Trump Card- A New Executive Order

He’s at it again. Donald Trump signed a new executive order on Tuesday, March 28, entitled the “Energy Independence” executive order. I don’t know if Mr. Trump even truly understands the definition of energy independence- not relying on a store of unrenewable resources in order to power our country, as well as not relying on foreign countries for our power. It’s possible- but only by investing in new green energy sources that are 100% renewable. Those energy sources will create sustainable jobs which will be around for years to come- unlike the jobs that are tied to energy sources like coal which won’t be here for much longer.

In fact, it’s clear the Donald Trump does not understand these things. This is based on the content of the new executive order, which ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to begin the process of withdrawing and rewriting the Clean Power Plan put into place by Barack Obama. IT also targets several smaller Obama-era environmental and climate policies. These include lifting a ban on new coal mining on public lands.

So, why is this a disaster for the environment? Well, to begin, think about our public lands. These lands are set aside for the preservation and conservation of our natural heritage. Places that are meant to be sacred for the enjoyment of all. These are the places where our children should be creating memories and ties to nature, and where parents should be teaching their children how precious our environment is. These are a valuable piece of American heritage and history, our most lovely and sacred places. At the risk of sounding ignorant, how does mining these places for profit and energy “Make America Great?”

It doesn’t.

The second issue with pausing this mining ban is that the logic behind it isn’t exactly sound. According to the New York Times, Trump said to the mining industry,

“C’mon fellas. You know what this is? You know what this means…you’re going back to work.”

This couldn’t be more wrong.

Yes, some older coal plants might be able to stay open longer, and others will be able to stay in operation, however the mining industry is actually becoming increasingly mechanized, so there really isn’t a need for hiring in the industry anymore anyway. There are no new jobs to be created in coal, the way that technology and the economy are going. And the assumption that the Trump administration makes that this executive order will revitalize a dying industry just underscores how uniformed and out of touch with reality it is. Furthermore, the coal industry doesn’t represent a large or growing portion of our economy, so targeting that industry in particular for job growth just doesn’t make sense.

Not only that, but the United States actually imports a large amount of coal and natural gas that fires our power plants. So by rolling back the Clean Power Plan, it doesn’t necessarily bring back any mining jobs. Additionally, unpausing the mining ban only brings back mining jobs short-term—until the coal runs out.

In addition, The New York Times also reported that even though the executive order doesn’t necessarily take aim at the United State’s Participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement (the one that almost every country in the world signed committing us to take steps to tackle climate change), it affects our ability to meet that commitment. In fact, the Times noted that

“Experts note that if the Trump program is enacted, it will all but ensure that the United States cannot meet its global warming commitments under the accord.”

This is because that in order to truly meet our climate commitments, we need all hands on deck- everyone needs to be working to reduce our emissions NOW, as if our lives depended on it—which they do. And orders like this one, which take aim at dismantling progress, do the exact opposite of that.

Michael Oppenheimer, a climate scientist from Princeton University, says that the order, “sends a signal to other countries that they do not have to meet their commitments—which would mean that the world would fail to stay out of the climate danger zone.”

Take a moment to take that in. With one sweep of a pen, Donald Trump’s ignorance may have doomed the future of humanity’s habitation of this planet. The future of the planet and our children for the rest of the foreseeable future.

Are you listening yet???

So what can we do? We’re not president. We don’t make laws. Congress can’t repeal executive orders, so you can’t lobby your congresspeople and your senators. What you can do is vote with your dollars. Invest in clean energy. Put a small set of solar panels on your house. Don’t support companies that invest in coal or dirty energy. Do your research. And don’t support legislators who take money from those companies either.

Be empowered. Speak up for clean energy and do everything else in your power to protect our planet from climate change. Since our government won’t protect the planet right now, we have to take matters into our own hands.

Oh, and pray for this presidency to be short—VERY short.

Sources:

http://multimedia.cbs.com/news/trump-signs-executive-order-dismantling-obama-environmental-regulations/

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/03/28/trump-signs-executive-order-rolling-back-obama-era-energy-regs.html

Photo Credit: The New York Times

 

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Heritage- The Clean Air Act

The Clean Air Act- A Bit of Our Environmental Legislative Heritage

 

Okay, so I’m not 100% sure if the title of this “Environmental Legislative Heritage” is technically an appropriate/official term, but what I mean when I say it is, the Clean Air Act is a bit of history that we should familiarize ourselves with. Why? Because it’s an important piece of environmental legislation that really strongly has affected our air quality over the years. It is important to learn about our history in order to keep the good (the act itself, and many other pieces of environmental legislation and action) and avoid future bad. “Those who do not learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.”—George Santayana.

To begin, why is air pollution bad? Well, it affects the economy, it affects public health, and it also affects the health of the planet.

Air pollution is bad for industry because if there aren’t clear skies, it can make it difficult for pilots to fly, delaying flights and affecting transportation and trade patterns. It also damages buildings and crops, which has a negative impact on the agricultural industry and our infrastructure. It is also linked to a loss of agricultural and forestry yields.

From an environmental perspective, air pollution harms the health of plants, wildlife, and the environment. It also causes damage to the ozone layer, contributing to the greenhouse effect.

And finally, from a public health perspective, air pollution can cause respiratory problems, cause cancer, birth defects, and long term injury to the lungs, brain, and nerve damage. It also makes people sick, causing a loss of economic productivity due to sick days.

The government started to realize some of this back in 1960 and decided to pass the original Clean Air Act. This first law set up funding for the federal government to study and clean up air pollution. Essentially, they knew that pollution existed, but they didn’t know exactly what or why we had it, and what could be done. They knew it had an impact on public health too, because smog was making people sick.

The law was amended in 1977, setting National Ambient Air Quality Standards, to help protect public health and regulate the emissions of six key hazardous pollutants. It was amended again in 1990 to set new goals, as in dates, for achieving these NAAQS, since many areas of the country had not achieved them yet.

So the question is, how does it work? I had to try wading through a lot of EPA and government jargon to make it work, but luckily, I was able to find the “Plain English” version of the act on the EPA website, which was an excellent guide that told me all I need to know. I highly recommend checking out for more details!

Under the act, the EPA sets limits on air pollutants, and supports state and local agencies by providing research, expert studies, engineering designs, and funding to help support clean air. The responsibility then falls to the individual states to develop solutions to clean up pollution, monitor air quality, inspect industrial facilities, and enforce air pollution cleanup regulations. The 1990 revision even allows tribal nations to implement their own air pollution control programs. HURRAY! I’m all about anything that recognizes the sovereignty of tribal nations, as referenced in an earlier article. It makes sense for states and tribal nations to enforce and make the plans to reduce air pollution, because they have a much better idea of the local issues that municipalities and states face. The federal government provides support, states and tribal nations make it happen.

Since 1970, you can see the results. The six pollutants mentioned in the Clean Air Act have decreased by more than 50%. Air toxins from chemical plants, petroleum refineries, and papermills have been reduced by nearly 70%. The production of most ozone depleting chemicals has ceased, and new cars and 90% cleaner- and getting even cleaner with great hybrid and electric options coming in the future. ANNNDD the great news is that US GDP has tripled, energy consumption has increased by 50%, and vehicle use has increased by almost 200%. The pollutants have gone down and industry has improved. Win-Win.

It’s important to realize the positive benefits of this piece of regulation, especially as we are now under the administration of a President who promises to roll back two pieces of legislation for every one that they create. The logic behind that, deregulation for the sake of deregulation, is so foolish when there are so many pieces of regulation that have done us so much good. We cannot be blind and think that individuals and states always know the best course of action—particularly in issues regarding pollution and the responsible care of our land. That’s what, although imperfect, the EPA is such a valuable agency to keep around. The solution lies in fixing the agency itself, not throwing out all its regulations and crippling the agency itself.

Remember, those who do not learn from history, are doomed to repeat it. Are you interested in going back to 50% more air pollution? I’m not.

Sources:

https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-air-act

https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-08/documents/peg.pdf

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Clean_Air_Act

https://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/clean-air-act-text

Photography Credit Chicago Tribune:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/la-me-air-pollution-0428-pictures-photogallery.html

 

A Day At Churchill Woods…What it Means to be a Protector

This is technically a repost of a guest blog I did for an awesome, amazing nonprofit, Sustain DuPage. Check out their site for more info!

The morning is frigid. You knew it would be. You roll out of bed and look at your clock- 8:00 a.m., on the dot. You roll to one side, and the sun is streaming through the window. You’d never know it was 20 degrees out there. You  curse yourself silently for volunteering to do outdoor work in Churchill Woods on a frigid March morning. Your word is good though, and so you can’t back out now, especially since there’s a text from Andrew VanGorp, the head of Sustain Dupage, a person who you respect deeply, blinking on your phone. “Are you comin’ to Churchill Woods today? Let’s chat.”

So you’re awake. You guzzle coffee, grasping it firmly between your cupped hand as you sip in the morning. You pull on the five layers of clothing you’ve laid out for this morning. The last thing to come on is the hiking boots, the steel toed wonders you bought last year. You love wearing them, because it makes you feel strong. Like you can change the world. Today, that’s what you’re planning to do. Even if it’s in a small way.

 You pile into the car and enter the address that was on the meetup group into your GPS. 22 minutes. Why is it so darn far? You hope you’re going to the right place. You drive, and drive, and drive…why do these streets not look right? You pull into the parking lot, and there’s no one there. Great. Just your luck! Of course you’re in the wrong parking lot. Oh well. You pull out and type in the name of the preserve. “Churchill Woods.” Only four minutes away….that’s not bad.

As you pull in, you can see a line of people behind a car, signing waivers. Wow, there’s actually quite a few people here. That’s great news, because it means you’ll get a lot of work done, but you don’t know ANY of them, because you’re new. It’s also not the greatest thing for you personally, because you’re a bit of an introvert. Oh well, the social atmosphere is really only a plus. You’re here to make a difference.

You fill out a waiver and follow the group, grabbing a pair of loppers. Andrew is explaining to the group how to identify buckthorn, an awful invasive species that grows like a weed, which crowds out light from the roots of the native oak trees. It’s also pointy on the ends, meaning it stabs your clothes. You’re not really dressed properly either, and it’s way colder than you thought it would be. You’ll be cutting away buckthorn and hauling it into piles so that the native oaks and other native species can thrive.

It’s quiet here. It’s quiet, and sunny, and peaceful, despite the group of 20-40 people hacking away at buckthorn. A few conversations pop up, but most people are minding themselves or their nearest neighbor, hard at work in comfortable silence.

The sun streams through the trees, and the peaceful pace of the work is meditative. You would never know that just over the ridge is a busy street. You’re immersed in the peace of the forest preserve. You’re home.

This is Churchill Woods, and you’re here with Sustain Dupage, a local nonprofit which is dedicated to creating a greener, healthier, and more sustainable DuPage County. Churchill Woods Protectors is one of their five mission projects. These five mission projects are designed to touch upon the three pillars of sustainability- people, the environment, and the economy. How does Churchill Woods do this? From a societal perspective, you are empowered with new knowledge about how to care for the environment. You are also surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals and you build a common bond through your hard work. From an environmental perspective, you begin to heal some of the manmade destruction that has been brought onto the natural woodlands here. According to Sustain DuPage’s website, these disturbances include, but aren’t limited to habitat fragmentation, fire suppression, salt pollution, soil erosion, flooding, petroleum pollution…and the list goes on. You may not have contributed directly to these damages, but it feels good to be helping restore the natural habitat by giving native species a chance. Finally, forest preserves actually help boost our economy. The more natural areas we have near our homes and in our communities, the higher our property values.

Churchill Woods is a popular fishing, picnicking, and hiking spot. It is beautiful. As you hack away at buckthorn, your fingers begin to numb, but you don’t really care. Your phone alarm goes off, and unfortunately, you have to go. You scan the woods for your fearless leader, Andrew, who seems to be oblivious to anything except the buckthorn he’s herbiciding so that pesky stuff doesn’t come back. You wave at him and he waves back with a jaunty, perky smile, with a signature bit of sass. You walk with him to the parking lot and talk about how Churchill Woods needs more accessibility for pedestrians or individuals with physical disabilities. A project for a later date.

He gives you a hug as you tell him you have to go. You feel a bond with the people that you work towards a common cause with. Your fingers are numb, but your heart is warm. For one day, you’ve made a bit of a difference among the sunny oaks of Churchill Woods. The work is far from done, but the glad of buckthorn you’ve cleared is immensely gratifying- at least until next time.

Later that day, you get a text from Andrew- “It meant so much to me to see you today! Did you get a chance to enjoy the woods?!”

Yes, yes, I did. The woods are their own beautiful reward.

 

3-26-17 4Churchill Woods 3-26-17 1Churchill Woods 3-26-17 2

Creation

Happy Sunday, everyone! If you’re like a lot of good people I know, you’re off to church this morning! But I’m about to PREACH on some good old fashioned Christian teachings of how we should treat this beautiful planet of ours.

I will preface this by saying I only will begin this blog post with the Christian faith tradition because I grew up in a Christian home and was raised with a Christian paradigm of God and faith, and we speak best to our personal experiences. However, because I believe that we should try to be as inclusive as humanly possible, I am completely open to discussing another faith’s views on nature- just drop me a message or a comment.

Okay, moving on. I was raised in the Christian tradition, but sometime in my high school days I realized that I find more “god” in a field of dewy grass or on a beach under the great blue sky than I do in a church. Part of it is due to my own problems with the dogma of the church and its history, but it’s mostly because nowhere do I feel that a higher power is more present than in this beautiful creation we humans are blessed to live in every day. So you could say I’m more agnostic/deist (I believe a higher power set the wheels of the universe in motion but I’m not sure who/what that deity/power looks like), and I don’t think that, except in maybe some rare cases, that power intervenes in our petty little problems. Maybe for the big stuff. I believe in nature, in karma, in good vibes, hard work, and a pinch of fate.

So what does the Christian faith that I was raised in say about how people should treat the planet? There are several scriptures that popped up in my research that stuck out to me. The bible actually waste almost no time getting down to man’s prescribed relationship with nature, in Genesis 1:26-28,

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (New International Version”

Okay, okay, that seems like a lot of ruling going on. I think that may have been a little misinterpreted by some fossil fuel companies who think that the world “rule” and “subdue” give them carte-blanche to do whatever they want to. The issue here is that this verse, though at first glance may seem to say that we are the dominant ruling species, I don’t think that’s really how it was meant to be taken. I think this is one of the most problematic verses in the bible for a lot of environmentalists because of the impression it gives and the negative taste that it leaves in the mouth.

However, dominion doesn’t necessarily mean tyranny. I think of this as more of a request that we be the hands and feet of god on this earth, and that we steward the earth, and take care of it, which is not what we’re doing when we are literally destroying it day after day. I also think there’s enough context elsewhere in the bible (literally in the next chapter of Genesis) to support a stewardship reading over the usage of the words “dominate” and “subdue.”

To support this, we have Genesis 2:15, which states, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” Seems way better, right? Work and take care of the garden, like any good gardener or farmer should. A good steward of the land knows its value to sustain and give life to both himself and other creatures, and would never destroy it. However, when we fail to care for the planet, we certainly fail to take care of it.

The bible even gives us very specific instructions as to how we can take good care of the planet. In Exodus 23:10-11, it tells us

10 “For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, 11 but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.”

Great! That sounds like an excellent practice. That’s actually what a lot of people recommend in order for land to rest and regain its nutrients, so as to avoid stripping the soil of its integrity and use. If we keep farming the land to death, (or have a monoculture and don’t rotate the crops we grow), it will lie fallow, unusable, and DEAD. So, in this case, the bible definitely is pointing more toward a stewardship model. Way to go, bible!

The final set of verses I’m going to touch on comes from Colossians 1:16-17. This verse powerfully states that, “16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

This essentially ties everything together. Creation is a sacred thing, because it was created by God and his hand is in everything. To destroy that, is to do something very, very bad. Although Genesis uses the words “subdue” and “dominion”, I don’t think that, based on the rest of the evidence that we get to just do whatever the heck we want. Stewardship tells us to take great care of our home and help it to thrive. It is something beautiful that was lovingly made for us to enjoy and live on while we are on earth. If we don’t take care of it, it can’t take care of us, and that was not God’s intention. Also, God is a master creator. Think about it this way: if the greatest painter on earth gave you his most beautiful painting, would you slash the canvas? Of course not. How would that make the painter feel? (Not to mention how stupid of you to waste such an incredible work of art.)

So, go outside today. Breathe in deeply. Take a little bit of extra care with how you step, and how you treat the earth. We are so lucky to live on this beautiful planet. Let’s act like we understand that.

 

 

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

“Reduce, Reuse, Recycle…” sings Jack Johnson to us in his catchy, albeit brief tune about how we can help the planet. It’s an earworm, and I highly recommend it for listening, if for no other reason than it is almost guaranteed to make me smile, so I assume it will also make you smile! Give it a listen.

So, today, I’m going to give you a little bit more direct action steps that you can take in your everyday life to help take better care of this beautiful planet we live on. I recently asked a reader what they’d like to see me talk about on the blog- something that they would like to know more about. (Yes, I do take requests! Comment below or send me a private message on whatever your preferred social media platform.) I was shocked that their answer was so simple: recycling! Recycling can indeed be a thorny topic, and it made me really take stock of the assumptions I make about my readers. Not everybody has the same level of sustainability knowledge, and sometimes we do need to talk about the basics.

However, I’m going to also talk about the two things that you should try to do first, that good ole’ Jack Johnson knows all too well about. Reduce and Reuse! So, what do those two things mean, and what do they entail? Why are they better than recycling?

Reduce:

The best thing we can do is to reduce that amount of waste we have to figure out how to get rid of in the first place. Reducing our impact means living only within our means, and only meeting our needs. For example, to reduce waste, you may invest in cloth diapers. This reduces the demand for regular diapers, and in the end, reduces the amount of diapers made, bought, and sold, and in landfills.

Ok, so not everyone needs diapers. What about containers and bags? If you invest in reusables, you are reducing the amount of waste that you need to deal with as a result of all those annoying plastic bags we all have floating around our homes. Another option is purchasing a reusable water bottle, and filling it over and over again.

When it comes to grocery shopping, look for options that have no packaging. Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that have no packaging, and try to shop from the bulk bins wherever possible.

These are just some basics- comment below how you reduce waste in your daily life!

Reuse:

Reusing is actually one of the most fun things. Reusing is so easy and fun! Perhaps the most fun is in regards to…shopping! Well, in this case, swapping. Shop at second hand stores to make sure those articles of clothing are getting reused, rather than ending up in a landfill. If you think the article of clothing is unusable, you can still donate it to Goodwill and mark it “textile donation,” they will shred it, and use it to stuff mattresses.

You can also swap items with friends, if you want new-to-you items and you’re squeamish about used. With your friends, at least you know the clothes have been cared for. The same goes for baby or kid’s items- anyone who has had a child probably has boxes and boxes of their old clothes and toys waiting to go to a good home. The amount of waste created by outgrown toys and clothes…can you imagine?

You can also upcycle, which is a form of reusing where you take something old and make it new again. This is when, for example, you take an old torn shirt, and you make it into a reusable shopping bag! This is where your creativity can really shine!

Recycle:

And here we are! Right at the topic requested. If all else fails, YES, you should absolutely recycle. The problem with recycling is that it vastly varies depending on the city or location where you are recycling, and it does take energy (often dirty energy) to transport the recycling to a recycling plant and put it through the process to make something new from it.

Check your municipality to see what they will accept as far as recyclables. It varies depending on where you live! Beyond that however, there are some universal basics of what can and CANNOT be recycled, and I’ll list a few here.

Cannot be recycled:

Pizza boxes: Yes. They’re paper, but they’re also covered in nasty old grease and cheese. You can cut up the parts that aren’t covered in that stuff and then put them in the recycling- that’s fine. The same goes for any other plastic food containers- make sure they’re scraped and rinsed before throwing those in the recycling.

Styrofoam: STYROFOAM IS THE SCUM OF THE EARTH. It can’t be recycled. Burning it releases toxic chemicals, and so does eating out of it- heat leaches chemicals into any food served on it. The only way to get rid of it other than the trash is finding a specialized facility to take it. Reduce how much Styrofoam you use.

Juice Boxes– There is a plastic coating on these that makes them unrecyclable. Check the label of some juice box makers actually make sure that the juice boxes are recyclable.

 

These are just a few examples, but really the key is to call your city. You don’t even need to call per say. Many city websites have pages that will tell you everything you need to know.

Protip!!! Just because your item has a recycling symbol on it doesn’t mean it’s recyclable. A recycling triangle with a number in it is only indicating the kind of plastic used in this item. HOWEVER, you can check the web to see if your city’s recycling provider accepts that kind of plastic. It’s a tiny clue! Check out the photo below, from veganology.com.

 

recycling numbers.jpg

I hope this empowers you to find out more from your city, and gives you some ideas that unfortunately, recycling is a bit more complicated than it should be, and there are a few things you should definitely try first! Any effort is good though, so don’t get discouraged. Go out there and get empowered!

 

Freedom

The concept of freedom popped into my contemplations lately-mostly because it was Thursday evening and the next day was Friday. This meant that a weekend stretched before me, full of promise. Well, kind of. Freedom for me doesn’t necessarily mean not having to wake up and go to my 9-5 job. Freedom on a personal level also doesn’t necessarily mean the freedom to not be enslaved by a foreign entity, though it’s certainly a privilege I don’t take for granted.

A lot of my posts lately have been very planet centered, which is great. The theme of the blog is, after all, “Humans and nature and human nature.” However, today, I’m going to talk more about a human theme, which is indeed, that concept of freedom, and how it can mean so many different things to so many different people.

Freedom takes on a special personal meaning for each person, because now that I really think on it, it’s not that the definition of freedom changes, it’s what each person would do with unlimited freedom that changes. Personal freedom at its core is to make choices about life, or our time, or our money, or our bodies… that we want. It’s the choices that we would make with our time that really differs and makes us who we are. AND, when we do have “free time”, what leads to personal fulfillment seems to be when the choices that we make align with what we truly desire internally. When the self is aligned with our choices, that is when we are most truly happy.

For me, the freedom I value most is the freedom of what to do with my time. Often, I become inundated with feeling like I have to do a million things for everyone in my life, or I feel torn between three different volunteer positions I’m involved in because I’m a crazy overachiever who really just wants to make a difference and be around good energy. However, if I’m not careful all of these things begin to feel like obligations which give me no freedom to choose what to do with my time- even though I’m constantly making choices with what to do with my time!

Sounds a bit overly complicated, so I’ll break it down a bit. (This was written on a Thursday, my least coherent night, due to the fact that I have almost a full week of work behind me.) One of my natural tendencies is that I am an introvert, meaning I draw a lot of energy from being by myself and reflecting. I also get a little bit of energy from being around small groups or individuals who share my passions, but those are harder to find. When I’m constantly busy, I don’t necessarily make the time to sit in quiet and reflect.

Freedom, to me, is sitting down in a quiet space, preferably in nature, with the sun on my body, a journal or a book in my hand, and my feet bare. It’s that simple. Some of my most free moments are when I don’t have anywhere to be, anything to do, or anything to worry my anxious brain. I can just be. Freedom can also be found, for me, in the arms or in the company of the people I love most, the people who let me just be myself.

Maybe, in part, my desire to protect the environment is a bit of a selfish one. I want to preserve my freedom to get lost in the natural world and press the reset button. I would be lost without it. However, I think that there is a little grain of preference that stems from a personal soft spot, for activists of every kind. It’s how we choose our primary focus- with what resonates for us. It helps us to be more effective.

For some people, my description of freedom is probably awful. Some people hate a lack of structure, or hate quiet. To them, it wouldn’t be freedom, it would be a prison. For me, it’s like oxygen.

What is freedom to you? How do you help preserve and find time for freedom? Are you enjoying some this weekend?

The Importance of Self-Care for World-Savers

There is nothing more vital to succeeding, in my opinion, or in the case of activists, not burning out (which I learned about the hard way following the 2016 election) than surrounding yourself with people who energize and inspire you. In my case, and in the case of many introverts like me, this becomes doubly important, because I think introverts in an activist role in any capacity often find themselves drained. Self-care is difficult for anyone dedicated to a cause higher than themselves, so in the interest of promoting self-care, I will dedicate this post to it.

Self-care is something which I personally struggle with sometimes. It can be hard to find a line between doing what feels like enough (spoiler alert: it never feels like I’ve done enough), and doing what is actually “enough” (which is what we can realistically contribute without nearing the point of self-destructing.) I recently found myself hard up against my limitations when I got sick late last week and had to cancel a meeting with a group from a nonprofit called Sustain DuPage, whom I have wanted to meet with for a long-time. I had to self-advocate and be honest with them, and tell them we were just going to have to reschedule. I was terrified. What if they decided I was a junk human who didn’t deserve their time because I clearly wasn’t dedicated to taking care of the environment if I cancelled for a stupid cold? What if they thought I was incredibly rude?

I rescheduled. The world went on. They were fine with it. I’m meeting with them at a later date. In retrospect, what would have been rude would be sitting through our meeting coughing all over them and getting them sick. I also wouldn’t have been able to give the meeting my undivided attention and thought. Unfortunately, I didn’t extend the same courtesy to an individual I care very deeply about, and I got them sick. I am not perfect.

So, how do we avoid getting to the point where we have to make these tough calls and cancel meetings? How can we conserve energy when we are constantly giving energy to the people who we have to explain our cause to again and again? When we put our physical bodies and mental faculties to the cause, it can be incredibly easy to get carried away, volunteering for every opportunity we possibly can, in order to feel like we’re making a difference.

For me, it’s a combination of things. The first is knowing my limits. I know that there is only so much I can do without burning out. It’s kind of an intangible knowledge—it’s not like after two volunteer events in a week I am done. It’s careful thought about each opportunity and whether it makes sense for me where I am, how much I’ve done lately, and how many other obligations I have on my plate at the time. Self-knowledge is vital. It’s also important to engage in things that feed you in other ways—yes, those of us who engage in activism and volunteerism know there is a definite positive benefit to giving of ourselves. It makes you feel great to know that you’ve made a difference for something you’re passionate about. However, we sometimes need to step back and do other things! Do you like to read? Watch movies? Play an instrument? These things are not frivolous wastes of time- they feed our souls, our hearts, our bodies, and our minds, and they help us to rest for the long road ahead. Changing the world is a marathon, not a sprint.

Finally, I try to surround myself with people who energize and inspire me. It’s not easy, because the world is so vast and we don’t always get to choose the people in our immediate surroundings. However, we can make sure to notice, cherish, and make time to spend with people who do inspire us. I have been very blessed and privileged lately to work with some incredibly passionate people at work on some projects that are near and dear to my heart because of their direct alignment with writing and conservation, respectively. I also had the joy of meeting with the aforementioned fantastic folks from a local nonprofit, Sustain DuPage (which you  should definitely check out- I’m just starting to get involved and I am already so fed and ignited by the energy in this group and their passion for all they do.)I have found myself, in small moments during meetings with like-minded individuals, feeling incredibly appreciative and blessed. When I notice and feel this energy and positivity, it feeds me for some of the more difficult encounters I have throughout the day. I also try to build a loving community around me in other places—at the yoga studio where I practice, in my family, and in my friendships.

Self-care isn’t easy, especially when you want to change the world, but these are some of the ways I try to make it happen. I’m not always successful, but when I fall off the horse, I have to try to get back on again. I hope that sharing my experience helps you to remember to take care of yourself. This world needs you more than ever!