Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When doing your best is not enough

I have blogged before that when it comes to going green, you should do the best you can rather than feeling guilty about what you can't do. I've blogged about the importance of making small steps, and how the small steps of many can make a big impact. I've even ranted about those who would criticize the green steps of others because those steps are less than perfect from an eco-perspective, not considering that that step may be the best the person can do in their circumstances, and may lead to bigger steps if you don't turn them off with smug attitudes.

I still think those things are true. One of the reasons I started this blog was to encourage people who feel left out of the environmental movement because of race, income, time, access, knowledge (both skills and awareness), etc., that green really can be for the rest of us.

But what happens when the best you can do isn't enough? When the small steps don't add up enough to save our world? I read this article today, about the threat of mass extinction of all marine life due to climate change. If that happens, humanity and our planet are screwed. There is so much division, greed and hostility in our nation and world that I fear we might never come together even to address our species' very survivial.

It makes me feel at times as if my green journey is for naught, and my green steps are just useless gestures to make me feel a little more in control and less overwhelmed. Any thoughts? Ideas? Reasons for hope?


  1. Hi Amy,

    I started reading your blog quite recently, when you commented on Crunchy Chicken's survey about which 'extreme' green actions you did already/would like to do.  I'm looking forward to following your journey :-)

    I've been pondering this post over the last few days, and would like to share a few thoughts.

    1. I love your blog title.  Green not only can be for the rest of us: in some ways, many of those who are excluded from the 'green movement' are actually already 'greener' than many of the 'converted'.  By that I mean that those who live less resource-intensive lives because of their low socioeconomic status are often consuming fewer resources and generating less pollution than many people who recycle everything and dream of owning a Prius.

    2. We have a really big problem here.  As that report you mentioned says, the oceans are dying, and big changes are needed.  So, while everyone has to start somewhere, and small steps often lead to bigger steps later on, we really really need lots of people to take big steps very soon!  In my own life, that has led to me making baby steps in the world of lobbying.  I feel that making my own life any 'greener' would take an enormous effort and that enormous effort would be better spent trying to change 'the system' instead.  For example, trying to persuade the local council to put in commuter cycleways on major transit routes will go much further towards saving our human habitat than growing all my own food would, and I don't have the energy to do both.  Maybe there are things like that that you could do to work towards making the built environment where you live more eco-friendly?

    3. The problem's not quite as hard to solve as many people seem to think.  My husband and I have been monitoring our use of various resources for the past 3-4 years and comparing how much we use with how much there is to go around.  Whilst our lifestyle is still far from sustainable, we've been pleasantly surprised to realise how well we have been able to do whilst living in a normal house and buying food and goods from very mainstream stores in a rich, Western country.  So, even though radical lifestyle changes in rich countries are necessary if humanity is to survive, I feel that the task is easier than it's often portrayed as being.  It's mostly a matter of not wasting things, not eating much meat and being really careful about travel choices: you don't need everyone to do crazy things like going off grid etc.

    I'd be interested to know what you think.

    --Heather from New Zealand.

  2. Thanks for commenting, Heather, and giving me food for thought. I visited your blog, and like the goal you and your husband have come up with: "To live in such a way that everyone on the planet could live just like us and keep on doing so for the next few centuries without anything stopping them."