The Value of Getting Mad

As environmental activists and just plain concerned citizens, we are schooled to get mad at Big Sugar, Dirty Coal, crooked politicians, and other large, safely distant targets. I wouldn’t recommend we stop writing our congresspeople, signing petitions, and participating in protests as we feel moved. But I WOULD recommend that we get constructively mad about conditions in our immediate vicinity, that are not only contributing to global environmental crises but also degrading our own quality of life. My advice is, Get mad, and use your anger to fuel change. (Don’t just wallow in your anger or let it fester. That’s unhealthy both physically and emotionally.)

Get mad because you’re over your ideal weight, and you eat plenty, yet you constantly feel hungry. (And then set about crowding out the junk-foods from your diet by giving first priority to fresh produce — ideally grown organically and close by — and other whole foods.)

Get mad because you spend hours a week maintaining your house and lawn, and you barely spend an hour a week really talking with your kids. (And then decide to move to a more low-maintenance place because your kids need YOU, front and center, more than they need a big house and yard.)

Get mad because you sit in traffic for two hours a day, and can’t remember the last time you got to spend two hours getting to do ANYTHING you loved. (And then decide you’ll do what it takes to live near where you work, or work where you live.)

Get mad because your car, which is supposedly the ticket to your economic wellbeing because it gets you to work, is actually a drain on your finances, not to mention a source of constant stress because you never know if it’ll start up in the morning. (And then decide to arrange your life so you’re never again dependent on a personal automobile or any one mode of transport. Not that you’ll never own, share, or rent a car again — you might — just that you’ll never be dependent on one again.)

Get mad because you’re working a job that sucks all the life out of you, while barely covering your food and rent. (And then decide you will do whatever it takes, cut whatever expenses you need to cut, in order to get to do the work you really want to do.)

Get mad because you feel like a prisoner in the summer, unable to leave your house. Get mad because you’re spending several hundred dollars a month on utilities. (And then set about training your body to be able to tolerate the natural temperature and not need air conditioning. It’s easier than you think! Same with heat.)

Get mad because you can’t have guests over, or can’t have a roommate to help with expenses, because your house is crowded with old junk you feel afraid or guilty about getting rid of. (And then use that mad-energy to override your fear or guilt; donate the junk so it’ll become someone else’s treasure and you can have your house or apartment back.)

Get mad because you’re only 60 years old, or 70, or whatever, and yet your physical condition has gone so downhill that you can’t even walk a few blocks, or ride a bicycle. (And decide that building your physical strength, stamina, and balance is top priority, because who wants to be dependent later in life?)

Get mad because yet another teenager in your neighborhood died of an overdose last night. Or another elderly person was robbed. (And use that anger to turn off your TV and reach out to your neighbors, stop being strangers, and start being a force to build real community. It might be time to set up a turquoise table — a welcoming front-yard space for neighborly connection and conversation. Bonus: When people get together, they use fewer resources than when each person is operating in isolation. That’s because friends share and cooperate.)

Get mad, and set about change. Use your anger as fuel to make some change that helps you while also helping the planet. What are you mad about today? What can you change?