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Twelve Steps to Sustain Hope

It's time for us to unite behind a common solution to the Climate Crisis.

By Sarjé HaynesPublished 4 years ago 6 min read

I've sat down repeatedly over the past week to write an article outlining my favorite "sustainability hack," and struggled. Not because I don't have favorites--there are many, and I'll list them below--but because the biggest hack I am still seeking for myself is how to stay hopeful that sustainability is possible.

With headlines like these (all printed in the past week) perhaps you'll understand why I'm feeling a little hopeless:

Rising temperatures will cause more deaths than all infectious diseases – study

Last decade was Earth's hottest on record as climate crisis accelerates

Global Warming Could Unlock Carbon From Tropical Soil

Air pollution is much worse than we thought

Bees slower, sicker and living shorter lives because of air pollution, study suggests

Sea life around Mauritius dying as Japanese ship oil spill spreads

EPA destroys water quality records, deceives archivist

New study warns: We have underestimated the pace at which the Arctic is melting

Why deforestation and extinctions make pandemics more likely

It seems to me that sustainability is still being treated like a trend, when, to my mind, it is the only way to survive as a species. And that's to say nothing of the growing list of endangered species we are presently failing to sustain, given the prolific rate of ecosystem destruction for which we remain responsible. It seems that for all we've learned, we are continuing to drag our collective feet on the path to true sustainability.

So let's call it what it really is: survivability. How do we survive as this world continues to warm? How do we survive, as weather patterns shift and grow more extreme? How do we survive as more pandemics loom, and we've not solved the current one plaguing our societies, the very systems on which we've been entirely dependent?

The only answer I can really fathom is that we must unite as a species. Beyond borders, beyond classes, castes, or races, beyond politics--we are all residents of the selfsame spaceship called Planet Earth. True unity in the face of imminent and certain doom is the only way we will survive the utter catastrophe that is the Climate Crisis.

Unlikely though it seems, it is possible to unite people who have nothing in common.

When I got sober, I was almost immediately introduced to this idea, in the Big Book (page 17):

"We are people who would not normally mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful."

People who have nothing in common come together for one single shared purpose: today, we want to be sober. Sobriety is what the planet desperately needs from all of us. We must address our addictions to convenience, to what we define as freedom, to say nothing of our addictions to being "right," regardless of facts, logic, or reason.

A shared purpose to put Earth's needs above our individual human needs. Is this an easy path for us to take? Not at all. But as the saying goes: the road to recovery is "simple, but not easy."

So here are my recommendations for simple changes you can make to live more sustainably:

1. Eat your veggies. Don't try to go vegan all at once! Do try to eat more vegetarian meals (maybe start with a meal a week and progressively work your way to less meat). "60% of global biodiversity loss" is due to our animal-product consumption.

2. Shop local if you can. Obviously, you'll want to research what your options are! But if you can, invest in a local CSA delivery, or shop at local farmer's markets or farm stands when you can. It's a total win-win. You get the freshest products from people who grew it themselves. Get to know your farmers!

3. Be a farmer. If you've got some free time and space, grow something yourself at home! If you don't, consider WWOOFing! I'm currently farming, learning the ins and outs of growing crops, and it has given me so much more appreciation for everything that goes into our food chain.

4. Turn stuff off. Do you need your lights on during the day, or could you open some blinds and let the sun do its thing? Are you running your TV to "have company" during quarantine? When's the last time you just sat down and read a book? Our culture is electronics obsessed. Do you know how to spend your day without using anything that plugs in?

Dirty Overalls 4 Lyfe!

5. Wear dirty clothes. Westerners are pretty obsessed with cleanliness (something about it being akin to godliness, I guess). Let's face it--we all like to smell good. But do you wash your jeans every single time you wear them? Could you space it out? I wear the same overalls about ten days before giving them a wash. Reality dictates that within an hour, they'll just be covered in dirt again!

6. Line dry. The old fashioned way of doing things is often the more sustainable way. Clothes dryers are great from a convenience standpoint. But pretty terrible for power usage.

7. Review your electricity use. If you've never done this, it can be quite enlightening. Plus, you might find you can support sustainable energy efforts through your power company! That's an easy way to make a difference.

8. Vote! Vote for candidates at all levels who support environmental causes. Supporters of the Green New Deal in the US are a safe choice. You might need to do some research about who funds your candidates. It's a good idea to follow the money. Make sure you're registered, and consider signing up to be a poll worker, if you can!

9. Follow the money. Look into your financial institutions. More and more banks are divesting from fossil fuels. Has yours?

10. Buy used. But really, buy less. When's the last time you bought something you really didn't need? We all have done it. These days, I mull over purchases, do lots of research, and give myself time to decide if I really need that thing. I've saved a lot of money by just not buying stuff. What I do buy is often from thrift stores or other secondhand marketplaces. There's so much stuff already out you need everything to be new?

11. Pay more attention. Pay attention to how you care for things and people. Allow yourself time to consider what you value and what you dispose of. Do you work to mend things before you throw them away? Do you do the same thing in relationships? Are you able to handle a bit of discomfort? What happens when things get much, much less comfortable than you're used to? Strengthening the discomfort muscle by changing your routines, eating differently, shopping differently--some of this has already happened because of Covid-19. Now is a good time to practice new habits.

12. Try to help. We are all struggling more than we used to, but some of us have been doing it longer. If you're new to the struggle, welcome. While you're here, how can you help? Can you send money to a food bank? Support local farmers by joining their CSA? Can you volunteer locally to help the homeless? Just stopping and talking with someone who has a different life will broaden your horizons and nourish your soul. Service is key to survival.

Those are my tips to sustain yourself and help in the effort to sustain our species and our planet. There are so many great things you can do, but the most important thing is to make an earnest start. We have a long road to recovery, but we'll get there, if we are all willing to do the work.

As we say in the rooms, "take what you like, and leave the rest."

Let's get started.


Thanks for reading! If you liked this story, please leave me a tip! Namaste.


About the Creator

Sarjé Haynes

Sarjé is a painter and writer living in Kalapuya ancestral territory. You can learn more about her at

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    Sarjé HaynesWritten by Sarjé Haynes

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