I hear about ice caps melting, temperatures risings, natural disasters scaling up in magnitude and frequency, wildfires burning, and piles of garbage and recycling being moved from one continent to another. I care about the environment and I feel an anxious pit of worry and doubt when I think about the future. For the last 2 years I volunteered with a local nature group writing grant applications for them and helping out at speaking engagements. Even though my applications resulted in a handful of grants and projects still active today, it did not feel like enough and I struggled to see how what I did helped or even addressed these big problems. It wasn’t until I organized a clean-up in the city last year that I felt like maybe I was doing something concrete and good, even at a very small scale. Seeing the big bags we filled with cans, coffee cups, plastic bottles, and takeaway containers felt amazing that day. We picked up and took those things away so that they didn’t end up in the river or harbour and harm the herons, seagulls, seals, and otters who called it home. Mig and I continued with the pickups on our own after that including a Christmas clean up in a field until Karl refused to walk any further because it was too cold and small cleanups along the beach whenever we ended up on one.
Edward Abbey’s quote “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul” speaks to this need to do something in order to cope with these feelings of fear and worry that seem omnipresent today. It is so easy to lose yourself in overwhelming feelings of fear, sadness, and hopelessness when you have awareness of the problem but feel powerless to do anything about it. We decided to commit to picking up litter as we explore Ireland as a way to do something, anything. Sometimes even the smallest actions can help. At the very least, maybe it will save my soul from being as ruined as our environment is.