How Your Actions Help the World

Paola Apestegui

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Watching the news; reading blogs, newspapers, journals; talking with friends and colleagues who are concerned about the numerous challenges we are facing as a society and overall day to day life can become very frustrating. We are constantly bombarded with issues that always seem too big to tackle. Many people are left with a sense of helplessness and yet still have a great desire to act, but they have no idea where to begin.

Although we may feel like it, we are not stranded; we just need to change our focus.

In my short experience, I have found that the key to solving this puzzle, to solving this seemingly impossible maze, is in realizing that a possibility of meaning always exists. Our social, personal and professional scopes may be crammed with thousands of questions; questions that increase in complexity over time, but it is within our reach to not be overtaken by this tunnel vision. All these questions are offering us opportunities, rather than being roadblocks. They have a sense of meaning, even though they confuse us with their grandiosity. The puzzle is challenging us to take a step back and look for another angle. We need to understand our context through another perspective and readjust our lenses to fit our scope of action. This is the difficult, yet invigorating part.

Our context determines our actions. Improving the understanding of our immediate surroundings allows us to build context-based sources of traction. Ideas that are developed based on the needs of a particular community, can be taught and gathered by others, who transform and adapt them to make them their own. For example, platforms such as ‘Seeds of Good Anthropocene’, take it upon themselves to collect successful stories of leaders throughout the world, and have answered community-based issues through sustainable means. Just a quick scan through the ‘seed bank’ and you will learn about the ‘Puffin Patrol’ in Witless Bay, Canada, who protect sea birds from the threats that local development exerts on their biological needs. Focusing on the local does not mean we need to lose sight of global issues. On the contrary, the local and global spheres complement each other and, thus, are not mutually exclusive. Many of us already understand the interactions that take place between them and realize that local actions are the foundations for global awareness. 

Explore new meanings. Throughout our lives, we have been taught to learn through binaries: there are universal ‘goods’ and ‘evils’. Fortunately, we know that our surroundings far exceed this simplistic categorization. On the other hand, there is still a need to assign new meaning to certain words in our vocabulary; to free them from this duality and see all the colors that lie in them. In this sense, one aspect must be highlighted: small is not bad. On the contrary, small is where it all begins. From my personal experience, small actions, such as feeding a stray dog, lead to bigger selfless acts, where a once threatened dog is adopted by a caring individual. Small actions are stepping stones; building blocks for establishing a network for change. 

Start by living. We may not have a say on how globalized actions take place, but we have the power to change our ways of living. Don’t underestimate the wonderful impacts that your behavior and overall sense of life might have on others. Lya Battle and Alvaro Saumet founded ‘Territorio de Zaguates’ (Territory of Strays in English) more than a decade ago. Their story has resonated around the world, allowing thousands of stray dogs to be taken off the streets and cared for in this dog nirvana. The political, economic, social and environmental aspects that constitute our immediate surroundings are dynamic, in constant evolution and home to numerous interactions. Ground yourself and gain control over your actions. See, touch, hear, smell and taste your environment; analyze its interactions and examine paths for better ways of living. 

Create opportunities for change. Even though there is no magical recipe that everyone can follow to instigate change, the key aspect we must remember is that we have great amounts of agency. We tend to forget the capabilities we have as human beings and the possibilities that our ideas have of spreading. You have power, you have a say and you can create awareness and change. Don’t wait for opportunities to come knocking at your door. Explore and engage. Look for those nooks and crannies where action can begin to be structured. Focus and unfocus your lens until you achieve a sense of clarity. Celebrate the small actions you perform. Thank yourself and thank your neighbor or friend if you see them doing something good. And… never stop trying.

Sources: Seeds of Good Anthropocene, Territorio de Zaguates