We Can Change the World by Changing Ourselves

by Marilyn Hempel, Executive Director, Blue Planet United 

Rising food prices, rising gas prices, rising water and electricity rates: an uncertain future? It can feel pretty overwhelming to learn about all the economic, environmental, and energy challenges in store for us this century. We can be fearful and angry, or we can seize the opportunity to take back the control of our lives, and build strong local communities with deep connections. We can become resilient.

Chris Martensen, a former Fortune 300 CEO, has written many articles about personal and community resilience. (http://www.chrismartenson.com/)  He has developed a series of steps we can follow to become less fearful of “future shocks”, steps that help build sustainable communities.

We are more resilient when we have local sources and systems to supply a needed item, rather than being dependent on a faraway source. We are more resilient when we are in control of meeting our needs and when we can do things for ourselves. For example, we gain food resilience by eating local food, perhaps by shopping at a farmers’ market, or by joining a “community-supported agriculture” group, or by growing more fruit and vegetables ourselves and thereby increasing our local supply of food and farming skills.

According to Chris, actions are both necessary and insufficient. Let’s be perfectly honest: any steps we take to prepare for a potential environmental, societal, or economic disruption, no matter how grand, are nearly certain to be insufficient. Nevertheless, they are still necessary. They will be insufficient because being perfectly prepared is infinitely unknowable and expensive. But actions are necessary because they help us become more in control of our lives. Often, when gaps exist between knowledge and actions, anxiety is the result. It’s not the state of the world that creates the anxiety as much as it is lack of action.

So we take actions because we must. If we don’t, who will? We change the world by changing ourselves.

Set realistic goals. Any resilience is better than none. For example, there’s an enormous difference between being 0% and 10% self-sufficient for food. In the former case you rely entirely on commercial agriculture and the existing food-distribution system. In the latter you have a garden, fruit trees in the yard, and perhaps relationships with local farmers. Maybe producing 10% of your food is not enough, but it’s a start.

As individuals, we can become more resilient, but ultimately, community is essential. It is incredibly helpful to have people to talk to, to join with, as we set out on the path to sustainable living.

In the end, we are only as secure as our neighbors, our neighborhood is only as secure as our city, and our city is only as secure as the next city. But it all begins with us, with resilient households determining how the future unfolds.

Marilyn Hempel is a writer and native Californian who thinks the next 20 years won’t be like the last 20 years.