/ 2021 December

Tattoos as Moral Contracts

This year, I got a tattoo. My morals had been at odds with my behaviors in a place very important to me -- the climate crisis. It’s easy to think about how horrible the climate crisis is, and yes definitely someone should do something about it, yes probably those big corporations that sounds nice, now let’s forget about it for another year.

This isn’t a great way to get things done and I had the cognizance to recognize that, but it kept happening to me. So I tattooed a reminder on my forearm.

It’s a viking-inspired climate warning. [1] (artist: Trejen)

After six months with this puppy, it’s done more than I thought it could.

First, it’s a constant reminder. It’s not a checklist item I can mark off or that can fall to the bottom of my list. It can’t be forgotten about or left behind in an app change. It will be there as long as I will be, which is exactly how long I want to be conscious of the climate crisis.

Second, it’s a social forcing function to act within my morals. When people ask me about my tattoo, I know I need to “have my story straight”. I need to know everything about myself that’s not better than climate par and have a roadmap for fixing it ready. No one expects me to be Captain Planet, but if I have a methane stove and don’t at least have a plan for going induction, well, that’s an embarrassing moment for someone with a climate crisis tattoo.

In just six months these two pressures together have motivated me into research, action, and activism on how to make my kids and grandkids not spite me. I’m better informed about policy, I'm involved in local Seattle politics (actively pushing for more walk-friendly neighborhoods), and our house is running on 100% green energy. [2]

If you have a lifelong motivation, a few hundred dollars, and a decent tolerance for pain, I recommend getting an aspirational tattoo.