Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Voluntary Simplicity + Building Community = Saving Our Children

["Building Sandcastles" Originally uploaded by the(?) on Flickr]

Posted by Melinda
One Green Generation

I haven't written much lately and I apologize!  We have had a ground-breaking election here in the US, where emotions and activity have been very high.  And I have also spent a lot of time lately working within my community.  

I have been on a personal quest for many years now to reduce my carbon output, to reduce my reliance on oil and other non-renewable resources, to simplify my lifestyle, and to reduce the toxins going into my body and those of my family members (including my pets).  I believe it has helped my family become happier and healthier, and we have a much lighter impact on our planet.  And for that, I am very proud.

But I look at the incredible environmental destruction occurring on our planet, I think about the insurmountable consequences of climate change, the horrifying inequalities throughout our planet, the suffering, the pain, the damage... and I wonder if my own lifestyle changes are enough to change the world.

Do you wonder this?

And, well, is it our job to save the world?

I would love to know your answers.

I think about my beautiful cousins on both sides of this country, I think about the young children of my good friends, I think about my sister in 65 years, when she is 98 years old like my grandfather is now... and I feel responsible for their future.  I fear we are destroying their future.  I think we may be devastating our planet with our way of life.  

Sure, not my way of life, because I have made significant changes to my lifestyle.  But I look around me, and I am one person among thousands.  Among millions.  How is my one lifestyle going to make enough of an impact on the planet, to thwart irreversible climate change, to save our oil for much needed medical supplies, to preserve our forests and save their millions of species, to prevent poverty and terribly destructive wars?  I am afraid to say, I cannot imagine that my lifestyle changes are enough to change this sea of problems.

And so... what do you do when you come to this realization?

Well, here is what I've done.

I've created more time in my life, by not watching television, by having some of our produce delivered from local farms, by living in a neighborhood where I don't have to commute, by working from home or near home, and by many other smaller changes.  (For more ideas about saving time, read Julie's post here.)

This has given me time to volunteer.   Time to write.  Time to learn more and think more, and time to talk with others who are thinking about similar things.  

There are several things we can do at a large scale within our communities, where we can make significant change:

  • We can help make people aware of the issues, by sharing our knowledge through writing, filmmaking, speaking, putting on workshops and seminars, and all sorts of other things.
  • We can help change policies at the local and national level.  Because it is with laws and bylaws where many people change.  That means go become involved in politics:  sit in on city council meetings and make your voice heard on important issues, gather signatures for initiatives you truly believe in, campaign for politicians or ballot measures aligned with your views, or even become a politician yourself!
  • We can get people like us - who are aware - excited about doing more, and organized to do it!  This is not preaching to the converted, it is harnessing the energy of the converted to do greater good.  To go out in your community and do stuff, act on your beliefs, create widespread change.

We have a lot of work to do do make our planet safe and livable for our children and grandchildren.  We have a lot of work to do to make our communities safe and adaptable.  And each of us can make a difference.  Together, we can create real change in this world.  But we must go out and do it.  Now.

If you'd like more information about how to go about this, please visit these posts at One Green Generation:  


Rose said...

Hello Melinda,

Congratulations on both your achievements and on sharing your knowledge and experience.

I'm a little way down the beginner track, maybe intermediate. I believe it's essential that the word is spread and thank goodness the Internet is here for us!

I find that each time I think I am 'just one person, what can I do?' something comes along to shake me out of my doldrums. It could be a post like yours or something like I heard on the ABC yesterday (which I just posted in Rhonda's comments).

The president of the Maldives, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, is looking for land to buy to give his people a home in the future.

Posh And Trendy said...

Well.. Hmmm it depends on your religious beliefs as to whether we can save the earth or not.. I do think we're slowly distroying it but I also don't believe God will let things go any further or faster then he wants.. he told us all about how things will end on this earth and one of the things he told us was he was coming back BEFORE we distroy ourselves and the earth.
Does this mean I don't try to be a good steward? No, I try to always be frugal and kind to the earth.

Saver Queen said...

Hi Melinda,
While I don't doubt that your lifestyle will have a considerable positive impact on the world around you, I think that, instead of asking whether or not our actions enough to change the world, we should simply ask ourselves what kind of life we want to lead, and what kind of legacy we want to leave. I used to believe that I would save the world and now I realize I won't, but nevertheless I can still lead a life that is full of meaning, and will, in its own ways, contribute to change, growth, and peace. Even if it is not of tremendous magnitude, I want to use the resources I have at my disposal - my time and money -in ways that reflect my values.

Vegbee said...

Perhaps I can not steer the world's path, but I think it is my job to live with intregrity and my responsibility to to live as a good steward. I owe the world so much more than it owes me - I try to always keep that in mind.

Green Bean said...

First, the title is genius! Love it. And I agree - it is harnessing the energy that is out there. I don't have the answers. I think along the same lines as you - do my part on a personal level, try to "spread the word", work on a local level in my city (I think this is crucial as change can happen very quickly at local levels; it is a small pond and one voice can be very loud), and keeping hope alive. I have it. Now let's get to work.

FiFi said...

Well funnily enough, I'm sitting here at work and my boss was complaining just now about how high her electricity bill is and how she thinks its awful. She's paying around £70 a month. I finally got to show off a bit as they all think I'm barmy for wanting to inconvenience myself for the sake of the planet, and they all laugh at my views thinking, I think, that I'm naive and simple a bit. So when I said my monthly bill is £30, I find they're taking notice now! And to be fair, I'm not even the most frugal I can be - I have a long way to go yet.

But you see, people are ignorant of these issues. If we can get them on a point they care about - i.e. their wallets - then things may come to change.

Its slowly started to happen recently, I think it will start to landslide soon as the recession really bites, but people will be forced into the position of having to be more frugal in order to survive. I don't think people have any idea what's coming.

And no offence, Posh and Trendy, I'm glad you are kind to the Earth, but I wouldn't put too much faith in god on this one. I don't believe he exists, and I respect that you disagree with that but I do think its dangerous and naive to offload the responsibility by saying as you have that he's decided how the world will end and that's how it will be. Its humanity that, if we don't wake up really soon, will destroy itself. There are so many tipping points waiting to go with the environment, that it could happen at any moment. I'm personally waiting for the disaster at any time!

I hope we manage to reverse the situation before it gets to that stage.

By the way, I think this is an excellent post and its really fired me up to make more changes and be more true to my beliefs. I'm too tied up in the rat race doing a nine-to-five job which is slowly destroying my soul.

Sorry to have rambled, and thanks for listening!!

Bobbi said...

Is it me or is there a pattern out there this week? Let's call it 'now what?' For Americans, at least some of us, we've been hyperfocusing on getting the Repubs out of office, so much so that we don't know what to do now that we've done it. We've pulled together in phonebanking and other activities and we're a little lost. We need our own 'transition team'...or maybe it's just me. Good post.

Annette said...

I too have wondered about what I can do to reduce my carbon footprint. Depending on the online calculator, my print is too big for my comfort. I worry about the type of world we are leaving for our kids and grandkids. The National scene seems so overwhelming and so I concentrating on changes within my community as I feel they will be like ripples in the pond and will slowly affect the much larger picture.
Thank you for this post!

Electronic Goose said...

I love your comment about not preaching to the converted, but harnessing their energy. It is through such a powerful feeling of responsibility and an intense caring that you display that we will all change.

Margaret's Ramblings said...

I also have struggled with these questions, but mine were in the 1970s when my children were small and every day it seemed that the world was closer to a nuclear disaster. I spent many sleepless nights wondering what kind of world I had brought my children into and what was their future. It was an elderly neighbour who gave me the answer. She said that if we looked at the whole world and tried to fix thhe problems it faced we would become paralized with the fear and nothing would be accomplished. But if we all just concentrated on making sure our small piece of this planet was the best we can make it, eventually all the small bits would be joined together and that is what makes a difference. And that is how I try to live my ife - by making my carbon footprint smaller, encouraging others to do the same and hopefully we will make a difference. This piece of advice has given me a lot of peace and encouragement over the years when I have looked at the human races carbon footprint. I hope it makes it easier you. Sometimes we have to concentrate on the little trees so the forest can remain healthy.

home handymum said...

Thanks Melinda,

I loved this post (just as I've found heaps of posts at the Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op to be very helpful).

The issue of building community is crucial - you and Green Bean sum it up very well.

This post and some of the others you link to are in my blog as of yesterday!

cliftonhill said...

Yes, I think we all have to believe that we can each do something, and as the US election result shows, a lot of those individual beliefs can effect change.
For a horrifying view of the future if we don't, Cormac McCarthy's novel The Road is unforgettable.It's being released as a movie next year, but it is a gripping, post nuclear( I think) scenario.Really frightening, and motivating not only in living simply, but also in cherishing family.

Melinda said...

Rose, thank you for your wonderful comment - the last point you make is a very sad one. I wish I could snap my fingers and make climate change go away - but alas, we must do hard work instead! But I agree completely: thank goodness for the internet, to help us inspire and push one another!

Posh & Trendy, Thank you for your comment. We see the world in a very different way, though I imagine we are equally spiritual.

I do wonder if there is a god, but if there is, I cannot imagine that he would really be ok with how we are treating other species he created (ie, by letting them go extinct in great numbers), nor how we treat other people he has created (by allowing them to suffer by the lifestyle of excess that we have chosen).

So even if you believe in a different fate, I hope compassion for other creatures will prevail and motivate you to change not only your lifestyle, but those around you.

Saver Queen, what an interesting way of looking at this same idea. And it sounds like you live a lifestyle that is true to your ideals. That is truly wonderful.

You have made me relook at my words. I suppose I meant not that I alone would ever be able to change the world single-handedly, but that I could motivate others to live like I do, in ways that reflect my values as you say. And that if I can infect others with the passion - and compassion - with which I lead my life, then they will in turn infect others with their passion and compassion, and so on. And in that way, what was once my own individual actions will become a chorus of change that together can make more of a difference for our future.

Vegbee, that is a wonderful thing to keep in mind - thank you for sharing it!

Green Bean, thank you. : ) It is good to hear your voice here. Yes, let's get to work!!

FiFi, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post and that it has inspired you!! It's good to hear! Please feel free to comment at length here. : )

I have found that people are very motivated to change if it affects their family budgets - I think it is a great way to get people around us to change their actions. I certainly wish everyone in the world were as passionate as I am about saving the planet and its people, its species, its peace, its diversity... And there is room for motivating others with compassion as well. We all have it, but sometimes it is locked further within us!

I'm glad you're fired up!!!

Bobbi, Mmm, I hadn't thought of it that way but of course. Now we have the mental space, also, to think beyond the election. To get back to working on the long term! I hope we can harness the energy that we've all put into the election, and put it toward helping our childrens' future.

Annette, lovely imagery. Ripples... and waves. ; ) You're welcome - thank you for your comment.

Electric Goose, wonderful words - thank you.

Margaret's Ramblings, I was a child of the 70s and had recurring nightmares of a nuclear war. Your neighbor has wonderful advice. I am working most within my own community, making it stronger, more adaptable, and motivating others to support one another.

And being from Seattle, I have seen how our city's innovative programs - inspiring programs that work - can inspire others in the world to use our models. So the harder we work to make positive change successful in our families and communities, the more our actions and successes will inspire other families and communities!

Home Handymum, Thank you so much for writing about my posts! I am very honored. The beauty of the internet is that people like Green Bean and I and you can feed one another inspiration and motivation. Let's continue doing so!!

Cliftonhill, 'A lot of individual beliefs can effect change' - indeed!! Here's to a continued effort to do so together -