September 1, 2016

4 Steps for Caring for Our Environment when We Feel Like Giving Up.

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It is easy to feel like giving up.

It takes grace to wake each morning and greet a broken world with an open heart and a cup of tea. Growing up on a small farm in Vermont, I have seen people struggle to connect their romanticized vision of the natural world with the work necessary to protect it. The environment’s greatest threat is not corporate power, but our own apathy.

I used to think that I could find meaning through concrete goals: good grades, interesting jobs, running longer distances on harder trails. But I was wrong. Life’s trajectory is a landscape, recognizable and ever changing. Ambition can shift like tectonic plates, catalyzing massive events or adjusting imperceptibly. To pursue what you love requires bravery. You are worthy of your goals, and the world needs your solutions.

Here are four simple steps to shape a meaningful future while contributing to a greater cause:

1) Live as though kindness is a verb: do something kind for yourself, someone else and the environment every day. Whether it is remembering your reusable bags, donating a can of dog food to the local shelter or sending a handwritten letter to a friend.

2) Start working toward future goals now: It doesn’t take a college degree to make a difference—whether you are alleviating social and environmental injustice or organizing a community play. Daily actions matter—monumental accomplishments are the culmination of simple tasks.

3) Reorient. Allow for failure. Take stock and be inspired. Read the “greats:” writers, poets, philosophers and scientists. Be guided and emboldened by curiosity. Wendell Berry, Mary Oliver, Donella Meadows, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Sylvia Earle give us windows to understanding our world our ourselves.

4) Embrace simplicity and lighten the burden of “things.” If it isn’t being used, if it doesn’t have a clear purpose or bring you happiness, let it go and find it a new home.

“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting—
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.” ~ Mary Oliver

Awareness of global environmental damage and the daily parade of tragic news stories can feel paralyzing, rather than like a call to action. Five minutes on any social platform will tell us who to celebrate and what to fear. Instead, choose strength, embrace uncertainty and be kind.

To heal the planet we must resurrect hope that is lying dormant in the promise of new seeds and present in the strength of old trees. My hope is restored on woodland trails amidst the power of untamed places. I run through forests reminiscent of a wild cathedral.

This is your invitation—brave the risks of failure to do what you love. It is in the pursuit of meaning and the process of giving that we can heal each other and the planet.


Author: Emily Donaldson

Image: courtesy of the author

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

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