There has been some talk recently about individuals doing the right thing for the Earth is good, but it’s not enough. Little actions are important, but given the scale of the challenges that we now face, we all need to step up our efforts to a higher level. I tend to think of it as a “ladder of influence”. The bigger the action, the further the ripples of change will spread.
At the entry level we have the basic actions that anybody who has even a glimmer of environmental awareness will do – recycling, turning off lights, not leaving the tap running while you are brushing your teeth, etc.
Above that we have the second level; environmental actions that take place in public – using a re-usable grocery bag or water bottle or coffee cup, installing solar panels, choosing a super-compact or hybrid car.
On the third level, the individual is becoming more overt about their concern for the environment – not only are they doing the right things, but they are suggesting that their friends, family and colleagues do likewise. Within their own sphere of influence, they are starting to become a leader.
At the fourth level, they are starting to go outside of their existing sphere of influence, writing to customer service departments and their elected officials, demanding change at policy level – maybe asking stores to stop supplying plastic bags, or asking the mayor to impose a city-wide ban. They are connecting into communities of other concerned citizens, and galvanizing support around specific local issues, such as organizing beach clean-ups or protesting against a coal-fired power plant.
And at the fifth level, the individual has become a leader. They are out to make a big difference in the world. Environmentalism is no longer something that they DO, it is something that they ARE. It suffuses every aspect of their daily lives. It is their number one priority.
What does this mean in real terms? If you do nothing else, then please think about doing these:
1. Buy organic; don’t buy food that has been sprayed with poison, aka herbicide and pesticide. It’s just not a good idea. Buy local, from farmers who embrace sustainable practices. Or grow your own – if I can grow my own beansprouts on board a rowboat, then anybody with a windowsill has no excuse. Beansprouts are cheap, tasty, and pack a powerful nutritional punch.
2. Walk more, drive less – it’s good for your body and good for the planet. And good for your wallet too.
3. Never again use a “disposable” plastic object. Take your own reusable grocery bag, water bottle, and coffee cup.
4. Get active: find a local issue that means something to you – something good to support (like a communal organic garden, or a ban-the-bag campaign) or something bad to oppose (like the destruction of a woodland) – and use it as a focus to create an interest group. It doesn’t have to be a lonely experience trying to save the world – reach out to your community, and support each other.
5. Get political: find a bigger issue that concerns you, and write to your elected representative, or the head of the relevant company. Write to the local newspaper, or even a national one. Make your views known. Stand up and be counted – and urge your friends and family to do the same. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” (Margaret Mead).
6. Make time to get connected with nature. Make time to get connected to yourself. Make time to get connected to others. It’s all about connection.
7. Finally, and most importantly, spread the word. Everybody reading this blog has a part to play. You are all spreading ripples in your communities. Everything you think, say and do, declares to the world what your values are, and casts a vote for the kind of future that you want. Use your votes wisely. Your world, your children, and even your future self, will thank you for it.
Forget public relations and public service announcements – word of mouth is still the most powerful tool we have at our disposal. What you say to your neighbour will have a greater impact on him or her than anything they see in the media or online. Your words have an immediacy and a reality and a natural authority that no other form of communication can match. So how will you use your influence? What will you do to spread the good green word, to raise consciousness, inspire action, and make this world a better place?
When I was preparing to record my blog with Vic today, I looked back through my logbook for the last week to see what had happened since we last spoke. I noticed, with a rueful smile, that in the last 7 days I have progressed a grand total of 18 miles. I have, of course, rowed further than that, but it has mostly been the same 10 miles being rowed repeatedly. I suspect a garden snail could go faster. Well, it could if it could swim. Today I made a little more progress, but at the time of writing I am yet again being blown backwards and sideways. I can only hope that the deadlock breaks soon – and meanwhile, eat-pray-row….
Danny, Bronwyn and Tabby – glad you are all enjoying the blog. I loved your story about Tabby seeing you off to work. That cat has more personality in the tip of his tail than ten ordinary cats put together. I do miss his antics!
David Tangye – thanks for the smiles!
Mariya – LOVED the piratey jokes. I laughed out loud. Especially enjoyed “They think, therefore they ARRRR!!!!!” Teehee! Woody is sitting here with me now. It he wasn’t 1/80th my size, I’d go on a date with him too. He may only have one leg and one eye, but he’s still the best-looking man hereabouts. And a great personality! 🙂 Thanks to you and your mom (the Gold-en Girls?!) for the laughs!
Quote for today, in hopes of imminent happiness on board the good ship Sedna: Happiness is relief after extreme tension. (F Scott Fitzgerald)
Sponsored Miles: Richard Hyman, James Borleis, Curtis Zingg, Laura Prouty and Christopher Ellis – thank you, forward progress at last.