THANK YOU FOR SHARING and watching this short video of a longer piece to come. Listen to the podcast 30 Things You Can Do To Stop Changing the World in the meantime at ColleenPatrickGoudreau.com
On Earth Day, the well-intentioned rallying cry to “change the world” becomes louder and more hashtag-worthy. A cursory search on Google or Amazon for the phrase garners millions of results for articles and books to excite and inspire readers to make a difference — often served up in easy-to-digest lists:
*10 Things That Even YOU Can Do to Change the World
*30 Things You Can Do to Change the World in 30 Seconds
*50 Ways YOU Can Change the World without Leaving Your Favorite Chair
The proclamation to change the world is as old as our awareness that humans are messing things up.
The problem is that we’re asking the wrong thing of people.
It’s not that we CAN change the world. It’s that we ARE changing the world in ways that have deleterious and often irreversible effects for ourselves and the billions of other life forms with whom we share this planet.
In other words, we don’t need to change the world. We’re already doing that. What we need to do is stop changing the world.
*Through the extraction and burning of fossil fuels for our industrialized food and transportation systems, we are dramatically changing the temperature of this planet.
*Through rapid and ever-increasing deforestation, we are changing the lives of the human and non-human animals who are displaced from their homes.
*Through our catholic use of polluting fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, and heavy metals we are changing the very air, soil, and water that support land and aquatic animals — not to mention the microorganisms that maintain all life.
*To meet the gluttonous and frivolous demands of the ever-growing human population, we threaten, “manage,” or destroy the populations of every other species.
*As individual animals are hunted and poached, or stolen and sold into captivity for zoos, circuses, and aquatic theme parks, whole families are broken up and lives permanently altered.
*To cultivate crops or permit grazing for livestock, public lands are given over to private industries who demonize and kill wildlife, clear forests, and change entire ecosystems.
*To create faster-growing, higher-producing animals, we are changing the reproductive cycles, genes, and life spans of the animals we breed only to kill and consume.
*The waste produced by these billions of animals contains such disease-causing pathogens as Salmonella and E. coli, contaminates groundwater, rivers, and streams, and sickens and kills thousands of human and non-human animals.
Make no mistake about it. We are changing the world. It’s not the world we need to change. It’s ourselves.
I’m often asked if I really think it’s really possible that people can make a difference, and my answer is a resounding “no!” I don’t think people can make a difference. I know people do make a difference.
Every action we take, every product we buy, every dollar we spend, everything we eat has an impact on something or someone else. We don’t get to decide whether we can make a difference or not. We get to decide only if the difference we inevitably make is negative or positive. That’s it. Those are our only two choices. There are no neutral actions.
When we choose to stop changing the world, we realize we can relax a little. We realize that it’s not about doing more or checking items off a list. It’s about doing less, thinking before acting, and making choices that reflect the values we say we have.
Everyone says they want to make a difference, but I think we forget that in order to make a difference, we may have to do something different.
The difference between believing that we can change the world and understanding that we do change the world is the difference between arrogance and humility. And therein lies the solution. Therein lies the hope for ourselves and for the planet.
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Hello, and welcome. I’m Colleen, aka The Joyful Vegan, and I’m here to give you the tools and resources you need to eat, cook, travel, and live compassionately and healthfully.
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