Mauricio Urbina was trying to save the planet on the day he realized he was simultaneously destroying it. A biologist who studies the bodies of fish and other sea creatures, Urbina was working on a project to understand what happens to crabs that eat tiny particles of plastic waste thrown out by careless humans. But after one particularly long day in the lab, he looked down and noticed — he was a careless human. A lot of his tools were plastic and would be thrown out after a single use, contributing to the stream of waste packing landfills and polluting waterways. He was working on the solution, but he was part of the problem.
Before we get started, do me a favor and grab a pen or a pencil. Now hold it between your teeth, as if you were about to try to write with it. Don’t let your lips touch it. Sit with it, and pay attention to how you feel. Are you glum? Cheerful? Confused? Is that any different than how you felt before? Do you feel like this weird smile tricked your brain into a slight jump in happiness?