I am about to break the party line. Forgive me in advance. For the past 5 years I have studied what motivates people to engage with addressing the state of the environment. I have developed a kind of recipe if you will, information, instigation, inspiration, and a distinct absence of blame or guilt.
The unspoken special sauce to this communication strategy is to deliver in a chipper-off-the cuff-slightly-irreverent-Pollyanna "we can do it!" tone. But today, I'm not feeling it. Today, I'm surrendering to the truth of the fear and the hopelessness I feel.
Granted I just walked through the perfect storm~ in the midst of preparing the reclaimin' the ocean's project, I immersed myself in information about the state of our oceans and have come to understand the state of pollution, the effects of plastics, and the rate of over fishing. Meanwhile I traveled to the heart of our country exploring food justice and obesity issues and experienced a food desert first hand, where the only options are fast food restaurants and where local restaurants and grocery stores are becoming a rare commodity. Add one 4 hour flight across the country sitting next to a dairy farmer who explained how he couldn't survive with out Monsanto, and top it all off with a conversation with an energy specialist in China who reminded me it doesn't matter what we do in this country if China doesn't go green.
So you might understand my predicament when my best friend from high school called and explained that as a mother of two she feels helpless the more she learns about the state of the world, and then asks me for advise on what she should she do. My first inclination was to hop in bed and turn on HULU. Except they just canceled my drug of choice (Ugly Betty), so all that's left is to go for a hike and write this (it's too early in the day for a shot of tequila).
My friend Amy Wilson used to tell a story when fundraising for her film about climate change used to tell the story of the youth whose bus was kidnapped and driven into a mineshaft. They all thought for sure they were going to die. Except some of the kids tried to dig themselves out while others gave up hope. The bus was rescued, and years later psychologists went back to study the youth. They found that the ones who tried to dig themselves out even when there didn't seem to be any hope were the ones who went on to live well adjusted lives, while the others ended up permanently traumatized by the event.
So here is the shovel I am using today:
1. Listen to my enemy:
Even though I live a comfortable life that depends on it, I can't help but see large industry as an enemy to the planet. So, in essence, the dairy farmer (who was on the board of the dairy association) could be seen as the enemy. But when I listened to him, and as we shared our stories, we passed over the bridge of his Mormon beliefs and my Jewish beliefs. He explained, "If people want to eat in this country, then you are going to depend on people like me. So the question becomes what do you support, people like me, or outsource your food to developing countries who have no regulations? Thirty percent of dairy farms are going to go out of business this year. Where will your milk come from?"
He again explained, everything has to run at maximum profitability. "It would be nice if the cow could walk out to pasture between milking, but they would spend too much energy and we wouldn't get enough milk. Is it better two have 2-3 cows to make the same about of milk I can get out of one cow? Think about the carbon footprint. People don't want to deal with the consequences of their needs and desires." I kind of admired him for throwing the brand of the green movement at me.
This is just a short excerpt from our conversation (stay tuned for an epic blog post), but the take away is that I learned that we aren't listening to each other, and yet at the end of the day, we all want the same thing, to support our families and live happy lives.
2. Radical Love
"Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence"
At this point, if someone asked me what to do to save the planet, given my current state of mind, I would say the only thing worth doing is love radically, openly, and unabashedly. Now I know what your thinking, that girl's been drinking the water in California for too long. Get your mind out of the gutter. I'm talking the Dali Llama version of love: 'Compassion and love are not mere luxuries. As the source both of inner and external peace, they are fundamental to the continued survival of our species.' It's about finding a way to love the woman who tells you that gay people are sinners, the heads of companies who are mass producing plastics that are killing our planets, and everyone who has access to information about how to engage with the planet and turns in the other direction. Love them with everything you have. The one thing I know for sure, once we make love, it doesn't die. So I figure the more love we have in the world, the better off we all are.
3. Self Reliance
I spent seven years working as a wilderness guide, and the first lesson we taught was self-reliance. It's a term that is easily misunderstood, because while self reliance involves basic skills such as, in our case, growing your own food, understanding basic systems such as water storage, solar and hydro energy, and food and seed preservation; it also includes clear communication, organizing with your community, and asking for help when you need it. The more I learn about this world, the more I believe that the solutions are in creating smaller communities that are self sustainable.
I've come to disagree with the only thing to fear is fear itself. More than anything, I fear lack of vision and lack of imagination. If we can't imagine the kind of ideal future we want then all really is lost.
People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong. Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom? -Thich Nhat Hanh
Ok fine, If you made it this far, you deserve some inspiration:
Graham Hill, founder of Tree Hugger says if you want to have a positive impact on the planet there are 3 things you can do that will have a big impact:
And just for kicks, why not join Roz Savage's eco heroes social network meets foursquare game (hasn't officially launched yet)
And while your at it, check out, Peter Singer's The Life you Can Save.
Follow Leah Lamb on Twitter: www.twitter.com/leahlamb