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Home » » A Conversation About: What difference can I make?

A Conversation About: What difference can I make?

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 4/5/24 | 4/5/24

By Jean Thomas

Last week I responded to the severe weather and climate changes we’ve been experiencing with an attempt to understand the science of it all. I felt a need to understand, at least on a basic level, what climate change actually means. I hope I was able to share some basic comprehension of this enormous threat. But that was only half of the story. The natural question that comes up, once we understand what’s happening, is this: what difference can I make? I’m only one person.  What it takes is some perspective. My individual efforts may not change the world, but I need to try. I can make a change in my own home and garden. I can make a difference among my friends and family. I know that if I recycle and compost and volunteer for a local food pantry it won’t change the world. I also know that if I shrug my shoulders and ignore the world around me that won’t change the world either. I often think about the story about the boy who was walking along a beach covered in starfish that had washed up in a storm. He was picking them up one by one and flinging them back into the sea. A well-meaning adult confronted him and kindly explained that his meager efforts couldn’t save all the starfish and wouldn’t make any difference. The boy smiled at the adult as he responded, tossing another starfish , “ It made a difference to that one.”  I’m with the boy… better to try and make a tiny difference. I can save a starfish!

Historically, time after time, people have made the small efforts and forced changes.  Community gardens and bottle return laws, cleaned up rivers that used to be polluted streams of sewage and industrial chemicals are things we now see as normal. The small picture of what we can actually influence is important. 

Here are some of the things we can do. Starting in your own yard, find out what plants are native species and plant or encourage them to repopulate. These actions don’t seem like much, but they are part of a chain of events called “phenology” where the native plants are pollinated by native insect and animal species and in turn feed and shelter these species in a cycle that benefits the total environment.

If you’re not in a position to actively change your environment, it’s still possible to be part of the solution. A lot of the reason we got where we are is waste. For a long time, we thought that disposables were a sign of advanced civilization. Then somebody noticed that there’s a finite limit to this stuff we’re so casually tossing away. And a finite space to toss the stuff into. Change small things. Buy less disposable stuff. Use chemicals less casually… if something is designed to clean or kill some problem in your house or yard, it probably isn’t healthy to have lying around. 

On a more cheerful note, go out and encourage those who are putting in the work you can’t. Buy local foods and products. Visit farmers markets and meet your neighbors.  Every county has an extension office and offers a wealth of free information about climate change issues. In Columbia and Greene Counties, it’s .   The whole idea here isn’t to scare or shame anybody. I know that I, as an individual, can’t make a big change. I just want to save a starfish or two while I’m here. Don’t you?


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