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Why Individual Actions Matter: No Impact Man's Perspective

Yesterday, No Impact Man posted a rousing summary of why living green is important, even imperative. Often, it's hard to know what to say when reading articles pessimistic about humans' ability to respond adequately to climate change. Next time you're feeling like small changes don't matter, refer to his article, excerpted here with his permission. Read the full post here.

Recently, The New Republic published an article by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute calling the trend towards lower consumption coupled with the search for meaningful life no more than a public opinion bubble that has burst. They argue that individual lifestyle change--of which I am one of the chief national proponents, according to them--is meaningless as our culture attempts to grapple with the environmental crises.

His conclusion:

The question is, what if, like Rosa Parks, the gardener believes—to hell with the public opinion analysts—it’s important to do what is right? And what if, through his or her dedication to looking for a better way to live, the gardener’s friends and family begin questioning, too? What if, in our questioning, we all begin to wonder whether planetary human well-being might be achieved directly instead of as a spin-off of how much we shop and use resources? Wouldn’t that represent a big step forward?

Nordhaus and Shellenberger skillfully but erroneously use the tools of rhetoric to dismiss the individual actions of this burgeoning movement’s membership. But we know from chaos theory that the flap of a butterfly’s wings can start a hurricane. We know from Rosa Parks that an individual action can be the falling domino that starts the chain reaction. So what if this quality of life movement helps people believe that a happier planet makes for happier people?

Tags: Activism, Culture, Individual, No impact man, Society

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