Eco-triage: Knowing when to let go, what to let go of

In order to survive as activists, we have to find ways to rest without giving up. Burnout, at least on occasion, comes with the territory for many of us, and if we refuse to learn how to rest, we’ll end up quitting — and/or creating extra work and strife for people around us.

Today’s post is somewhat related to this concept, but slightly different.

Another skill we need is knowing what to let go of. Where to keep applying our efforts, and where to decide not to put any more of our attention and effort.

One simple example for me is native plants. I am very much an advocate of native plants, and I have often called on local governments and developers to use them in landscaping. however if I were to push for 100% native landscaping (or a mix of natives and edibles), it would be a lot of work with a high chance of failure.

Instead, I advocate for vegetation in general. For heat mitigation and stormwater absorption. Do I still get annoyed to see big box store waxy plants planted next to the Atlantic Ocean? Yes. But I am able to separate out my aesthetic annoyance.

Another example: I used to freak out at the sound of trees being cut down in my neighborhood. And I would go running to find the source and see if I could call someone to get it stopped.

I still hate that sound. So often it’s unnecessary to cut down trees. But recently I made a conscious decision to keep focused on the bigger picture, a more regionwide approach. It’s not that I don’t still cringe when I hear the sound of chainsaws, but I am a lot less stressed nowadays as I know that I’m working for something bigger than just my own neighborhood (or wherever in town I happen to be walking).

This isn’t the same as giving up in exasperation. This is a more conscious, empowering decision. It frees up my brain-space and energy to think of more creative solutions and wider variety of options for various situations.

I am also letting go of the need to fight for infill development and increased walkability (shops & services in walking distance) in my neighborhood, something that has actually declined over the years.

Instead, I widened my acceptance to accept the idea that my entire neighborhood may one day become a purely tourist zone — all chain hotels and syndicated eateries — and that I am resilient enough to respond to that as it comes. One thing that crossed my mind not long ago is that if some developer wanted my magnificent corner lot, I could reconcile myself to selling if it were for an apartment complex or other higher use than SFH.

I’d either take the money and move to some other part of town (or entire other state if the situation warrants), or else as part of the terms of sale I would ask to be able to live in one of the units and be the landscaper onsite. Might be a little bit of a tall order but a girl can always dream!

My point is that widening my field of acceptance frees up a lot of my energy, which can then be used to brighten my own day, or creatively brainstorm ideas for other situations — or both!

How about you: Is this deliberate letting-go process something you have experienced yourself? If so what are some things that you have decided to let go of in favor of a bigger picture or more important priorities?