Earlier this week I asked my friend, neighbor, and coworker, Laurie-Ann Barbour to write a blog about being an activist. She shrugged and said, “Sure,” as she often says when I ask her for help with something. The blog she sent back to me was beautiful and at the same time, it completely undersold her. She titled it, “I have no choice.” This is telling for me. She doesn’t see a choice because claiming no responsibility for climate change and other problems is unthinkable to her. However, the way I see it, Laurie-Ann and the rest of us are all making choices every day that are creating the kind of world that we live in – be it selfish and intolerant or compassionate and intelligent. I’ll take the kind that Laurie-Ann is making.
I have no choice
by Laurie-Ann Barbour, Office Manager, The Climate Center
If you ask me, why I work for the environment and try to help stave off climate change, I would have to answer, what choice do I have?
From a young age, I was drawn to helping animals and the earth. I was involved in my high school Eco Club and showed up on Saturdays to receive the recyclables dropped off by caring folks in the days long before curbside pickup. During the 1978/79 drought, I learned to take “Navy showers”, went door to door delivering kits of low flow shower heads. The lessons I learned were about the value of personal actions and the idea that if we all did our part, things would be better. I took that to heart and have always tried to do the right thing by the environment: having a fuel efficient car but also biking and taking public transit, buying in bulk, eating vegetarian, recycling, changing light bulbs, turning off lights, and drying my clothes on a line.
In the face of climate change, I’ve learned that individual action isn’t enough, we need large scale changes only possible by governments and businesses. That realization sometimes creates a feeling of despair for me. There is both the understanding that my actions and those of others around me are not enough and the feeling that the people and organizations that need to do something, aren’t doing it. Somewhere deep inside I feel both helpless and hopeless. I sometimes wonder why people still bring children into this world and I feel glad that I’m at least as old as I am so that I won’t live to see how bad it gets (although it’s getting worse all the time so I’m seeing more of than I expected to).
At the same time, I’m an optimist, a believer in the beauty and strength of humanity, and a starry-eyed, liberal idealist. What if I didn’t try – what good would that do? Giving up is not a strategy that has ever occurred to me. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night or face my daughter if I didn’t give it my all, try my darndest, do my part and work for change. I believe that there is no alternative to doing something. Will it be enough – whatever I do and whatever I can work towards? I don’t know. But doing nothing will absolutely be not enough. I have seen many changes during my life: the fall of the Berlin Wall, air and waterways cleaner due to the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, pelicans and peregrines back from the brink of extinction because we banned DDT, the recent fantastic increase in renewable energy, the end of apartheid in South Africa. People did all these things. This gives me hope and renewed energy to do my small, but important actions as well as march, lobby, sign petitions, call elected officials and, donate to organizations effecting change on the scale necessary for the problems at hand.
Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it.
It always seems impossible until it’s done.
― Nelson Mandela