May 28th, 2010


Environmental Despair

It's no secret to those around me - at home and at work - that I have been suffering from a pretty chronic case of environmental despair for some time now. I sort of touch on it in counselling but only in so far as I no longer find the work I do as my day job to be rewarding or satisfying and I am making plans for the (medium-term) future that involve a change in direction. Don't get me wrong, I give fully to my day job, I fight every single battle with passion to the end. I make sure that I am heard, I take issues as far as I can get and do not bend just because it is easier, faster or less painful. I deal with a lot of bullying from outside in this process and that gets wearying and sometimes frustrating and upsetting. But that's the nature of this job and I have learned ways to manage it, as best I can. And when I can't, I don't hesitate to take the matter higher.

But you know, at the end of the day, I don't think I am making a difference, not really. I play my role as best I can in the process, and I do it with integrity and in good conscience. But I play a role in a process that is led by other forces. And it's easy to lose sight of outcomes. Sure I have pushed to lift standards and I have had input into policy, procedures and methodology. And I have taught those around me some extra skills. But when I started out on this road, man, some 20 years ago nearly, I was a lot more bright eyed, shall we say. I thought I could make a real difference. Could change the world. All that.

Anyway, you grow up. You see how the world works. It's ... disappointing. And then you get here, to environmental despair.

But a couple of weeks ago I did something that has brought me a bit closer back to my roots. I joined I've long mocked the idea of thinking you are affecting anything by changing the light globes in your house or turning off all the lights. I've often laughed at how little that's going to affect climate change. But I saw the checklist for Days of Change that someone had printed out and stuck up in the tea room and I thought, hey, why not? And when I went home and noodled around the site for a bit, I thought I might give it a go. You get to register you/your house and then you can check off the things that you already do. And then you make a pledge, or several pledges, for what you are going to try and do in 2010. I decided I would pick 3 or 4 things that I keep meaning to be better at and thought maybe this would encourage me to do so. I have picked turning off lights, turning off standby power, using green bags instead of plastic, buying local fruit and veg and starting composting my food scraps.

None of these things are really big deals. None of them are going to change the world if I do them. I'm not even sure that food scraps are a massive part of my weekly waste to landfill. But signing up and making a pledge made me feel like an activist again. It made me feel like I was back committed to making change, and with starting at the core, with myself. And it's turned the guilt I feel for forgetting to take green bags to the shop into being proactive and remembering because I made a pledge that I would. And more than that, it's made me more conscious of the way I live daily. Of how often I do leave all the lights on in my house and how I don't really worry about not turning the dryer off once I open the door. It's made me look at how wasteful I am and uncaring about that - that I don't care if I use up precious fossil fuels burning a light globe in a room that I don't even go into over 3 or 5 hours. It's brought to the forefront of my mind, almost constantly now, how throwaway, decadent and wasteful we are in the 21st century first world. And how much we just take that for granted and don't care.

And being conscious of that, again, has changed how I approach other aspects of my life. Which of course, is the point of the whole exercise. Doing just one thing constantly, changes how you might think about doing other things. And there is the hope that that will snowball into a larger change of thinking and lifestyle approach.

And just that, that one little thing of turning off lights I am not using or reducing the amount of plastic I use, has made me feel like I *can* do something again. It's bringing me a little bit closer back to me, where I was and what I believed in when I set off down this road two decades ago.

It's not really going to change my medium term career aspirations. But it doesn't mean that I can't take my green approach with me, to something else. Afterall, that's probably really the point.