Our means and circumstances are varied. But we all have one major thing in common: As human beings, we are social creatures. Thousands of times a day, day in and day out, we are each helping to build and reinforce social norms. By how we dress, what we say to people, how we get around, how we landscape our yards or balconies, what we buy or don’t buy.
Each one of us is a drop in the ocean, but we have the power to help shift society’s default settings on what’s considered cool and beautiful and worth aspiring toward.
“I’m going to pass on that weekend outing. I need some quiet time, and also I want to save my carbon budget for visiting my family at Christmas.”
“It’s nice of you to think of me but I don’t need any more shoes or clothes; if it’s OK with you let’s donate these to someone who needs them.”
“Oh, I don’t fly anymore; I’ve pledged not to take any more flights. I really don’t miss it; flying is such an unpleasant way to travel.”
“Let’s go to restaurant X; they serve their food on reusable dishes.”
“Yes, I made this skirt; I prefer an asymmetrical look and hand-stitching.”
“Let’s not get takeout from those guys; they never listen to me when I ask them to leave out the plastic utensils and sauce packets. Let’s order from these guys instead; they use cardboard containers and leave out the plastic junk.”
“Of course I walked here; I live right down the street.” (Said even if “down the street” is miles away.)
Even when we can’t speak out loud, or don’t know what to say, we can influence cultural norms by amplifying the voices of people who are advocating or reporting good stuff.
And of course, most of the social norms we transmit, are transmitted silently, without us speaking a single word. We each have the power to help dismantle hyperconsumerism and normalize degrowth, DIY, energy descent, nonconsumerism.
Every single day is Earth Day!
• “Culture-Building as Climate Work” (Whitney Bauck; atmos.earth). “We crossed paths at the TED climate conference in Edinburgh last year, where Rev Yearwood was co-leading a session on ‘how to be a good ancestor.’ In a week packed with slick presentations on a fancy stage, Rev’s intimate session went gently against the grain. It was the first moment where I saw the high-performing attendees that TED attracts breaking down in tears, as Rev and his co-leaders encouraged them to engage with the climate crisis not just as strategists or decision-makers, but as people. ‘You can’t do this work if you don’t have something to pull on. Because if you pull on yourself, you’ll become bitter, jaded, and cynical. Having a faith, or some kind of grounding system that helps you reconnect to humanity, to life — you need to have that to do this work,’ Rev told me later.”
• “Homeschooled students learn ‘lost skills’ in woods” (Patricio G. Balona; Daytona Beach News-Journal). “As part of their lessons at this school, students eat pennywort and bee sting salads and wash it down with long leaf pine tea. … On other days they learn about cooking, sewing by hand, gardening, sailing, archery or making a fire, among other things. … the classes are derived from a curriculum that teaches ‘lost skills’ to homeschooled children.”
• “A Comic Book Sparks Kids Toward Environmental Justice” (Rebecca Bratspies; thenatureofcities.com). “It certainly helps that artist Charlie LaGreca created a visually-stunning book. Mayah’s Lot stands alone as a storybook, but it also provides valuable environmental justice lessons. It is an ideal tool for bringing environmental messages to a generation steeped in highly visual and interactive ways of learning. Students learn alongside Mayah, the young heroine, as she organizes her already environmentally over-burdened neighborhood to prevent the siting of a hazardous waste facility on a nearby vacant lot. To succeed, she must navigate administrative law hurdles, produce compelling advocacy grounded in fact-based reasoning (a big component of the new Common Core Learning Standards), and mobilize popular support. The resulting story offers an environmental justice message that has won praise from state environmental protection agencies around the country (Mississippi and Illinois will be adopting the book in their community outreach efforts), has been featured in Colorlines and mentioned on NY Times Parenting blog. Better still, it resonates with children like my very urban daughter and her friends — many of whom tend to think of ‘the environment’ as existing elsewhere, rather than where they live and learn.”
• “‘OK Doomer’ and the Climate Advocates Who Say It’s Not Too Late” (Cara Buckley; nytimes.com). “Alaina Wood is well aware that, planetarily speaking, things aren’t looking so great. She’s read the dire climate reports, tracked cataclysmic weather events and gone through more than a few dark nights of the soul. She is also part of a growing cadre of people, many of them young, who are fighting climate doomism, the notion that it’s too late to turn things around. They believe that focusing solely on terrible climate news can sow dread and paralysis, foster inaction, and become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
• Disgusted at the volume of single-use plastic bags which just seems to be getting worse and worse, I decided to use humor to try to shift the norm. Check out my TikTok video where I give an Earth Day PSA about Plasticia the abandoned plastic bag. “Spay and neuter your plastics, people!”
• “7 Lessons About Finding the Work You Were Meant To Do” (Kate Torgovnick May; ideas.ted.com). “Whether it was during a career aptitude test or in a heart-to-heart chat after getting laid off, chances are someone has talked to you about how to ‘find your calling.’ It’s one of those phrases people toss about. But StoryCorps founder Dave Isay takes issue with it … specifically, the verb. ‘Finding your calling — it’s not passive,’ he says. ‘When people have found their calling, they’ve made tough decisions and sacrifices in order to do the work they were meant to do.’ In other words, you don’t just ‘find’ your calling — you have to fight for it. And it’s worth the fight. ‘People who’ve found their calling have a fire about them,’ says Isay, the winner of the 2015 TED Prize. ‘They’re the people who are dying to get up in the morning and go do their work.’ Over a decade of listening to StoryCorps interviews, Isay noticed that people often share the story of how they discovered their calling — and now, he’s collected dozens of great stories on the subject into a new book, Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work. Below, he shares 7 takeaways from the hard-won fight to find the work you love.”