We only have to switch on the news to see a snapshot of the huge amount of suffering happening in our world right now. It can at times be overwhelming. It is no wonder that we often feel powerless, hopeless, and unsure of what differences we can tangibly make to create a better world – how can I alone solve these huge problems?
The good news is that we are not alone, and each of us are blessed with certain gifts, circumstances, jobs, relationships, finances, skills, situations etc., all which give us a unique way to make change. We have been made for a purpose, and we have been given all the tools we need to make that purpose happen – in a world of 7.6 billion unique people, all able to make their own differences in the world, it is comforting to remember that we are a part of a bigger picture; a picture in which we have an important and necessary part to play.
Our own circumstances, abilities and relationships are what make up our personal “sphere of influence” – our space in the world where we absolutely have an effect. We may not think about it often, but the way we live our lives has a huge impact on those around us.
An important starting place for all our action is to consider our own circumstances and to look at the places in our lives that we can have the biggest impact. This could be through the people we know, through our jobs, our parishes, our finances, our shopping choices, or even just in the way that we interact with others. I encourage you all to take some time to determine what your spheres of influence are – where are you called to make the biggest difference and how has God equipped you to do that?
Once we’ve considered that, the whole task of changing the world is a lot less daunting! We can appreciate the impact of our actions and begin to make changes that make our own lives (and therefore the world) more sustainable. Small positive actions can have a huge impact through the people and places we influence, which then leads on to the people and places we help.
Here are some ideas that you might want to take forward and apply to your own lives. Think about how each of these actions personally apply to you, and what ways you can amplify their impact through your own sphere of influence:
Use free online tools such as Carbon Independent or Eco Passenger to help you understand what areas of your live might need prioritise for action. Then think about where you can influence change in your communities – can you lead something in your parish?
We are always able to learn more, no matter where we are on our life journey. There is so much information out there: research, watch documentaries, listen to podcasts, follow social media – especially accounts of scientists and environmental organisations, subscribe to newsletters. Stay up to date with recent news on the state of our natural world.
Talk to your priest, your family, your community, your MP, your friends, neighbours, your manager, and colleagues and get them to make positive changes too. Contact the brands you buy from and ask them to tell you how their products are sourced. Speak up, speak to everyone, and make your voice heard.
Understand your energy and water use and find ways to reduce the amount you use and more importantly how much you waste and do not use. Reduce your waste: refuse what you do not need (e.g., excess packaging), reuse, compost, recycle and donate items to charity.
Everything we buy/use has an environmental footprint. Where you can, prioritise reuse, repurpose, repair, share. When buying something ask yourself whether you really need it. Marketing is very clever and often leads us to think we need a particular item when we do not. However, if you do need something, be informed in your choice. What you purchase is more than an economic choice but an environmental, social, and political choice too. This also includes the services you purchase and where you put your money, your investments.
The food we eat is a major driver of the climate and ecological crisis. Learn about where your food comes from. Choose a plant-based diet or reduce your meat intake, eat seasonally and locally, reduce food waste.
Make space for nature, for growing your own food, for wildlife in your garden – no matter what the size, the right plants and some water will help wildlife flourish. Make space in your day for the environment, for walking, cycling, and sharing ideas and stories.
Above all, stay positive and remind yourself that you are not alone. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and seek guidance when you are unsure. You can only do what is within your own power and influence, so concentrate on the impact you can have and trust that it is hugely important and valuable.
Dr Emma Gardner is the Head of Environment for the Diocese of Salford, spearheading their Guardians for Creation project. She also manages the flagship Laudato Si’ Centre at Wardley Hall.
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