Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Channeling Anger in a Positive Way

(This post is a follow-up to yesterday’s post.)

I learned years ago that emotions follow actions. If I feel a little blue I take a walk, read a humorous short story, listen to some good music or think about something good, beautiful or noble. These actions change my emotional state.

How can I deal with anger related to destruction of the environment, human caused species extinction, lack of integrity in government and corporate greed void of ethics? I do some things. I get active. In spite of the hopelessness of succeeding, I try. What kinds of things?

First, I try to have as little negative impact on the environment as possible. For example, Julie and I have been camping and backpacking for years but we’ve never built a fire. I would enjoy watching the flames of a small camp fire but wilderness should remain natural and untouched. I don’t want to leave a blackened fire ring and signs of our passage. After wind and rain, our footsteps should disappear and the area should appear pristine and untouched for the next hikers.

Second, I try to limit consumption. When we shopped for a manufactured house to place on our land, we asked to see single-wide models with two bedrooms. Salesmen tried their best to sell us a larger house than we needed or wanted. In the end, we found the right house – about 750 square feet. We’ve lived in it for the last year and have been well pleased. A small house translates into fewer trees cut, less waste taken to a landfill and less oil consumed in its construction.

Third, I seek knowledge, example and encouragement from others. This coming Saturday I’m taking a class on grey water at the local community college. I could read and research on my own and get the same knowledge but I would miss the sense of community and the opportunity to meet others who are working to preserve nature.

Fourth, I’m compiling a list and plan on implementing many positive actions that foster a healthy environment. I’ve read enough about the problems and the causes. I don’t want to hear more lamenting. I want to do as many realistic, positive things as possible. There are many, many simple things that can be done. Examples include taking a canvas bag to the grocery store rather than accepting plastic bags, buying from local farmers rather than buying food that has been transported hundreds or thousands of miles, composting, recycling, conserving water and picking up litter along roads. We’ve all done these things but I’m working to compile a list of a few hundred items. More about this later.

I think you get the idea. Rather than focus on the negative, I’m trying to work for the positive. The irony is “I think it’s hopeless”. More land will be developed, more species will become extinct, global warming will continue to accelerate due to human activity. Corporations will continue to exploit. The government will continue to respond to dollars rather than the public good.

These actions help mitigate my anger but don't eliminate it. It's not in my nature to accept hopelessness or to admit that any problem short of death has no solution.

Interestingly, what’s best for the environment is what maximizes my happiness and contentment. I don’t feel like I’m denying myself or doing anything extreme. I don’t live a life of hardship. I live simple and comfortable. For me, that’s the key – living in harmony with the natural world.

I think effort is more important than success. When I come to the end of my life, I’ll not ask myself “Did I make a difference?” Rather, I’ll ask “Did I honestly, sincerely try? Did I try to leave a healthy earth for others? Did I have reverence for non-human life? Did I see value in the inanimate world – a value than can’t be measured in dollars?”