Once my mother-in-law asked me how and why I became so passionate about sustainability. We had known each other for more than 15 years, and of course she knew the previous version of me, the one that didn’t know anything about green living and didn’t care that much. How could I be so different?
I think transformation always begins with awareness. If you have read my blog before, you know I like to reflect on these topics. So today, based on my personal story and journey, I am going to share my reasons, so perhaps some of you can relate to parts of it, we can find common grounds.
One step at a time
We are evolving creatures; as we get older we learn, we grow, we let go of some old beliefs and values and acquire new ones, but this process is completely different for every person (*), there is not right or wrong, just unique and different.
Reflecting on my personal journey, there were four key stages I went through:
1. There is a problem
My tipping point was watching Al Gore’s documentary “The Inconvenient Truth”. This film really shocked me but brought awareness of a problem I was totally ignorant about. I learned about the massive changes that the planet has been experiencing in the past decades due to human activity. At that time, I was focused on the governments and the big corporations, I blamed them for wrecking the planet. I couldn’t believe all these massive issues were happening, and it was not a priority. I felt hopeless.
2. Gosh, I am part of the problem
The next stage of my awaking experience was realising that I was also contributing to the problem in many different ways. I learned about personal carbon footprints and realised how my lifestyle was also adding to the problem. Several years later, I learned about plastic pollution, and became aware of the amount of plastic waste I was generating. When I multiplied that by millions doing exactly the same thing, things got scary. I felt guilty and overwhelmed.
3. I need to learn more
I decided to keep learning, to watch documentaries, to read more news, to learn from other people that were doing great things for the environment. A whole new world opened up. I felt curious and ready to do more.
4. Bring it on
Then I realised I could make a difference, my small choices really matter and collectively we have an enormous power. That’s when my journey really took off and changes started happening because I felt empowered.
(*) I love this illustration from Kelly Malka:
Only when I went through that journey of awareness and education, I could really start caring, I could align myself to my values, I could start revisiting my habits and changing them… Again, none of these would have been possible without walking my path, one step at a time.
That’s why it is usually fruitless to try to convince people to live more sustainably, when they have no idea why that’s important, how they are contributing, what difference these changes would make and ultimately how that is aligned to their values.
My reasons to act
The ‘do nothing’ approach did not align with my values
I couldn’t unlearn what I had seen, read, felt and experienced. Do you know that feeling when you see something that’s unfair to someone and you have to speak up/help? I felt that way about the planet and about the rest of the species we share it with.
I also felt very guilty when I realised all the ways I was actually part of these problems. I really had to do something. I just couldn’t be in peace, knowing that I wasn’t at least trying.
I had power
When I realised that I didn’t have to wait for the governments/big corporations or anyone really to start making a difference (big or small), I felt I had power to be part of a positive change and perhaps influence others in that journey.
It is not fair to future generations
From the start of my journey, learning about the dangers of a warming climate and so many other environmental issues, I kept thinking about these kids who haven’t been born yet.
Perhaps, these kids will have to grow up in an environment very different to the one we grew up, with many different challenges we didn’t have to go through. If this were the case, it is quite sad and unfair to them.
I try to remain hopeful about the future and the planet, but if we don’t act as quickly as we need to, it is hard to tell what kind of planet will future generations inherit from us. Perhaps I want to feel that I am trying, that I am doing something.
“The world is now watching. You will either be lauded by future generations, or vilified by them” – Leonardo DiCaprio
The reason why I am sharing this post today is to reflect about your journey: What’s your story? What stage of the journey are you in right now? Are you starting to walk the path? Are you finding it hard? What are your reasons? Do you need to learn more to find motivation? What about your values?
This post is also about other people’s journeys. We are all at different stages and probably the most important thing we can do to help these causes is to try to bring awareness, to ignite that curiosity in others, from there is just out of our control, some people will choose to walk the path, others won’t be ready yet and will go somewhere else, and that’s ok. Let’s respect that.
Personally, I keep learning, there are hundreds of things I could do better and many cognitive dissonances I need to work on. But when I look back, I realise I have done a lot, my reasons have kept me going over the years and I hope to continue walking my green path.