Taking That First Step
I recently heard a yoga teacher explain that the hardest pose in yoga is the one that gets you from your house to the yoga studio. Once you’re there, with a group, it’s a lot easier, and a lot more fun, to figure out what to do next.
That got me thinking about the corollaries with getting involved in working for a healthy environment and fair economy. At the Story of Stuff Project, we get thousands of emails from people who care deeply about the health of their communities and the planet, but aren’t sure how to take that first step.
For years, most environmental organizations operated on the assumption that information was the key—that the truth will set us free. Our basic belief was that if people just knew the science, they would act to help solve the problem. So we ran awareness campaigns with heart wrenching photographs of wildlife in distress, wrote and shared reports, made fancy graphs and charts out of our limitless data, and more.
In a sense, it worked. Most people today understand there is an environmental problem and a clear majority believes we should do something about it. Sure, not everyone knows and there’s always more research and education to be done, but enough people know and enough people care to make some serious change.
But now, we need to move on from the “there’s a problem” part of the conversation to the “let’s do something about it” part. Clearly, knowing and caring is not enough; we need to act. We need to take that first step.
We at the Story of Stuff Project want to learn more about what inspires people to get involved and then to stay involved, even though making change is often a hard and frustrating path. The more we can understand this together, the better we can inspire others to join in.
So, we’re reaching out to you – the Story of Stuff Community – to learn from each other.
I’ll start with the story of my first step. I was in 1st grade and a representative from McDonald’s came to my school to tell us how much the company cared about nature. Being a nature-loving 6 year old, I rushed home to plead with my mom to take us to McDonald’s for dinner. I still remember feeling happy and proud walking into an establishment that shared my love of nature. I also remember my shock at seeing all the pots of plastic plants and flowers inside. Plastic flowers are the antithesis of nature to a six year old kid. I felt devastated, tricked and angry. With my mom’s support, I wrote a letter to McDonald’s expressing my outrage at its plastic plants and environmental posing. So, I guess I have both McDonalds and my mom to thank for teaching me to question greenwashing and to use my voice. Once I wrote that first letter, they just kept coming every time I’d see something that I knew could be done better. My most recent was to the Mayor of my town, asking him about a long promised stop sign at a terrifyingly busy intersection. As Cole said in our recent podcast, our voice can only be heard if we use it.
And you? What inspired you to take that first step? And, more importantly, what made you take the second and third and fourth step?
We’d love to hear your stories. Please leave a comment here.