For the past handful of years, I've hopped onto your television screen and detailed small changes you can make to help save the planet. And, over the past six months, I've done much the same in this Web series. Small changes are important first steps but can't be the only steps we take. We do not get to check Mother Earth off the list once we've dropped off our recycling, weather-stripped and swapped out our water bottles for reusable ones. Everything we care about exists within our ecosystem. If we disregard or damage it, all that we hold dear is at risk.
This year, I am celebrating Earth Day in a new way: by retreating into nature to redefine my commitment to environmentalism, getting quiet and asking myself, "What change do I wish to see—and what role can I play in making it manifest?" I am not satisfied with green for a select few. I know this movement has to be about green for all. In order to bring more people into the conversation, we have to understand what we really care about and what we are willing to sacrifice to achieve greater buy-in and consensus.
We cannot do this deep and important work from a place of depletion. That is why taking time away is essential and can take the shape of something as simple as a walk down the block or a visit to the ocean. I have spent many years talking about resource depletion, but rarely consider the need to replenish my own inner resources. When I am in nature, I remember my place in the order of things. I remember I have everything I need to answer my own questions—and I trust those answers.
My journalism students and I recently traveled from Kansas to California and worked with energy nonprofit GRID Alternatives to install solar panels on low-income housing—recognizing that the people who most need energy savings are least able to afford them. For me, making sure other people can green their homes is just as important as greening my own place. And teaching a class of 12 students the importance of this is just as significant as preaching to millions.
You do not have to be on The Oprah Winfrey Show, you do not have to have a blog, and you do not have to be a professor to teach and inspire others. All you have to do is open yourself up to what you care about and let your actions reflect those cares. When you do this, the lines blur. You see that our deepest concerns are shared and that we can and must work together to creatively solve our most pressing problems.
Reduce, reuse, recycle, redefine, retreat, revive, restore, repair, relate, reimagine...repeat.
Happy Earth Day,
Simran Sethi is an award-winning journalist and associate professor at the University of Kansas School of Journalism and Mass Communications. For more information on Sethi, visit SimranSethi.com and follow her on Twitter @simransethi.
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