Treading water: avoiding getting overwhelmed by the problem
Modern-day communication has broadened our ability to learn about the world. You can instantly access information about virtually any subject from the comfort of your own home. Being aware of issues past your borders is essential in being an educated world citizen. However, where do you draw the line between being well-educated and overwhelmed by the never-ending stream of new issues? For example, I believe that actions speak louder than words. So when I hear about critical situations like water pollution, species endangerment and extinction, deforestation, etc. I find that I get overwhelmed. What can I do that'll make a difference? I am one person with limited resources and funds. I do not hold political office, have corporate backing or endless financial assets. What I have is a university degree in marketing, a small savings, and a cat.
Like many young people who recently graduated, opportunities are tight. Jobs are incredibly competitive, living expenses are increasing whilst work hours are decreasing. If we are unable to support ourselves and our families, how can we help tackle global issues? This question is something I have been asking myself for years. Life is not easy, and sometimes you have to take a step back from the world's problems just to survive your own. I find it helpful to remain aware of the goings on around the world while focusing on the aspects you can impact. So I propose a new question for you to ponder; what can you provide to become part of the solution?
What obligations do people have?
There exists an unspoken commitment we have as global citizens to combat issues with global implications, where everyone has a part to play. Of course, there are economic and environmental constraints that influence individuals, communities, and/or governments and their ability to act upon these issues. So, how can we as individuals act within our means to be part of a greater solution?
Take the example of a child or young adult in the education system. Likely still in the family home - you live to the rules of your parents. Agency over sustainable practices exists within the parameters they allow. However, there are places where you can go as a young person where you can take more control. One example I had was in my High School environmental club. As a member and later president, I utilised my graphic design skills and vocational classroom resources to design, print, and sell Earth Day t-shirts where the proceeds were sent to Water.org. I was even able to create and coordinate a food waste program in the school to be taken to a community farm for compost. Despite the social and financial limitations I faced, I made an effort to contribute where I could.
How to get involved in something bigger:
As I finished my education and entered the working world, I again asked the question; what can I do to make a difference? Of course, there are more individual actions in my life I can make to change my environmental impact. However, I've come to realise that it will take more than each individual changing their lifestyle. Corporations and government bodies also have to focus on environmental change. Organisations such as the United Nations have set the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to help guide governments and corporations towards large-scale change. With these goals in mind, I decided I wanted to work for an organisation that seeks to honour these goals.
There was one obstacle blocking my way towards following a sustainable career path. That is, the skill set I've acquired didn't feel directly transferable to environmental issues. Communications and design doesn't stop pollution, ocean levels rising, climate change, etc. The trick is to adapt the skillsets you have. In my case: environmental communications. I realised that there was a need for organisations to educate and spread awareness of their purpose. For example, I interned at Babes in the Wood. They are a for-profit organisation providing second-hand children's clothing to lower-income communities while reducing landfill waste. During my time there, I was able to strengthen their branding identity to reflect their values. Furthermore, I created educational material to spread awareness of practices and policies that boost the local economy and sustainability of the community.
This opportunity and others during my life have inspired me on a path toward making a difference in the world. I don't know how large of an impact my actions will make, but I seek to utilise my skills and education in an organisation that truly makes a difference. Everyone has the chance to make positive change, sometimes it just takes time and research to find where your abilities are the most influential.