‘You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” – Dr Jane Goodall
Let’s start on a positive: there is always good news to be found and possibilities for action! It is easy to feel that all is bad, that there is so much wrong and suffering in the world. And to a certain extent that is very true, there is a lot wrong and there is a lot of suffering. To be and or continue being a force of good we must find ways to stay grounded, connected and look for opportunities, for good news, finding solutions however small. To keep looking where we can act to make a change, to make something better, to help the healing. To listen, to reflect, to learn, to change considering new teachings, to co-create, and a willingness to serve. This is bigger than me, this is bigger than you, we are all interconnected. It is key to infuse yourself with good news and positive actions as they can be found everywhere when we look beyond the standard news reporting which tends to bring us down rather than energising us. We actively need to bring good news and good actions to the forefront, so we can feel good while doing good. Of course, contributing and engaging in positive actions is key to our own wellbeing.
This is also where the flight of the hummingbird, a parable for the environment comes in. Of course, the parable could be for everyone and everything. And importantly, to act there also does not need to be a fire, it could be a little flame, or even better, it could be the actions that revolve around prevention, like coming together as a community to nourish a patch of wildness and those living there – think squirrel, beetles, and other animals cohabiting in urban areas. It involves seeing all peoples, seeing this beautiful planet we share with others, and to show up daily with two feet on the ground and an open heart. Seeing in the broadest sense of the word, to consider, be kind, compassionate and empathic.
Bridging the empathy gap is to realize and understand that that could be you, that this could be me, could be someone we love. Perhaps it is someone you love, a place you adore, a corner that makes your heart sing, or an animal who you want to care for or protect. Questions I ask are about how I want to show up in the world, how I want to act, being loving, careful, connected, to be a human being and also a human doing.
When we bring attention to what matters to us, to others of all beings and kinds – way beyond humans, understanding what is important for generations to come, when we start to list what and who matters, that list likely includes many beings and spaces way outside of our bubble of influence. Many of those coming to mind, heart, and soul, we cannot reach, protect, shield, or affect. And while it is important to also keep an ‘eye out’ on the ‘bigger picture', we do need to be able to focus on what is nearby, what we can touch with our actions directly, which we can reach with our care, respect, and loving-kindness. Or also think indirectly when purchasing through like-minded organisations, local markets, and alike.
You know you can vote and influence with your wallet. From buying at the local market for local fruit and vegetables, a second-hand shop for upcycling furniture, buying in glass, without plastic, in bulk, start a sharing community for drills and other items you use 2x a year maybe, use water for food rather than grass, and so on. You can use your purchase power when supporting local businesses, paying for fair prices for farmers and other workers, and importantly, buying as little as possible new stuff. You can make a change by volunteering, spending time with the elderly who have no one left, seeing the homeless person asking their name and how you could help, eradicating the use of straws in your town. You can focus on your balcony, planting herbs, flowers, and small bushes to attract the butterflies and bees, you can decide to use the bus more often, cycle, use fabric bags for grocery shopping, eliminate plastic, or set a limit. For example, I choose that the only bananas I am allowed to buy are those coming from the Canary Islands (I live in Spain), and all food must be locally sourced, and I do not buy in plastic. So no blueberry and other soft fruits unless I can bring my own container. Bummer? Yes. Can I do without? Absolutely, no big deal.
No more hiding behind ‘yes, buts’, no more pointing at others who do not pull their weight according to us, large multinationals, politicians and governments, etc. I must remember that when I point, there are always 3 fingers pointing back at me. Let’s focus on yourselves, support those organisations who say yes to a more equal and just world, cheer on the politicians who continue their struggle for change, focus on grassroots, put our energy and effort into what can be, what is good. It also requires saying no to things that are not part of healing, of change, and yes, some things you might miss – like those individually wrapped chocolates, that exotic fruit from faraway places, regularly new clothes, furniture, getting on a plane for yet another trip of sightseeing, or even a new phone every year or 2. Most is a privilege, is luxury, is excess. For true change, we need to make true choices and move beyond the more superficial actions such as recycling all those plastic bottles – most recycling is not successful for a myriad of reasons but that is for another post.
Framing it in ‘I get to do this’ shifts our minds into giving and caring, and away from feelings of sacrificing, being a victim, or even self-glorifying ‘look at me being so good’ style, so let’s try not to get on a high horse. Also, I (you) also do not need to ‘feel like it’ to know and feel that it is important to do it anyway.
Are you an organisation, small through large? You too can become an Earth Charter International partner, using the Earth Charter as a lens to make decisions. You can act using the Sustainable Development Goals. You can use your organisation and business as a force for good, including by becoming a B Corporation certified. As an individual there are many options to interact with the Earth Charter and SDGs among other organizations, approaches, and activities, just find what resonates with you. We can each aim repeatedly to walk the talk on true sustainability, accessibility, inclusion, diversity, equity, and equality. You review and assess and change your approaches, align your actions to the purpose. Will I, you, we be perfect? No. Can we strive for progress and excellence? Yes! I could keep writing on and on for examples, the opportunities to act are endless, as an individual and as an organisation.
Knowing that we cannot do ‘it all’, help or save everyone, or everything, that it is impossible for 1 human being to do it all, is reality. Accepting this is key to our wellbeing, and while holding space for sadness and grief – for example, ecological grief is known as the emotional heartbreak and mourning for the loss of species and natural environment, is important. We must bear witness to the continued injustice, violence, disrespect, lack of care and love for marginalized peoples and communities, including other animals, and the greater community of life. We can acknowledge our frustration, and even anger, and use these energies as fuel to act in our bubble of influence, to create positive changes however small. We must continue to learn, to listen, to stay open to change. To acknowledge that there is much we have no idea of and perhaps one day I am called out for being unaware, insensitive, not considering. Being called out, or called in, I can try my best to meet with humility and curiosity, with compassion and kindness, to see where I was blind, considered, cared for, and respected. I can do my best to act in ways to help heal, to show up differently, to grow, to stay humble.
Zooming in and out is an important exercise, while at the same time we need to decide what we can commit to, what it is that we can do, small steps every day, including the same steps. Planting a tree or bush each day will see a forest or patch of wildness grow, cooking and bringing that meal every day, will bring comfort, care, and feelings of loving-kindness to your loved ones, the homeless person who has a name, the neighbour who lives alone. No more plastic and a plant-based diet can keep the Amazon breathing, jaguars roaming, indigenous peoples safe in their homes, and turtles no longer mistaking bags for jellyfishes.
From think global, act local, you can also follow consider global and act local, as we unite for change and as a force for good. Instead of saying that it doesn’t matter, that so many do not care, to not recycle, reduce, or eliminate unnecessary purchases, etc. That most do not live simply so others can simply live, instead say that it matters, because it does. It matters to you, it matters to us all, interconnected on this beautiful planet we share, for future generations of all beings.
You matter and what you do matters. Be the change you want to see in the world Gandhi said and decide on the difference you want to make. Be vibrantly radiating out your light, it can also inspire others to shine their lights of change. Look for other lights to feel inspired and supported. Notice how we all have different lights shining, to see more clearly, to act alongside each other, and if you can, to hold the light for those who cannot hold it for themselves. Let’s all be hummingbirds, small but powerful, shining all kinds of lights for a brighter world.