Buddhist symbol

A Thought Exercise on Right Action

All actions have reactions. I believe that it is important to maintain the attitude that every decision within my control that results in less impact is of value.

Why seek less negative impact only rather than more positive impact? Although this point could easily get twisted into justification, I think it is important to remember to focus on what we could do to improve the Earth rather than just how to be less destructive.

To use a classic example, one who rides a bicycle experiences many benefits. Better health and mood through exercise, saving money, fixing bike know how, strong thighs, and gratitude for a working body. One who rides a bicycle also gives some things up.  Riding a bicycle limits the distance that can be traveled, requires effort, can be uncomfortable and dangerous.

Those who ride a bicycle out of choice may experience feelings of nobility due to the sacrifice. This nobility can be a dangerous thing, especially when it is transferred onto others.  One can begin to feel angered at the car drivers.

I will admit that I have felt this hostility before when I believe others could be making a better choice that would have less of an impact.
The water is running!
You want me to turn all these lights on for that?!
You spent your hard earned money on poison and sprayed it on dandelions!!!!!!!

Although this thinking does create an interaction where I am explaining my reasoning for my discomfort, the hostility does not make for effective communication. I believe that this hostility strengthens society’s perceptions of environmentalists as impractical and delusional.

What is the root cause of this hostility?

I suggest that the roots are a combination of a frustration with what is out of one’s control, a concern for Earth health, and a self righteous ego.

What are these decisions that are truly out of my control?

Well, to start, the actions of others are clearly out of my control. I can offer alternatives and speak of well researched consequences.

Considering right action gets confusing.  Basic standard of living can be seen as environmentally destructive because of the consequences of the energy supply that provides for it. Conservation and efficiency are essential and valuable, but not the whole story.

In order for right action to occur, it must be supported by the right understanding of a very complex situation.  This understanding will facilitate mindfulness in our every day actions, as well as proper focus to direct our efforts wisely.

Here’s to productive discussions and creative critical thinking.  The most catalytic action is to design a better world, creating feasible alternatives to destructive consumption. There is no time to spare, however lets be sure to be kind to each other and ourselves while we’re at it. I think we will get a lot more done.