Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What do you do when you're overwhelmed?

I'm feeling overwhelmed by a few things environment-related. The first is, of course, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, which is appearing more and more each day to be an environmental catastrophe the scope of which the world has never before seen. Even my daughter seems to realize it. She had heard about it from radio news stories in the car and was asking questions, so I showed her some photos of the oil spill on the Internet. Her response was, "Mama, we have to do something. What can we do to help?"

But so far, I have done nothing. It can be so easy to get (choose one: busy, lazy, apathetic) about these things. But I also feel overwhelmed because I realize that my efforts alone aren't enough, that we as a society have to drastically change.

I am also feeling this way because I recently watched the No Impact Man movie, after waiting for it for months at the library. It's incredible just how radical the Beavan family was in their decision to live one year with as little environmental impact as possible. And it's a reminder just how many things I have yet to change.

But from reading the book, I know that Colin Beavan wanted to be so radical because he no longer wanted to sit on the sidelines with causes he cares about, because he wanted to see what was possible in terms of reducing one's impact, and because he wanted to become a credible spokesperson for environmental issues by walking the talk. He found that some things were too onerous to continue after the year was up (such as doing laundry by hand), but other things made his and his family's lives better.

I think I have to remember that. To give a (very) small example of better, I have seasonal allergies and year-round allergies to dust mites, so I have a runny nose pretty much all the time. I used to carry tissue with me constantly, and no matter how carefully I thought I checked my pockets, invariably I'd overlook a tissue in some item of clothing. This meant that whenever I did my laundry, I'd find small pieces of tissue on all the clothes in the load when the wash was done.

I no longer use tissue but handkerchiefs instead, and guess what? Even if I leave one in a pocket, no tissue scraps on the rest of my laundry! OK, small victory, but maybe it's remembering those things that will help me not feel overwhelmed. And maybe also motivate me to do something about the BP oil spill.

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