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  • Writer's pictureDr. D

If It Might Help, DO It!

…if it’s unlikely to cause harm

I’m going to briefly turn away from my concerns about medications to talk about the powerlessness people feel about what’s happening around them. I'll be back to medications with my next post.

There are a lot of big issues people tell me they feel helpless to make better:

- The right and the left making each other out to be monsters.

- People afraid to voice their opinions for fear of being labeled sexist, racist, or something else -ist

- Huge outbreaks of disease caused by eating contaminated foods and people dying from it

- More and worse forest fires every year

- The environment is changing but…

… and on and on….

I admit I have often felt like wringing my hands and saying “there’s nothing I can do about it." Whatever ‘it’ may be.

Then I read the advice of a woman who is both an evangelical and a scientist, Katharine Hayhoe. What she said is “Do something and tell people about it.”

Let’s look at just the environment

....this time.

Dr. Hayhoe was just talking about the environment when she made her comments. But after thinking about it for a while, I decided this is great advice for how to approach many of our hot button issues. So I know I’m going to come back to this approach for other topics as well.

I had a discussion with a friend recently about the idea of climate change. We agreed the argument seems to be evolving. Fewer people deny that the climate is changing. Instead, they’re talking about why and who’s to blame.

There is one faction that points out, correctly, that the world and weather have always changed. For millenia, we’re told.

There have been five times in history the planet and everything on it (or just about) were killed off by one force or another. And these weren’t caused by man.

- One might have been from an asteroid hitting the earth.

- Another might have been because volcanoes erupted all over the world and released gases that killed nearly everything off.

- Maybe some other type of natural event or events made life impossible except for a very few teeny organisms. Since it was Mother Nature, not us, that caused the changes why should we worry about it?

We can’t do anything anyway.

Then there is another faction that says man is the cause of all the problems with the environment so we have to make things better.

- The temperature of the world is increasing at a rate faster than ever before recorded.

- The polar ice caps are melting.

- The sea is rising throughout the world. Cities in the U.S. are raising the level of their buildings because they know the land area is smaller because the ocean is creeping up.

And we’re totally to blame

As usual, the truth is likely someplace in the middle.

But if uisng less styrofoam and recycling plastic might make our world better for our children and grandchildren why not do it?

Do something, not nothing.

We get ourselves thinking that small change is no change. We’re just one person. Nothing we do will make enough of a difference to matter, so why bother?

But when you think about “small change,” think nickels and dimes. The one coin you find on the street doesn’t mean much.

If you put it in a drawer with the last fifty you found or emptied from your pockets, it’s enough to buy a cup of the expensive designer coffee or a bagel down the street.

In other words – it isn’t nothing.

Do something and tell people about it

Dr. Hayhoe is on to something. But I think it relates to many things, as well.

Even if you don't believe that masks do anything positive or that the environment is in peril, if there is any possibility that these might be the case, why not do some small thing? Just in case?

If it's possible that the woman standing behind you in line might be spared pneumonia and it doesn't hurt you to do it, why not wear a mask? at least when you're inside?

If you don't understand why some people think the presidential election hasn't been decided why not ask them? Then listen politely while they respond. Look at their sources of information and share where you get yours. Just in case?

If no one and nothing will be harmed by it, why not do this small thing? The worst that could happen is nothing. But the best might be two people actually talking to each other and really trying to understand each other rather than assuming the other person is stupid or naive?

One small thing like swearing off plastic bottles of water isn’t huge and it isn’t going to save the planet. But there's the possibility that it might make a difference. And if so, where's the harm in doing it?

At the airport I fill my refillable bottle with water before boarding. The fountain announces how many plastic containers were spared as a result of my, and many others, bottling our own water.

It will give a huge number, the last one said 183,638 fewer bottles were sent to landfills because people filled their own bottles.

And that’s just from one fountain.

And there are hundreds of water filling stations around the country. With each one likewise giving huge numbers of bottles saved.

So I’m here to say, I don’t use plastic water bottles. And there's the possibility that this can help reduce the need for more landfills. It won't hurt, it might help, so why not?

So I’m doing one small thing, and telling you about it.

Increasingly I’m finding ways to use this idea in other areas of my life.

If doing some small thing might help, why not do it?

Here are some suggestions:

-Use an erasable notepad instead of putting little memos all over the place. It might save a few trees. Not forests, perhaps. But something.

- Listen politely to someone you disagree with. It may help that person to be less angry and more able to discuss problems and possible solutions in a constructive manner.

I think Dr. Hayhoe may be on to something big. Why don’t you try something small and tell me about it? I’ll share some of my favorite ideas here in the future.

Image of picketers by: © Can Stock Photo Inc. /kstudija

Image of volcano by:© Can Stock Photo Inc. /Catmando


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