Feeling Overwhelmed by Issues? What You Can Do
By Ramsey Zimmerman
Anyone who has seriously considered an issue larger than themselves will eventually hit against the question: "So what can I do?" I have asked myself that question, and I'd like to extend my answer to you. Global issues like climate change, peak oil, population growth, injustice and security are a few examples of the interrelated, crucial, and massive issues of our time. No single person can have a significant impact on these...right? Let's use a model to think that one through (Figure 1).
First, think about your Sphere of Influence, or those people that you can affect. You can most directly affect yourself. You have significant influence over folks that you know. You have limited influence over others that you do not know.
Second, think about the Time Frame you live and breathe in today. There are things that you can do in the near future. And everything else will happen eventually.
Closest to you (arc 1) is what you your Self think and do Today. You make your impacts in this world through how you Act. You choose to either drive or walk, turn a light on or off, follow through on a commitment, or cheat someone. Your actions today create the future.
The next level out (arc 2) is what we will do soon with those whom we know. To make a positive impact, you can Discuss about important issues Today with Those You Know. We have love and respect for our friends, family and colleagues, and discussion makes important issues feel real. In the Near Future, you can Learn as much as you can about the facts and alternatives, so that you can Partner with Those You Know, including your friends, colleagues, and neighbors to head in the right directions toward solutions.
Finally, the outer ring (arc 3) includes folks outside of our inner circles, and how we can eventually achieve our goals. Today, you affect Others you don't know by what you buy and sell. Shopping at a big-box retailer to buy something made on the other side of the planet has a much different impact than using the web to find someone nearby with a used appliance that they want to sell. How you Trade with others makes an impact.
In the Near Future, as you learn more and partner with friends, you can Invite Others that you haven't met yet to participate, through public events and actions. Eventually, you can Change your Self to reach your potential and live out your ideals. Then, you can Achieve your goals by working together with Those You Know. As this happens, you can choose to Embrace Others that you haven't met yet, who may be late in seeing your point-of-view, but are coming around, either out of necessity, or through desire based on your example of success.
The enormity of issues can lead to paralysis. This does not need to be the case. When re-imagining our community and how you live in it, you can decide to take action. You control aspects of your own life such as how you use energy at home and at work, where you get your food, and how you devote your professional life. These expand over time and sphere of influence, and each individual builds with others to make change.
Ramsey Zimmerman is a member of the Transition Olympia Initiating Group, and has promoted green building, recycling, energy efficiency, and renewable energy professionally for 15 years.
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