Everything You Do Matters

This post is part of Blog Action Day, and is my contribution to the event, for which over 15,000 blogs have signed up to participate.

Everything You Do Matters

I can’t rattle off facts about the environment like I could in elementary school. I can’t quote data about climate change (or even lines from An Inconvenient Truth, for that matter). I can’t say for sure how much of a climate crisis our world is facing, and in what ways (if at all) our actions have contributed to an acceleration of global warming and its brethren. Will the polar ice caps melt? Will lower Manhattan become submerged? Will hurricanes and tornadoes and tsunamis and acid rain and fires cause irreparable damage to our precious planet, leading to conditions that are unlivable?

Or are we making a big fuss about nothing? Are the crises we’re observing part of a cycle? Is it possible that humans have an altogether insignificant effect on the health of the planet?

I can’t answer these questions.

And a lot of smarter people than me can’t agree on the answers either (though there are a lot of them who do agree). But what I want to say is that the answers to those questions are more or less irrelevant. What I want to say is that these questions are merely a way to frame the issue of individual and corporate and societal responsibility to life and health and livelihood and humanity as a political one. What I want to say is that taking care of the earth - and, as a consequence, ourselves - is and should not be a question. What I want to say is that politicizing the issue of global climate change leads to far too much fruitless debate, and far too little action.

What I want to say is that everything you do matters.

The world is connected, and each individual action is a world-changing one. In living our lives, we are not merely influencing things on a global scale. We are - in each moment, each choice, each gesture - creating a new world. Every moment life begins again, and in our hands is the ability to shape reality, to make things, and make things beautiful.

God or evolution or something we can’t even imagine has given us the ability to do magic with our hands and minds and hearts. By recognizing our responsibility to act, and, indeed, the impossibility of inaction, we can begin to see the importance of making deliberate, considered, aware decisions in everyday life. Not because you can “save the world,” but because you can increase your quality of life, and the quality of life for those around you and those who inhabit the earth after you.

What does this all mean practically?

  • It means that even if humans have little to do with climate change (indeed, even if it doesn’t exist), you should choose to live better.
  • It means that there is no excuse not the make more environmentally-aware decisions, because the benefits far outweigh the costs, even for large corporations, for whom the danger of failing to innovate and increase efficiency by adopting more stringent environmental standards is real.
  • It means that the littlest change in your everyday routine can make a major difference in your life and the lives of those around you.
  • It means that taking sides in a political debate on climate change is a waste of time, and serves only to increase spending on lobbyists to little end, and strengthen the partisan divide over an issue that intrinsically has nothing to do with the differences in philosophy between Republicans and Democrats.
I’m saying you should be selfish.
Not in the lazy manner to which most people are accustomed. Not selfishness created by lack of interest and motivation. But selfishness in the most proactive sense of the word.

I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t like life to be longer, better, easier - for themselves and for their children. Well, it’s time we started acting like it. Buying compact fluorescent light bulbs, reducing carbon emissions, investing in renewable sources of energy, driving less, walking more, eating better, replacing old stuff with more energy-efficient models - there are countless things you can do that are both unquestionably better for the environment, and unquestionably better for you, with benefits ranging from the financial to the time-saving, as well as increased health and well-being for you and your family and your community and your country and the world.

Be selfish. Not lazy. Choose to recognize the impact of every decision you make.

Everything you do matters. Don’t underestimate the power of one person.

Believe. Make. Imagine. Build. Create. Connect. Inspire. Embrace. Dream.

Life is too short not to care. Really. It’s far too short.

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