Perhaps, like me, you got an email this week from Ethical Ocean. The subject line compels you to get up and do something. You think . . . YES! It is time for action. Action on what? You have no idea, but in your pyjamas, with toast in hand, you . . . are . . . ready. You trust Ethical Ocean to rile you up for something worthy, something awesome, and something that needs YOU.
Set the toast down and click. Still wondering . . . why do they need me, little ol’ me?
Fashion. Fall fashion. Ethical Ocean calls on us to take advantage of a good deal . . . a good deal? I love a good deal as much as the next person. But really? A discounted snog isn’t exactly reason to call the entire female population into action now, is it?
Regardless, there are reasons to take action. The ice caps are melting, fish are dying, and children are starving. You name it and it is bad and it is happening. So, do it. We can let go of the things that hold us back and take action.
Your toast is already cold, so let’s talk about how.
Be a “something”-ist. When we commit to being something, we are more likely to see problems, talk about them, and do something about them—whether it’s an animal rights activist or an environmentalist, identifying as an “ist” matters. It is difficult. I’ve begun to call myself an environmentalist, a feminist, and an engineer. This changes how strongly I feel about particular issues and the level of action I take. Try it. Be an environmentalist for a day. Worst case, your friends call you crazy and you eat chickpea soup for dinner—alone.
Take small steps. I had a minor crisis in the grocery store. I needed laundry soap but the bottle went in and out of my cart six times—box or bottle? In the end, I left soap-less and spent the rest of the day envisioning the chemicals that are in our waterways as a result of $18 laundry soap. So . . . my small step of the week? I will go to a store where I can fill my own jar with less-terrible-for-the-world laundry soap. Crisis averted. I’m not exactly saving the planet, but I am doing something. Most big problems are the sum of the small decisions we make every day. Let’s take small personal actions together. Change laundry soap. I can do that.
Take strategic steps. In addition to taking small steps, I suggest we take strategic steps. I like to think that each of us occupy a niche in the how-to-change-the-world market. There are areas where my particular combination of skills and interests enable me to strategically approach an issue. While I could spend all day talking about laundry soap, there are topics I am better situated to address. Take, for example, estrogen in lakes and rivers. Because I am an environmentalist, I care that fish populations are collapsing as a result of exposure to synthetic estrogen. I am excited about the possibility to remove estrogens at wastewater treatment plants because I am an engineer. I am a feminist female, so I realise that women are taking birth control pills because there are very few alternatives. As a result, estrogen is ending up in wastewater. This issue frustrates me to no end. Why don’t we fix this problem – before it becomes a problem?
So, what is my next strategic step? Somewhat paradoxically, it may be fighting against the advancement of wastewater treatment technology to direct attention to further up the line (birth control for men, anyone?). I couldn’t do this if I was just another wastewater engineer or feminist or environmentalist. It is time to think about the strategic space that each of us occupies–maybe it’s in business or theatre or parenting–and take action.
This is all for now. Finish your toast and join me for more next month with Jane’s Guide to Defeminising Fish.