Now that even the major commercial media are agreeing that climate change is happening and saying that urgent action needs to be taken, it is heartening to realise that those of us who have been pushing for change are no longer in the minority! It may actually be true that saving the planet is not destructive of the god known as "the economy", but may actually prevent a meltdown of both it and us.
So how can we be a part of the solution, rather than feel we’re helpless or powerless?
Just like starting a new routine, such as going to the gym, I find it best to have a "buddy" with which one can team up. It’s usually best not to start too big, but to build on smaller victories. It may be that you begin by writing some letters to politicians, encouraging them to be true leaders by legislating significant changes, add more buses, or whatever is needed. Don’t be turned off by their initial polite replies. They don’t start to really read until the second or third round.
Other actions can include joining a political party (just pick one) and doing your part, spending some money on improving the energy efficiency of your home (new programs on their way to help encourage you), driving less, taking the bus more, cycling and walking more, better planning trips, car-pooling, and many more.
The hardest thing is to change one’s life-style. No other barrier is ultimately as great. It takes great courage to change one’s life. Yet no other rewards are as big! I know of several people who have had to retire their motor vehicle because it was simply too costly for them. The CAA says that the average cost is now about $10,000 per year per vehicle, so giving up the car is understandable.
At first, these "car-less" people found it a shock. They had to plan their lives in very different ways. One made a job change at the same time, saving the need to have a car. Over the top! But after making these changes something very interesting happened: their stress levels dropped, their appreciation of the ‘now’ increased, and they began to see their lives and the world through different, more positive, lenses.
To the horror of car owners, these people began to use cabs once in a while. (Average cab fare: $25; average daily cost of a car: $27.) They got into much better shape by walking, cycling, and sometimes jogging to their destination. They spent more time with others as a result of car-pooling. Their children learned about cooperation as parents co-ordinated their rides. Cash now freed up was being spent on quality activities and organic food. And their kids got to be in better shape, too.
All of these people spoke about feeling more "grounded" and "balanced" in their lives. (Incidentally, those who have given up their T.V. report similar findings!).
Of course the changes we need to make will be varied. Even committed individuals need to drive around at times. I use the local car-share car (www.cooperativeauto.net) for the occasional use. Booking it is easy and I can have it for my use from a half-hour to a full day or more.
What is most important from my perspective is that any effort, however big or small, is a great way to move away from apathy or hopelessness and toward a sense of empowerment and enthusiasm. And the planet will thank you.
Just know that you are not alone. We’re in this together.
Ian Gartshore is a therapist, minister, volunteer with a non-profit energy conservation organisation, (www.esvi.ca) and an enthusiastic human being.