I’m not a superhero, but I want to make a difference.

I’m not a superhero, but I want to make a difference.

The earth is in crisis. Wouldn’t it be great if a superhero could swoop in and save—not the earth but—everyone from the hassle of having to deal with the changes?

Because that’s what really needs to happen. People need to change in some big ways and fast. And who wants that? Change is hard. We often only adapt to change when it’s forced upon us either by government, banks, laws, or social pressure. Or we might choose it ourselves when something external makes us uncomfortable. 

Nature is starting to make me uncomfortable. Namely the weather. Until the past two years, it’s been hard to imagine the changes that are coming, the disruptions that will follow, or the impact that big change and disruption will have on our lives. But the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us what we can live without and highlighted our ability to work together toward a common goal.

In addition to a politically charged novel about a Green-party activist, Petra by Shaena Lambert, I’ve recently read two environmental books—The Day the World Stops Shopping by J.B. MacKinnon and Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation by Paul Hawken. 

Amazingly, these books have left me feeling optimistic and inspired because it turns out there are many superheros out there working on several aspects of earth-saving already. Hurray for all the super smart scientists, activists, and philanthropists inventing, building, preserving, and educating.

Is it a tough grind for them? Likely, yes. I bet each one would gratefully accept a few more people helping them push their particular ball up the hill. I think we’d all be more grateful and inspired if we were even aware of what the brainy folks were working on, but they’re probably too busy doing their superhero duty to stop and shout out about it much.

That’s where the artists come in. The message I took from the books I read was: Look, this is happening. The earth is in trouble. Smart caring people are working on it, they need your help, this is a movement, and everyone is invited. Everything is a niche because an individual can only work on one piece at a time, but it’s all interconnected, and it all matters all at the same time. And that time is now.

With all that urgency in the air, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by what needs to be done or guilty for not doing enough. I have to remind myself that I’m making a difference in small ways, and I can continue to learn and grow and change and improve. I don’t see science in my future, and my arts endeavours are intermittent and rare—I’ll count this blog post as one positive action. 

What we contribute in the day-to-day does matter, and our actions do make a difference. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Turn thermostats down at night. Turn lights off when not in use. Turn the tap off while toothbrushing. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take responsibility for trash by not littering. Eat less meat. Stop using plastic bags and straws. Most people with an environmental conscience have already embraced these activities years ago. But we need to make a larger impact now. We need to take the next steps. Bigger steps.

This feels like a moment in history where short-term pain really will create long-term gain. And the harsh reality is that short-term pain is actually only required by half the population because the other half is already suffering. We need massive changes, huge corporations and industries to shift their focus, and a big re-think on world equity and how to reach it more quickly so that we can all get working together toward the common goal.

There is no single superhero that can save the earth, and only you can save yourself from the discomfort of change. What are you willing to suffer for and how would you like your suffering served? Perhaps it’s time to sacrifice comfort in one thing for comfort in another.

Here is a list of things to consider for making a bigger difference. Each suggestion sacrifices either time, money, convenience, or comfort, and gains LIFE. Several of them also save money.

Clothing

  • Commit to no more than seven new items per year.
  • Choose quality and ethical production over price.
  • Wear clothes until they wear out.

Food

  • Reduce meat consumption.
  • Grow food and support local growers.
  • Stop buying pop, candy, and processed convenience foods.
  • Refuse plastic packaging.

Transportation

  • Walk or bike more.
  • Use a car share or take the bus.
  • Choose an EV if you can’t live without a vehicle.

Home energy

  • Conserve electricity. Turn the heat down two degrees.
  • Remove gas furnaces, fireplaces, hot water tanks and appliances.
  • Choose a smaller home.

Finances

  • Learn where your bank invests.
  • Pull your money away from corporations that pollute.
  • Don’t rely on offsets as a measure of goodwill.

Ask your community (or town, city, province, state, etc.) to:

  • reduce parking spaces
  • add pedestrian-only areas
  • invest in car-sharing or bike-sharing
  • promote reconciliation with Indigenous peoples

I’m doing several of the above already, but I also participate in guilty pleasures or take shortcuts from time to time. In each instance, I have to forgive myself, remember all the ways that I do contribute, and aim to do better next time. Of course.

But if I put myself in the shoes of someone living in poverty in India, or as a civil-war rape victim in Ethiopia, or inhabiting a refugee camp in Bangladesh, I’m given a different perspective. The lists above mean nothing to someone who has no food, no clothes, no shelter, no safety, no transportation, and no money to make choices about. If I’m really committed to a better world for all, I need to stretch beyond a list of platitudes.

Big changes in how we shop, where we invest, and what we choose to support will mean a lot of displaced workers. I wonder if our workforces could be mobilized to:

  • dismantle weapons
  • clean up trash from beaches and oceans
  • feed people everywhere
  • plant trees
  • regenerate mangroves, peatlands, grasslands, wetlands
  • create more green technology
  • employ industries that promote well-being

John Lennon said, “Imagine,” and we imagined. Jewel said, “If praying were enough, it would’ve come to be.” Imagining and praying are important first steps in manifesting the reality we want. 

The next step is action.

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