Keep Calm, Carry On

Just because we fear something doesn’t mean we should give up the good fight.  I realise that being afraid or angry about what may pan out in the future can become paralyzing, but it is just one of the seven stages of change (stage 1 and 3).

On the contrary, we need to work harder, because the fear has helped us to articulate, in our own minds, the possible consequences of inaction. We all move through fear now and again, but we must not let it curb our determination to overcome whatever hardships we may face down the track.

By not acting when learning vital information is just asking for trouble.  No one has all the answers, especially me.  I just do what I think is right at the time.

This brings me to a comment that I received on the last post titled “I Fear That…“, which I believe warranted a more detailed response.

Anon said;

“I’m wondering Gavin  do you really think that what you are doing is making a difference to the environment? do you really think that ripping out lawns and ornamentals and replacing them with veges and fruit trees is making an impact on our environment? even if every single house did the same thing? do you really think you’re being kind to our environment by buying milk to make cheese? or building a pizza oven?

I’m not trying to be critical of you personally- because I personally do a lot of the same things that you do yourself (I have a vege garden and fruit trees that I’m trying to sustain my family on- I try and limit my consumerism and buy second hand whenever I can, I recycle etc), yet really I don’t feel like it is contributing at all :( and it’s frustrating me.”

The simple answer is a resounding Yes, but not directly.  Let me explain.

My family’s personal environmental foot print reduction is but a drop in the ocean, and in itself will not make on iota of difference to our changing climate.  This is the plain and simple truth.  I am a realist, after all.

However, by setting an example and showing people around me that it is possible to change behaviours and lower consumption, for the better I might add, then anyone else can do the same.

It is from many little changes that big changes happen.  Being vocal in what you believe needs to change influences others, who then, when they change their behaviours, go on to further influence other people in their lives.

As far as I am concerned, it is this type action at the local level that will help all of us get through this mess.  We need to stop thinking in our western hyper-individualistic manner and re-build community action, whether it be a group of like minded people who try to convince governments to man-up (or woman-up) and grow a pair, and start drastically reducing GHG emissions to reduce our impact.

Or as an individual, teaching others how to grow their own food, or build their own outdoor oven, or raising chooks for the time if or when the crunch does come.

Each person has a part to play in this effort to transform and transition away from our destructive economy.

So go ahead readers.  Make your individual actions, and be proud of them, but I ask you to take the next step.  Tell others about your actions, how they make you feel, and why you going to the effort to make them in the first place.  This will make others stop and think, because people trust those they know, more than they would some politician or celebrity giving them the same message.

What are your thoughts on this type of change?  Do you think individual actions make a difference?  Have I made a difference to the way you think?


  1. says

    Hi. Perhaps what you are doing is just a drop in the ocean? But each drop sends out ripples and it those ripples that can build to become a tsunami.

  2. Anonymous says

    I might only do a tiny bit with my vegie patch, composting and committment to recycling, but I’m doing at least something. I’m not sitting in apathy. I’m showing my children there is another way. If they grow up to live a greener lifestyle, think about the larger environment, be vocal in their beliefs and have happier, less consumer driven lives, I feel I have suceeded as a parent.

  3. Elyssa says

    Each thing I compost instead of throwing out means a reduction in landfill. Each thing I repair instead of throwing out and buying another is a reduction in landfill and resources. Each time I eat a small portion of free range meat instead of a large portion of factory farmed meat means an animal has a better life. Each time the solar panels on the roof heat up my hot water, less natural gas is used and doesn’t need more to be mined to replace it. Each time I eat something from my garden instead of buying it from the market is a reduction in the cost and resources needed to transport it to me. Each plant in my garden sucks carbon out of the air and replaces it with clean oxygen.

    Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. I look at the wasteful practices of my neighbours and think if they did but a small amount of what I’m doing, how many resources could be saved? But I believe that every little bit helps, and I know that more people are becoming more sustainable every day. And when my neighbours finally want to change, I’ll be able to show them how.

  4. says

    I have been worrying over the same issues lately, particularly now the Earth does seem to have reach a tipping point. It would be easy to give up in despair. I have decided all I can do is work on my little speck of Earth and live the way that feels best for me. I can’t carry the weight of the whole earth on my shoulders. If anyone else is inspired by my actions good and well.

    You have reinforced my own thinking Gavin and inspired me to stick with it. It helps to know others are out there with similar ways of thinking. Your practical advice is very helpful too.

    Our individual actions may not save civilisation, but they will improve the quality of our lives in the mean time.

  5. says

    Great post Gavin and I confess I was wondering just what you answer would be to Anon’s question. Happily you gave the down to earth reply that makes so much sense to so many. I work on the theory that if by talking about and showing others what hubby and I have done with solar power, vegie garden etc then a seed of interest will be planted somewhere. If we just influence one person, and that person influences one other then quickly the message spreads. “Divided we fall, united we stand.”

  6. says

    Hi Gavin, I think it’s easy to take a quick look at the impact of an individual and get hung up on the insignificance of it. But by sharing your beautiful life you are inspiring masses of people to live more sustainably, and that adds up to tremendous change.

  7. says

    I don’t think people give nature enough credit, and that’s the problem. It’s not entirely what humans can do for nature, but what nature can do for humans.

    I’ve seen natural systems destroyed in one day, and then seen those same systems fully restored within the same season, without human intervention. Nature moves swiftly. Think about the balancing point rather than the tipping point. Just as natural disasters are increasing around the world, are we paying as much attention to the swift restoration nature implements afterwards?

    I try not to measure the future by my actions alone, when it’s nature’s ability to evolve quickly, that will be the deciding factor of success. Nature is really on our side and we shouldn’t forget that – even when there are still those who continue to cause destruction blindly.

    If I may say, the power of a seed has more influence in the scheme of our lifetimes, than anything else. How small is a seed?

  8. Anonymous says

    The ONLY change we can make is to ourselves and our own actions. For some, that’s all they can do. But others will see that and be influenced. And then there are those who will extend their change to wider influence. “It seems there are a few who can say it for the many, and maybe one or two, who can say it for the few”*. It’s cumulative and we just have to do whatever is in our capacity to do. And enjoy doing it! Thanks for this post Gavin, it reaffirms my beliefs in personal responsibility. Jenni

    *Ralph McTell on Sylvia Plath

  9. says

    Your post brings to mind two quotes by famous American anthropologist Margaret Mead:

    “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

    “Never depend upon institutions or government to solve any problem. All social movements are founded by, guided by, motivated and seen through by the passion of individuals. ”

  10. Steve Holmquist says

    Hi Gavin-

    If you ever find yourself in doubt of your impact, just look at the number of people you’ve taught how to make cheese. Look at all of the people that ask you about your chooks, and gardening ideas. Every day, you help someone in the world start making changes. They in turn talk to their friends and spread the word. At my office on Friday, I learned that one of the people in the office next to mine has chickens. She took delivery of 8 new chicks at the office and set up a warming light until she could take them home. The message is spreading, and it is making a difference. Keep up the good work. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you aren’t changing lives and making a difference.



  11. says

    I know form personal experience how through example and conversations the positive impact of trying to live more ethically and lower carbon can have.
    I think there is more awareness especially through the impact of extreme weather on peoples’ lives.
    But as I have said previously I think that alone is not enough, I believe we have already hit the tipping point.

  12. says

    Give man a fish ..feed him for a day
    TEACH him to fish feed him forever.

    One drop will raise an ocean ,the tide is starting to turn my friend.

    Keep up the good work

  13. says

    Even if individual actions didn’t make a difference, if we think it’s the right thing to do, we ought to do it. I get told all the time that my being vegan isn’t really saving any lives. Individually it’s not, however, I am not the only vegan in the world. There are millions. That’s millions of people not demanding animal products. It does have an effect. And even if it didn’t, I don’t want the exploitation of animals on _my_ conscience.

  14. says

    I agree Gav that individual actions make a difference. Together they make a HUGE difference.

    BUT – there has been so much environmental destruction that we need to do more than reduce our ecological footprint. Even if by some incredible miracle, the entire global population began living within the means of our planet overnight, our environment would still be stuffed.

    Restoring and conserving our environment requires us to do more than decrease our ecological footprint. That’s why I love the concept of an ecological hand print. In contrast to your ecological footprint, which describes your negative impact on the planet, your ecological hand print represents your positive impact. It describes the good you have done for the world.

    Sorry for the long comment Gav. But its something I think about often. So yes – reducing our individual impact by reducing consumption and growing our won food etc is good. But we need to identify how we can each do more than that. For example you inspiring others by your actions contributes to your ecological handprint.

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