Imagine you live off-grid. A crazy fantasy for those of us with running water and electricity at the flick of a switch, but bear with me. You grow your own produce and raise animals for food. Everything you put on your land and in your animals stays on your land forever. You get water from a well, supplied by a spring that runs under your fields. Your plumbing system discharges into this spring, upstream from the well. The fuel source that you use to heat, cool and power your imaginary home is in a non-refillable container. Would you pay attention to what you put on your land and down your drains? Would you try to conserve energy to make your fuel last? I’m assuming your answer is yes. What if I said that this fictitious homestead I described is the Earth? Because in reality, the scenario I described is the Earth, just on a microscale. Are your answers different? Our actions suggest they are.
You might believe that thinking about the environmental impact of our day-to-day is hard. And at times just too daunting. Afterall, you have so many demands on your time, so many decisions to make, and you’re only one person. But we are all just one person. And when you add us all together we can change the world. It’s what humans do.
This quote from Joanna Macy sums it up perfectly:
“Many of our planet’s problems, such as climate change, mass starvation, and habitat loss are so much bigger than we are that it is easy to believe we are wasting our time trying to solve them. If we depend on seeing the positive results of our individual steps, we’ll avoid challenges that seen beyond what we can visibly influence. Yet your actions take effect through such multiplicities of synergy that we can’t trace their casual chain. Everything we do has ripples of influence extending far beyond what we can see.”
The way I see it is that I can be part of the problem or part of the solution. I’m not saying that I’m a perfect model of environmental stewardship, but I try to do what I can. My humble acts of waste reduction or energy conservation will not save the planet on their own. But if every one stopped to think a little bit more every day about how our actions affect our water, our air, and our land, imagine what could happen. We might be able to feed the hungry, reduce healthcare costs, and improve the quality of life around the globe. Our kids and our grandkids might not have to go to war over clean water and healthy food. We might not have to worry about how to welcome hundreds of thousands of climate refugees.
And yes, while that take-away coffee cup, chemical-laden cleaning or make-up product, spur-of-the-moment shopping spree, or 5-minute drive to pick your kids up from school may seem small on their own, remember that all of our individual actions are multiplied by billions. At the end of the day, we’re all guests in the same house. And it’s a lot easier to clean up the mess when everyone pitches in.