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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change the world.

Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

—Margaret Mead 

For the past thirty-five years, people have gathered together to learn about and act on behalf of the environment during Earth Day’s spring-time ritual. While it’s wonderful to see such an outpouring of sentiment and action, like most other holidays that celebrate an ideal, historical event or inspiring figure—Martin Luther King Day, Cesar Chavez Day, May Day—there’s always a hope that the celebration will move far beyond the boundaries of a particular day or month. That we’ll take those lessons to heart and live our lives differently; that we’ll do more—for the environment, for our communities, in our families. 

Victor Hugo wrote that “the way we live our days is the way we live our lives.” Part of “doing more” is about the intention we have for ourselves, and checking in about whether or not we’re focused on that intention or occupied by other things. And it’s also about the way in which we go about our days, and our perspective on what we truly can do. As Ralph Waldo Emerson has written “A weed is a plant whose virtue has been yet unrecognized.” Where are the weeds in our lives that can teach lessons about what’s truly important to us? That can enable us, in their small, tenacious way, to do more? 

This week, a friend was sharing with me ideas from The David Suzuki Foundation, one of many organizations trying to change the way we see reducing our footprint on the planet. Being obsessed about each individual diaper and plastic bottle might be noble (and the small actions are important), but not the most immediate way to reduce our environmental impact. Rather, considering the weight of the object we are using—a car, a television set, a washing machine, a home—has more of an indication of the burden we are placing on the planet as individuals. The energy consumed by heavier objects during their lifetimes is greater, and the embodied energy to produce and transport them—and then to dispose of them—creates an impact far beyond their useful lives with us. If there’s an area of your life where you feel you can make even a small change—in your environmental impact, your political involvement, the way you relate to others—I encourage you to use this day, and all the days that follow, to make that one commitment.     

April 2005