Fun. Tiring. Exhilarating. Depressing. Interesting. Worrying.
Way back when I started this whole No Impact thing, I felt so frustrated with the political process and so voiceless that the only thing I felt I could do about what I considered to be an international emergency was change the way I lived. I wanted to shout from the rooftops: LET'S FIX THIS PROBLEM!
But who would have listened to me? So what I decided to do was just what I could. I worked really hard to reduce my impact and to learn a lot about the issues. I started writing about what I learned on this blog. The weird thing was that once I started to work towards living a lifestyle that had integrity with my values, people started asking me what I had to say.
That's lesson number one: that if I demonstrate what I believe in, people are more likely to listen to me than if I just talk about what I believe. People respect integrity. I'm not saying that I have that much of it. There are a lot of people--and I mean a lot--who have way more of it than me. It took a book contract and a blog to get me to really stick to my guns. Of course, if I'd stuck to writing history, I would have earned a much better living, but I just couldn't anymore (refer to lesson number one).
Lesson number two: we all can make a difference. We all really matter. The way we live our lives and what we have to say has consequences for everyone else. The only difference between someone who makes a difference and someone who doesn't is whether they believe they can make a difference. That, at least, is what happened to me. I suddenly got the inkling that I could make a difference and I like to think, these days, that I can.
And now the No Impact project proper is over. Having lived it has given me the wonderful privilege and terrible responsibility of being listened to. I'm spending three quarters of my day writing the book about the project, which is due on May 1, God help me. I spend the rest of the day writing the blog and corresponding with people who know a lot more about this stuff than I ever will. I'm constantly working to know what I want to say.
But today I know what it is I want to say. That I'm no one special. We all can make a difference if we believe we can. We need to talk to everyone we know. We need to march into the offices of our congressional representatives and tell them that we want more done. In fact, I'm going to do that myself soon--march into the offices of my congressional representatives.
I'm going to tell them that there are tremendous opportunities in this climate change/national security/economic crisis that comes from our overdependence on fossil fuels. I'm going to tell them that the United States could easily become the world leader of a new renewable energy industry. We could create good jobs. We could solve the climate problems. We could cease fighting over oil. We could help recession-proof our oil-dependent economy. To hurry this process, we need government action and investment.
And we also need emissions capping. We need to find a ways to reduce our dependence on automobiles and build real communities where we can walk and visit with each other. We need to weatherize and sustainably design our buildings so that we keep our heat in. We need appliances that conserve their energy. And we need a more resource-effective industry. In short, we need regulation that encourages us to waste less.
Will my visiting my congressional representative make a difference? Only under one condition. That all you visit your congressional representatives too. And that brings me to lesson number three: each of us needs each other if we hope to make a difference. I need you. You need me. We all need to join our voices together to let our representatives know that we see a wonderful new frontier ahead. And that we want to move towards it, not lag behind it.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.