(why small actions matter)
So here's how I look at it.
What on earth could small personal actions like refusing a plastic bag, eating less meat or swapping some gear possibly do for the big challenges we face on this planet? Think of the scale of problems we are dealing with: politicians denying climate change, multinationals owning politicians, and millions of people not even close to reaching the second level of Maslow’s hierarchy (and no, that’s not a game). It seems futile, even ridiculous.
We need huge steps on a global scale. We need the worldwide conviction that we as a species are just one link in a complex but fragile system, and that it is All We Have. There is indeed no Planet B.
Like a lot of people, I struggle with this. If you ask me if individual actions will solve all problems my answer is always, although reluctantly: of course not. What do you take me for? But I actually should say something different. What I should say, is: no, not as actions on their own. But hell yes, they do matter. A lot actually. Because those small actions in itself might mean little to save the planet, they do set us up for bigger actions.
Like it or not, that is how change works. It’s messy, chaotic, and never straightforward. It’s hard to recognise until it’s there. Change is a muddy pool on the side of the road. Trampled by uncaring bulldozers, trodden by ignorant passersby. But add enough drops of rain to it and it starts flowing. Running into other muddy pools, forming a river, meandering its way into our collective conscience. Until things that looked unthinkable seem reasonable and even logical all of a sudden. Until it becomes the status quo.
Only by looking back you see where it started. And how there is never one definite solution, but a web of both big and small ones that continuously keep changing form. It happened many times before, it will happen many times again.
Do I ever get discouraged when working on things like @shiftcyclingculture? All the time. But then I try to remember that muddy pool. If anything, it's way more fun splashing around in it getting dirty than to pass it by. Let’s not get smug with just exchanging our plastic bottles for a reusable one. But let’s not get discouraged either. Nothing ever changed by doing nothing, did it.
Like habits it is tough to change the status quo. And you bet it takes closer to 66 years than 66 days to do so. But it’s good to get our hands dirty. We might even be able to look back and see the river started with our own little muddy pool. So here’s to all actions, big and small.
Lian van Leeuwen | @saltlake_lian
Founder Shift Cycling Culture