Why why, what a terrible time to be alive
If you’re prone to overthinking and
Why why, what a terrible time to be alive
If you’re prone to second guessing
George Ezra, Shining People
In the wake of the recent IPPC report on climate change I discovered an article on my facebook news feed about the impact of individual changes versus politics and businesses. It was a rather disheartening read, telling me that it doesn’t really matter how much I change at home if the top 100 fuel based companies in the world are still not doing anything – which they are unlikely to do – as under these circumstances we’re all doomed anyway. The article therefore urged the reader to put the eco-friendly soap aside and become politically active.
Now, I’m not a particularly radical person and political activism seems very much out of my comfort zone. I vote, diligently, but I haven’t been out protesting much in my life. In fact, growing up I often pondered why my generation (in Germany) didn’t really fight for much ideologically. Through the lens of my school’s history lessons the world seemed in such an uproar in the 60s, 70s and even 80s, while my school and student years appeared rather quiet. Obviously, if you wanted to be politically active there was still plenty wrong with the world that one could wholeheartedly protest against; but somehow things didn’t seem out of order enough to rally the masses.
Sometimes I wonder if it was just the calm after the storm: I was seven when the wall came down. The hard work of fighting for unification had been done by the generation before me and the even harder work of overcoming all the differences of two vastly different political and social cultures was still in their hands for years to come. We, instead, were swimming on the high of the wave that the tumbling wall had created: Everything seemed possible. Everything seemed generally on the right track.
Fast forward twenty years and I at least feel a bit washed out by that wave. Suddenly, it seems that there are far too many problems for which we have to come together and fight.
Although technically many of these problems aren’t new; it just so happens that they all seem to reach boiling point at the same time: Shifting political leaderships, racial issues, instability in diverse communities. Top that with two decades of natural catastrophes that seem a bit more impactful than the last centuries’ plus the unfolding understanding of the real impact of our consumerism and every sensible person on this planet is falling into a state of panic.
But panic doesn’t help anyone, nor does telling me that the one place where I still am in control of matters isn’t going to be a big enough contribution. So before we all get heart palpitations, let’s breathe for a moment.
Usually in times of inner and outer turmoil I’d often refer back to the words of Reinhold Niehbur:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.
Yet, I read a protester’s sign the other day saying ‘I no longer accept the things that I can’t change!’; and it had me thinking about the times of turmoil we’re in and how to address the issues.
It is an uncomfortable place within ourselves where we hold on to the things that we cannot accept but also cannot change! Therefore, I don’t know if it’s clever to do so (particularly given the current accumulation of mental health issues); however what I do know is this: To create a better world one does not have to eradicate the bad, but constantly be willing to stand up for the good. We don’t have to do it all, we just have to do something.
And I intend to start by cutting myself some slack. While yes my contributions and efforts in my own home must feel like a drop in the ocean; this is were I can start. This is were we can all start!
In our homes, making sure our choices of what we invite into our little world sends an impactful message across the universe: I no longer accept the products of companies that put profit over the environment, I no longer accept the service of companies that are too slow to change. I will not buy more clothes, cleaning supplies, toys, decorations for the pure consumerism, I will support companies and food producers who operate ethically and with the environment in mind – even if that means I need to buy less because their products cost more in comparison. Every item or service I invite into my home shall serve with integrity and purpose no matter my budget!
I will be mindful about the words I use and stories I tell (myself) about the things I don’t know much about and I will encourage my family and friends to have honest and open discussions if our political and social views differ. I no longer quietly support a system that undermines our collective efforts by adhering to old habits.
But my home is not just the bamboo toothbrush that I buy or the fair trade tea I share in the living room. I will expand my definition of home to the places I work and regularly visit, buy from and frequently use, to the community I live amongst and the leaders I vote for.
However more than anything I will nurture our collective willingness and ability to stand up for the good by being kind, forgiving and honest to myself and others. So that we reduce the list of the things we cannot change and add them to our list of things we courageously tackle, by focusing on the steps within reach and as we walk along, the line between what we accept and what we can change will constantly shift.
Now imagine this to be the case for a billion homes!
Some related articles:
Not the one from my facebook feed but clearly the same message: The Only Individual Action That Matters
A few more words on the impact of the top 100: Fossil Fuel Companies Investor Responsibility
And last but not least some great encouragement to keep going: Climate Change Taking Action