Why I bother, by Peter

Peter user pic

Peter Foster

When I talk about “sustainability” to people who aren’t already on board, it’s not unusual to hear: “Why bother? The problem’s so big, what you’re doing doesn’t make any difference.”

It’s hard to respond to that because a lot of people are unaware, or are in deep denial about how serious and immediate the problem is and I’m not comfortable trying to convince them. For one thing, I’m not very good at reciting sources and statistics. For another, I don’t want to sound like a doomsday prophet or backwoods survivalist. I also tend to feel like a hypocrite because I still have so far to go.

But my reply goes something like this:

We have already reached peak oil.  As oil becomes increasingly expensive and scarce, there is going to be a huge impact on virtually every aspect of our oil-dependent lives—in transportation, food, housing, employment. I believe we must do something now to change the way we live in order to avoid – or at least minimize – the crisis.

I am not willing to just wait and see what happens. I do not believe that government or science or market forces or divine intervention will figure it out and save us at the last second. I don’t believe that we will suddenly, painlessly switch to clean, renewable energy and use it sustainably.

It is up to us, as individuals (in our small ways) and as communities (in bigger ways), to “be the change we want to see in the world.” And I believe that change can actually be fun, rewarding and sustainable. I want a healthy, secure, vibrant future for my kids, and their kids. What we’ve been doing isn’t working. So I’m willing to try something new in the hope that we can make it better.

And for people who claim it’s too late anyway, I like this African proverb: “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

Check out this great song by Judy Small about the value of individual effort. Listen to the sample on iTunes to get a sense of how joyous it is!

One Voice In The Crowd by Judy Small

I’ve lived a life of privilege, I’ve never known what hunger is
I’ve never labored with my hands except to play guitar.
Middle class my middle name, life’s been more or less a game
But in the end it’s all the same, the buck stops where you are.

We are foolish people who do nothing
Because we know how little one person can do.
Yes, we are foolish people who do nothing
Because we know how little one can do.

It’s not my issue, not my scene, I’ve got to get my own house clean
I keep it neat and tidy just in case the Queen should call.
Come back to me another day and gladly I’ll join in, we say
And I’m just one voice anyway, just one brick in the wall.

One brick in the wall you may be, one voice in the crowd
But without you we are weaker and our song may not be heard.
One drop in the ocean, but each drop will swell the tide,
So be your one brick in the wall, be one voice in the crowd!

And we are foolish people who do nothing,
Because we know how little one person can do,
Yes, we are foolish people who do nothing
Because we know how little one can do.



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