By Sarah Mayes, WATCH (Wodonga Albury Towards Climate Health)
It can be challenging to read the climate science and not descend into despair. It can also be difficult to observe political responses to climate change and not harden with cynicism. For me, the antidote to both despair and cynicism has been to realise my own potential to effect positive change. In real terms, this has meant choosing to live more lightly.
This choice has profoundly changed my life. One of the most significant changes has come from the very realisation of my own ability to make choices. If this sounds cliché and self-evident, it is because the power of this realisation is masked by our failure to see how the quality of our lives is often the result of the choices we make (consciously or otherwise), and not events beyond our control.
Living lightly began for me with a choice about what focus and attitude I wanted to bring to life: to deny any responsibility for the fate of our planet, or heed Gandhi’s advice and be the change I wish to see; to join the chorus lamenting their unfulfilled material wants, or focus on the plight of those without access to the most basic needs; to live my life believing that I have been wronged, I have suffered, I have nothing to give the world, though am entitled to all I can get – or to choose honesty: that it is a faithful belief in this victim narrative – and not life itself – that will forever keep happiness and fulfilment beyond reach. Such choices are not always easy. I am often tested and do at times fail.
But in making these choices, they have opened the floodgates for many more. And my life has been enriched by them all. In my determination to enjoy a nutritious and tasty vegetarian diet, I have discovered my capacity for ingenuity and creativity. Travelling by train, foot and bicycle has afforded me insights, friendships and experiences I would be the poorer without. In designing a small and eco-friendly house more affordable than anything in even the cheapest housing estates, I have unleashed my imagination.
I believe that our own happiness, as much as the future of our planet, lies in waking up to such human potential: to our capacity to love, imagine, create, empathise, learn, share, and live with courage and resilience. For it is in choosing to live more lightly that we also live more fully.