird. I knew
the University of Michigan was a “big
school,” but I didn’t actually com-
prehend its vastitude until I
went to Festifall last week.


included add-

ing a club




would help me contribute
to the community, to “be
the change.” I walked
around in awe, taking in
the number of people,
the diversity of stu-
dents, their styles, con-

interests. I walked and
walked, read material at
booths, analyzed the buzz-
ing Diag. Overwhelmed, I
added no clubs. Suddenly, the
ones I already belonged to suf-
ficed. I sympathized with the Earth
as I left, unable to provide all the per-
sonal resources that felt demanded of me. I
needed to listen to my own body and mind’s

I’m acutely aware that now is not the best

time for self-focus, though. Within the past
month or so, there’s been a deadly hurricane,
an abortion ban, continued Taliban chaos,
wildfires and more. Usually, I like to stay
updated, know current events and contrib-
ute charitably wherever I can, whether that
entails reading the New York Times at night or
my family to discuss confusing

details. I like to be able

to understand issues and their

players and participate in conversations

with friends or in classes. I like being informed.

But right now, I don’t feel like I have the capacity

to do so. I don’t know nearly enough about any of
these events as I should. In full transparency, I can
say I know

that they happened and that’s about it. My aware-

ness is not looking good — I feel civically irresponsi-
ble. Not to mention, I’m apparently taking down the
environment, too.

Keeping up with the news, staying politically

and globally educated, contributing to causes you
care about and of course, staying relatively envi-
ronmentally friendly requires a concerted effort,
regardless of the time period or what’s going on
in the world. But as college students today, we
are expected to keep up with the world beyond
ourselves, while also re-learning real life here in
Ann Arbor. I question if it is acceptable to hold off a
semester on joining a new organization or if it is irre-

sponsible to know less about current events.

Is it lazy to not have the capacity to figure

out how to improve an ecological foot-

print? Generally speaking, I do not

believe anybody has the privi-

lege to dismiss life and issues

outside their personal

bubble. It’s negli-

gent and self-



also have a small voice — one which I’m afraid to
let speak up — saying that right now, focusing on
myself is OK. It’s OK if I skim the news when I can,
engage in conversation when possible and provide
a heartfelt contribution to bettering our environ-
ment at a later date. I’ve got to obtain the footing
itself before I can shape my footprint. This means,
at least for a little while, maybe I don’t have to hold
myself to the same standards I did before the pan-
demic. Maybe I don’t need to “be the change” — at
least for right now.

This slightly disheartening, yet nonetheless

unavoidable truth probably goes for all aspects of
life: the bar that was achievable in 2019, is, at least
for now, lower. We should be easy on ourselves. We
should lower our expectations of what we can and
need to do.

Right now, I’ll “be the change” by making

sure I healthily balance my academics, social life,
extracurriculars and downtime. I’ll take things
off my plate that nudge me closer to feeling too
overwhelmed. I’ll reach out to my peers and dis-
cuss the difficulty of this adjustment that they
may be too nervous to outwardly express, think-
ing they’re the only ones struggling. I’ll write
this piece admitting that I’m not as politically or
current event-ly fluent and active as I used to be,
like to be or know I should be. I’ll get there soon
enough. Soon I’ll genuinely work on “being the

First, I must figure out how to just “be.”

From footprints to festifalls: relearning
a non-virtual reality

3 — Wednesday, September 22, 2021 // The Statement


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