Anyone else feel like 2019 was a year of growing anxieties? If there’s one thing I take from it: it was the collective awakening to pending issues that we all felt the need to address. From Extinction Rebellion protests, to Hong Kong protests, continued #metoo revelations, to impeached presidents and the all impending global warming crisis capped with forest fires …EVERYTHING commanded our attention. We all found ourselves grabbing for some sort of control. Whether it was refusing plastic straws at the bar, creating Facebook fundraisers on our birthdays or having conversations with friends about how helpless we felt at one point or another. Still, one thing stood out to me: 2019 lacked focused. It was about everything but nothing at the same time.
The good news is that we’re officially in 2020 and things can be different. I have a feeling it’ll be a year of clarity and unparalleled focus. As individuals, we can’t fight everything but together, we can all fight passionately about what matters the most. Collectively we will create an impact for the better. I want to share some of the thoughts I think might help us all better focus on concrete actions in 2020.
1. Start where you can, just as you are
This one may sound obvious but it’s not that straight-forward. We can easily feel as if we have little influence on matters of the world. I believe this is a lie we’ve all internalised due to a lack of real calls to actions in the media or society at large. Most of the time when we consume the news (be it on TV, online, social media...etc), we are not fed ways to help. This does happen in some cases and most often in the form of donations to non-profits for example. However, there is certain powerlessness to this too because how do we guarantee what we give goes where it is needed the most. How do we ensure we are helping in the best way possible? Here are a few things that might help:
You can do your own research - I believe we can take the power back by doing our own research. When we hear something on the news we can research more concrete facts because let’s face it, sometimes things are blown out of proportion. Doing your own research mean you can look at multiple sources and piece the information together reasonably. Researching can also mean having conversations with people and delving into different opinions to gain a broader understanding.
Give to what you believe in – naturally, through research, you will be bombarded with ways to help. Don’t give in to just any cry for help. Try to sift through the information and give to a source you can trust, even better look for ways you can help on the grounds, where you are.
Then there are the lifestyle actions - whether it’s shopping more sustainably, going vegan or recycling more…it’s important to start where you are and with what you have. Trying to do everything is difficult. I always say find something you are passionate about or something you do on a regular basis and rethink how you can do it in the most sustainable way possible. I started with Fashion and it's leading to so many other changes I would never have expected.
2. Deepen your already great habits
I know it’s the new year and everywhere you turn, you hear or see the infamous: New year, new me mantra. But wait, you’ve come so far. You’ve made it through an entire decade, why would you toss yourself away? Let’s rethink this. In 2019, we as consumers changed. We demanded more sustainable and ethical practices from companies by somehow changing our lifestyles. The best thing we can do is continue this into the new year and decade. Basically, until we get what we want. In other words, what fabulously good habits have we picked up in the past decade that is great for our health, the planet and others that we should keep doing? For me some of these include cycling more instead of taking public transport, continuing to learn how to swim, to keep using my reusable bottle…etc. Practice makes perfect and the more we keep up our good habits, the more we can find ways to improve them.
Then there are the habits we need to start in the new year. It’s not so much about a new you, it’s more about new actions that could potentially lead to a new you. For me, this involves trying to eat less meat. Gosh it’s difficult but I’ve committed to Veganuary and I've already failed a few times but I’m still going. All this was brought on by finally being brave enough to watch the documentary Cowspiracy and not being able to get the fact that animal farming is responsible for 51% of gas emissions into the atmosphere. Anyways, all this to say, we all have habits we want to pick up for our sakes and the sake of the planet. This is the perfect time to start.
If you can’t do it support those who do
I don’t know about you but when I try to start a list of good environmental and ethical habits I want to pick up, I find myself overwhelmed. Then pretty quickly I realise I just can’t do everything. No one can do everything. We have to lean on each other, help each other, support each other. Realising that can change your life. Whether it is the simple act of sharing a fundraiser your friend started on a subject you yourself may not be too hot on or donating to people in crisis…when you can’t help directly just find ways to support those who are. Volunteer at that event you wanted to organise but have been too swamped to start or contribute to writing for that NGO you wanted to donate to. There are always ways to support causes we cannot directly contribute to and suddenly together we are having an impact we never expected to.
3. Get some intelligent or good news into your brain
Anyone tired of watching the news raise your hand! I bet there are quite a few of you right now. I feel you. Deeply. Eco-anxiety is real. All anxieties are real but when you think about the fact that we live in such a tumultuous world it is completely understandable and normal. If anything we should talk to each other about it all. It really helps. I personally blame the fact that often news outlets, apart from not offering solutions, do not allow us to process news intelligently. They go for emotion, be it fear or sadness or anger – they do not allow us to understand news in a healthy manner. Then there is the fact that it’s often portrayed as black or white, good or bad, constantly polarising opinions without taking into account the endless grey areas or perspectives that we miss. Once I realised all the above I stopped watching the news. I still don’t but I know that’s not a way to live. I want to know what’s happening in the world and yes sometimes drastic emotion moves people to action but I want to process it intelligently.
That’s when I stumbled upon Tortoise media, a space that allows just that. What I love about this disruptive news outlet is that they realised that in the current news model once the journalists and so-called experts are in the room, the door is shut. No one else is allowed to enter the conversation properly. So they created a space to do just that and I cannot stress enough how good their ThinkIn events are– people gather to discuss current affairs while having just as much say as the experts in the room. It’s incredible. A perfect space to think and process current affairs with others. Aside from platforms link Tortoise, we are all capable of researching positive news (in fact there is a magazine called Positive News you should also check out). Let's look for progress wherever we are and how we can contribute to it. The news may not always report on it but good things are always happening, it's up to us to look further that meets the eye.