Thursday, July 27, 2017

Can we really change the world?

I grew up in the generation where we were told we could accomplish anything we set our minds to.  Of course sooner or later we figured out that life was not that simple, but I guess the positive thinking mentality still sticks with me.  I would rather believe that my actions matter than just coast along letting life happen to me. 

The book I've been reading lately, Hope's Effect, describes various people all over the world who are changing their destinies and influencing the world around them.  The premise is to believe that what exists around us now is not inevitable and it can be changed.  We can create what does not exist.  We can help create the world we want to live in. 

I believe that.  I may not be able to create utopia, but I can do something to improve my corner of the world.  I can maximize the resources I have around me and look for new ways to do things.  I can live in alignment with my values.

Unfortunately I see so many people who believe the solution is outside themselves and they are powerless to change anything.  A friend of mine told me how frustrated she was that our town does not recycle.  I was confused and started to tell her where the local drop off spots are and what materials they take.  She interrupted and explained that she meant curb-side recycling.  So, because we didn't have this convenience, she did not recycle at all and she blamed the system.  Now, it is a hassle to sort my trash and collect bags at home and take them across town to the drop off and sometimes I chose not to do it.  Most of the time, though, I make the effort because I believe in not wasting resources and limiting how much trash goes to landfills and I hope that our town council will see that this is important to the public and they might pursue curb-side.  I don't actually mind that my friend did not recycle - that is a personal choice based on values.  What bothered me was that she was blaming 'the system' for not making it convenient.  She relying on 'them' to solve the problem instead of maximizing her own abilities.

I see the same problem when people say healthy food is too expensive and/or they do not have time to cook at home.  See, I can relate to this.  I was that person.  I actually bought those pre-cooked meats and side-dishes at the store.  I used paper plates because I did not have time to wash dishes. I know what it's like to work long hours and come home to take care of children and not have energy to deal with dinner.  However, I started learning about the dangers of our highly processed diet.  I began to realize that the way I was eating was making me fat and sick.  The convenience foods I was buying were solving one problem but creating others.  I could complain about how the gov't and the food system were not taking care of us.  I could bemoan the cost of organic vegetables and grass-fed meat.  Or, I could make as many changes as my circumstances would allow.  I started making more home-made dishes.  I learned to cook extra and freeze it so I had easy meals to warm up on those busy nights.  I looked for alternatives to some of our favorite processed foods.  I experimented with vegetable dishes and bought organic when the food budget allowed.  I visit both local farmer's markets even though they are small.  I talked to the farmers and got leads on local ranchers who raise cows, pigs, and chickens and sell the butchered meat.  It wasn't easy, and it surely wasn't convenient, but I changed how my family eats and improved our health.  I'm not saying everyone can or even should do what I did.  Some can do more and some can do less, but we can all do something.

I'm certainly not perfect, and I do my share of complaining about the systems around me that seem unfair or unreasonable.  However, more and more I am choosing not to just accept my plight but to "do what I can with what I have where I am." 

Let's all create the world we want to live in.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Does it Really Matter

The school where I teach did several project-based learning units this year.  We took a central theme and applied it to all the various subjects students were taking.  One of the themes was Environmental Responsibility.  We looked at several big areas of environmental problems as well as how these problems could be turned around.

I was very surprised by my students' reactions.  Unlike me these kids grew up with 'reduce, reuse, recycle' and they were pretty familiar with the Garbage Patch and the ocean dead zones.  It was not a new topic so I understood that they were not always spell-bound.  What surprised me was their lack of personal action and their fatalism.  They willingly wrote essays about how industrial farming methods are bad for animals and increase disease in our food supply while finishing up their fast-food hamburger from lunch.  They drew recycling posters and threw their scraps in the trash. It seemed like there was no connection between what they knew and their personal action choices.   One day we were discussing an extreme ecological experiment called No Impact where Colin Beaven worked for one year to reduce his negative environmental impact to zero,  He figured out how to not create trash, he walked or biked everywhere, he and his family ate local food and even turned off the electricity for part of the year.  Eventually, one of my student asked the question, "But did any of that really matter?"  This and other comments made me realize that many of them felt that their own personal actions did nothing to solve the Earth's problems.  They had decided that our world is doomed and there was nothing they could do about it. 

I found this expounded on in a book called Hope's Edge. "...we don't experience ourselves as creating this world; we don't see ourselves as choosers at all.  Our planet-in-decline is just happening... What we have is all there is."

My first reaction was to feel sad that our youth could have such a doom and gloom outlook.  Then I began to wonder if they were right.  Did the bags of paper I dragged out of school to take to the local drop off really matter?  Was my paying extra to get local vegetables from the farmer's market really helping carbon emissions and putting a dent in the industrial food system?  Did my local action even matter?

Here is my answer - I chose to buy vegetables and even meat from my local farmers and ranchers because I don't want food riddled with antibiotics, pesticides, and herbicides.  So, first of all it makes a difference to me and hopefully to my family's health.  My money helps support small farmers who are creating a food system that I believe in.  Along with other 'shoppers' we allow these farmers to keep doing what they believe in and not quit or convert to industrial methods.  I think it makes a difference to them.  I like knowing that the meat I eat comes from animals that had a good life.  They got to play and frolic and eat the things they were meant to eat.  Yes, they ended up on my plate, but they did not live a life of torture and disease first.  I think it makes  a difference to those animals.  So, my food choices may not change the world (although the food movement is growing and seeing an influence), but it is influencing my corner of the world, and I think it does matter.

Although this post has centered around environmental issues, it really touches on my whole worldview.  I believe in local action, I believe in people influencing and helping people.  I believe in living out what you say you believe.  I believe that God works through each one of us to make this world a better place.  We are each the little boy in the poem who keeps throwing starfish back into the ocean because, "it makes a difference to that one".  Go save some starfish.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The choir

I have a choir of voices in my head. They have been there as long as I can remember. They tell me things like "You are worthless," "Everything is your fault," "You are broken," and You are unloveable." (not audible voices of course)

Through counseling and meditation I was able to shush them, but they always came back when life got tough.  Where did they come from and why couldn't I get rid of them?

I have had a revelation. Those voices are not evil spirits or people from my past. They are me. At different times in my life things happened that I processed negatively and the beliefs were born. I can't just bury or erase them because part of me believes they are true. I envision each of these past troubles as a voice speaking it's truth to me.

I think each of these little people inside me needs to be heard and healed instead of ignored.

I started with the youngest one. She (I) is a little baby who was held tightly and shushed by her mother whenever her Daddy was doing his college homework. I visualized her and asked her what she had to say. It was a lot. She said she learned that her needs were not important. She learned to hide her feelings because they were bad and displeased other people. She believed that it was her fault if other people failed and to never make someone else mad.

In my mind I held her and sought to speak the truth to her. I told her she was loved. I reminded her of pictures of her daddy playing with her and kind words her mom spoke through the years. Then I told her that she was not responsible for other people's choices. Her dad could have gone to the library; her mom could have taken her for a walk. Her fussing was not responsible for any trouble he had studying or any arguments they had over it. You had a right to express your needs at the time. Lastly, your mom and dad did the best they knew how at the time and they loved you.

In the end I could envision that little baby sleeping contentedly in her mom's arms. I don't think her voice will be in my choir any longer at least not the same way.

I am excited to start this journey. I believe it is the path to peace.