By Lynn Capuano
Climate change news can be depressing and overwhelming. It can leave you feeling powerless and hopeless. It is incumbent upon us therefore to imagine a future with possibilities because it is belief in the possible where change happens. That change begins with each of us.
The question, of course, is what is the change that is needed? Environmental issues, like most topics, are complicated. You pull a thread of a topic you come across and quickly, without much effort, you realize that thread is connected to many more threads that are tangled and leading in many directions. You can start to go down the proverbial rabbit hole, chasing the threads, trying to find where they lead, but the journey is ongoing.
For example, I recently started to read a bit about the pros and cons from an environmental perspective of living in a city vs. the suburbs or the country. After a few articles, it became clear that there is no definitive answer. While the city offers certain efficiencies because of more condensed living, it also may have a greater energy demand because of technology and offers less exposure to nature, which can have a negative effect on people’s interest in caring for the environment.
As I read, there was more information for each column: city living is better or suburban/rural living is better. As with many decisions we make each day and over our lifetime, it can be complicated and require us to value certain outcomes, effects, and consequences more than others. It matters that we make these choices with as much awareness and knowledge as we can manage because the choices are the basis for the change necessary to achieve the possible.
I had a brief conversation a few days ago with an environmental entrepreneur active in various environmental efforts. She talked about the value of talking with a farmer who can speak from personal experience about the environmental difference in raising free-range chickens, organic chickens, grain-fed chickens and other types of chickens when at the grocery store faced with the decision of what kind of eggs to buy. That can be a daunting decision. There are many kinds of eggs available these days. Which ones do you pick? And how do you factor the packaging the eggs come in into your decision? What about taste and cost? Did you ever think that your choice of which eggs to buy would have a global impact?
So many decisions we make these days are fraught. There is so much consequence to the choices. And the choices are not simple because the issues are complicated. The free-range eggs are good because the chickens are able to contribute to the life cycle of the fields they range in, but are the fields being treated with pesticides or herbicides? So should you get the organic eggs because of the health concerns from pesticides and herbicides? But those eggs come in plastic packaging and we know plastic never goes away and contributes to climate change and causes a long list of other problems.
It’s no wonder we’re hearing more about diagnoses of climate anxiety and rising rates of depression sometimes linked to climate change concerns and other global problems. If buying a dozen eggs requires a Ph.D, how do most of us feel good about the decisions we make all day every day that we know are having long-term environmental consequences? We can’t possibly keep up with all the information and know all there is to know to make the “right” decision. And we cannot ignore the mental and emotional toll this can take as well – worrying and thinking about every choice and decision and what the outcomes of each will be.
Activism, as practiced in an array of ways, can help. Making a conscious choice about which eggs to buy can be your activism, that step you take to make a difference in the world. And that step can feel good and help to realize the possibility of the future. The key is to pick something that matters to you and do something about it. Make a social media post, make a purchasing decision, read a book or an article, join a group or make a donation.
The point is not to sink into the mass of information and be buried by it or immobilized by it, but to focus on an issue or an idea that resonates with you and to get active in a way that works for you. Your actions can affect others and that is how individual steps become collective steps and how we make change and achieve the possible.
As the time for resolutions approaches, think about some promises for the new year like being a conscious consumer or learning more about how your lifestyle impacts the environment and climate change. There is plenty to choose from when it comes to issues needing our attention. All that needs to happen is for us all to act in whatever way we can and whatever way we choose.