The Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”
It’s time for us to get started. But we need to determine the direction in which we want to travel. Then we can begin defining our tasks.
Nearly any human being alive can make a contribution to our species’ sustainable future on the planet. This morning I’m writing on a laptop computer whose power settings are adjusted to conserve electricity, in a house where only one or two necessary lights are on. I have not solved any planetary problems today, but I’ve made a few small adjustments that help. The coffee I’m drinking was grown organically in the shade of a forest where the big, mature trees were left standing. It was harvested and processed by people earning a living wage, and the farmer made a little extra money because the crop was certified organic, shade-grown and fair-trade.
In a little while I’m going to deliver some sheep to another farmer. Then I’ll try to incorporate my day’s errands into the trip so I don’t have to start a vehicle again today.
These little measures don’t make me feel deprived. My awareness that I’m consuming resources and generating waste doesn’t make me feel guilty. My consumption is an inevitable and natural condition of living. The small steps I take to reduce that consumption give me proportionately small satisfactions. But over the course of the day, the week, the months and the years those satisfactions stack up into a life that is more fulfilling than it would have been if I hadn’t been paying attention.