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Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
Teddy Roosevelt's Advice Has Never Been More Relevant
Human existence brings challenges. It's inherent. Death is the only personal escape. Extinction is the only way we will eliminate all people problems. Still, the challenges we face today are exceptional.
Climate change is a more significant challenge than any we've ever faced. The pandemic isn't done with us, despite our President's declaration to the contrary. It has been the biggest health crisis in over 100 years. Climate change and the pandemic have combined to roll back progress made over decades against poverty.
Now is the time for action. Today we must do something. You feel it. You know it.
You're human. You need groceries. You've got a job. You're focused on caring for kids or parents. Your car needs to be repaired, your kitchen needs new paint, or the kids need soccer uniforms. Life goes on, full of little urgencies and occasional emergencies.
Math makes clear that the actions of any individual among the 8 billion on the planet do not matter systemically. So, you decide that what you do about climate change, global health, and poverty doesn't matter. You're just one person.
If you don't recycle the plastic grocery bag in your hand, the world will not end. A child will not go hungry. A sea turtle will not end up with a straw in its nose. The sea won't rise. One plastic bag doesn't matter. You're right.
But you're not giving yourself enough credit.
What you do matters. You're not just a random person among 8 billion. You are a leader. You are an influencer. You are part of the great mass of human beings who move together toward a better future. You matter.
Together, we matter—a lot. When our collective behavior changes, the world does change.
When one person gives $10, it doesn't matter much. When 1 million of us do, things happen. Lives are changed. When one person uses reusable grocery bags, it doesn't matter. When 10 million of us do, tons of carbon are avoided, and mountains of trash are prevented. If one of us invests $100 in a new wind turbine startup, the company won't get far. If 10,000 of us do, the entrepreneur receives enough capital to prove a concept that accelerates a transition to fuel-free renewable energy.
We're not lemmings. We're not being led around by mindless talking heads or evil overlords. We're acting together for the sake of future generations. We're acting together for the sake of our future. We're acting together to create a better world we can see and enjoy in our own lifetimes.
You and I know that governments and corporations make decisions that have far-reaching implications. Compared in scale to what we do as individuals, we don't matter. But together, we are the voters who elect good leaders. Together, we are the consumers and shareholders of corporations who decide what is produced and sold. Together, we control all the outcomes.
No one can do it all. You shouldn't try to go from where you are to perfect, however you may define it. A few years ago, I read a blog by a woman who used virtually no plastic. Let's just say it was a lot of work. That said, anyone can do a few things she does effortlessly.
So, with the world facing unprecedented crises, what should we be doing? The answer is easy. A little bit more.
Teddy Roosevelt is famous for saying, "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." (He attributes the quote to Squire Bill Widener.)
To do a little better beginning where you are, I would argue for adopting small, new patterns and habits that help. Here's a list of 10 things you could consider that may prompt ideas for you to do other things that matter. Here's the key to success: don't try to do more than one or two new things!
Donate $10 monthly. Find a cause you support enthusiastically and sign up to give $10 monthly. The amount isn't important. If $10 is too much for your budget, give less, but try donating on an ongoing basis. If you're already giving, consider increasing your donation a bit.
Use reusable grocery bags. If you're already doing this, check your patterns for fruits and vegetables. (Use machine washable bags, so you're not accumulating germs in the bags where you place your food.)
Avoid paper towels. We've eliminated paper towels by using reusable, washable cotton ones.
Invest in mission-driven startups. You know I write a lot about investing in social enterprises via regulated investment crowdfunding. If you haven't tried it, I invite you to make a small investment. There are lots of options for investment right now; there are new ones every week!
Plan for an EV. Start planning to buy an EV that you'll love. If you don't yet own an EV but do own a car, think about how you could make a switch to an electric vehicle. Figure out where you could charge it. The price difference between EVs and VICEs (vehicles with internal combustion engines) is narrowing. By 2025, many expect to see parity. Some 2025 vehicles are already announced (Tesla Cybertruck).
Recycle better. Today, almost everyone recycles. Many municipalities have recycling programs, including some that allow you to throw all your waste and recyclables in one container—nothing could be easier. Most municipal programs don't recycle crappy plastic. Things like plastic grocery bags end up in the landfill. Many grocery stores, however, will accept those bags and similar plastics for recycling. If yours does, that could be an easy way to improve your recycling.
Join a service organization. Longtime readers know I joined Rotary a decade ago and love it. There are many service organizations; at least one has a club in your community. Check for a Lion's Club, Kiwanis Club or Optimists Club if you can't find a Rotary Club. They're all about doing service in the community and around the world.
Carry a cup. Whether you prefer caffeine cold in a diet soda or hot in coffee, carry an insulated mug for refills. Many vendors cut the price when you do—we've found we get complimentary refills about five percent of the time! If you avoid using a disposable cup daily, that adds up quickly.
Fly less. Flying today uses tremendous amounts of carbon-based fuel. That won't always be the case, but large-scale transitioning to electric, hydrogen or biofuel-powered flight is more than a decade away. Video calls, trains and driving when safe are better options for now.
Install solar. If you own your home, make time soon to get a quote on solar and an analysis of the money you'll save. While this sounds like a big thing, it may save you money rather than cost you money! Most vendors have financing available. A home equity loan works great, too.
Regardless of what you choose to do, I encourage you to do something. If we all do a little better, it will make a measurable difference. If we keep improving, it will make a big difference. So, "Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can."