If you’ve been here before, THANK YOU for hanging out.
If you’re new, I’m Sarah, and I went to school to learn about how people work and now I earn a living in social services where I take care of people and help them grow. I’ve spent a long time now learning why people do the things they do, and how to help them make changes in their lives. Most people are happy to invest in changing their health, their finances, even their relationships but not many people think about changing how they live on and in the world and whether they can make lifestyle changes to tread more lightly.
People are beautiful, wonderful, amazing, complex [ and a little effed up ] creatures. Nature is priceless. People need air to breathe, water to drink, nourishment and resources. There is nature without people, but there are no people without nature.
Even so, some people take nature for granted. We continue to make – and buy – more technology, drive more cars, toss more ‘garbage’ [ whether it is truly trash or not ]. We assume it is normal to buy single use items that are wrapped in plastic [ ahem: tampons, kleenex, snacks, paper plates ] so we can own them for a day and toss both the wrapper and the item once we’ve used them once. That’s the new normal. And it’s not easy to challenge the status quo.
Because we want to belong. We have a natural human drive to belong. We are born hardwired for meaningful connection with each other. We seek each other out, becoming both fiercely loyal-protective and vulnerable-sensitive because of the connections we build. When the people we belong to [ our parents, friends, teachers, role models, and loves of our lives ] normalize consumption; they carry on with consuming, and tossing, and maybe even reject any beliefs that they should slow down or hold back – we normalize it ourselves. We build subconscious values and belief systems that guide how we live our lives and consumption becomes just something we do. As our beliefs and values grow stronger it becomes something we should do, have the right to do, should defend doing. And changing those beliefs is not only hard, but risks offending the people we belong to or worse; risks not belonging with them anymore.
If you have the bravery to challenge your beliefs with all that’s at stake, and develop new values, you still may not act because you believe someone else will do it. The bystander effect, or diffusion of responsibility principle, happens when responsibility is shared too broadly among too many people. When no one person feels they are obligated to act. And, in reality, EVERY person is less likely to take action. This is what happens in extreme circumstances, when there is a terrible accident and nobody calls 911. Because everyone believes someone else will. But it is also what happens when people walk past litter, leave the lights on, idle cars. We are simply more likely to do what everyone else is doing. Thinking ‘what difference could one person make anyway?’ ‘Why bother?’. The danger is – everyone else is thinking the same thing, and NOBODY is doing anything.
The thing is, it only takes 5 seconds of bravery to do something hard. So find 5 seconds. And I thought you may need some inspiration so I’ve got 5 ideas –
- Bike to work. Once. For a week. For the summer. If work is too far, bike somewhere else
- Mend the next piece of clothing that rips. Grab your needle and thread and have at it
- Eat a meal without meat. Too easy? Eat a meal made entirely from ingredients that are NOT wrapped in plastic. [ if you pull this off please tell me about it! ]
- Turn the shower off while you soap up / shave / wash your hair
- Put a recycling basket in every room in your house – see how much easier recycling is when you make it convenient