Worrying about the planet can feel overwhelming.
Yet the more we repress information — oceans full of whale-killing plastic, consumer products full of toxics, dying bees, extreme drought, etc. — the worse it feels. Ignoring or holding back these feelings leads to despair, burnout, blaming, alienation and a sense of powerlessness.
Some people walk around feeling bad about their contribution to the problem, isolate themselves as a means of protection and then judge everyone else around them, assuming others just don't care.
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What's needed is a focus on people and relationships. And a realization that we all sense that difficult things are happening in our world (some pay attention more than others) because we all live here together. Most people are doing their best and actually value the same things we do.
The solution: Empower people to build community!
Human beings don't live in economies. We live in families, neighbourhoods and communities. (You probably already know that a few, simple, selfless acts — like picking up litter or organizing a block party — could make your street a better place to live.)
It's time to ask not what your neighbourhood can do for you — ask what you can do for your neighbourhood!
The benefits of building community relationships:
- Social support — sharing your concerns, hopes and fears
- A sense of membership and belonging
- Accountability and validation
- It's fun
There's no "one path" to green living. Everyone doesn't have to do exactly the same thing. It's actually better if you add your own personal flare to environmental actions, as the changes needed in the world don't follow straight lines.
Can you be a leader in your community? It takes courage to make change and guide others towards change. But when you lead — share your knowledge and experience — you're making the choice not to shrink from responsibility. This gives you the power to inspire. And it's addictive.
What you as a leader can do to make a difference:
- Stop and listen (instead of arguing or persuading)
- Surround yourself with others who care
- Recognize that everyone has a unique role to play (and build on those strengths)
- Give others the space to experience and share what they're feeling
- Don't judge
People like you are already taking initiative to make a difference in their local communities — where real change happens. Meeting your neighbours and producing results at the block level creates hope and builds social capital. And it gives you all a network of support when times get tough.
See my ten ideas to fire up your commitment to the people and places you love to build community.
When you build community, you help lift people out of their own little worlds — where it's all too easy to slip into being overwhelmed — and encourage them to be part of something much bigger than themselves.
What are you doing to grow a "green" community?
Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green