Photo via kimmcsweeney52 on Instagram.
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
~ Reinhold Niebuhr
My inbox is choked right now with messages from people who are frustrated that climate change is not being taken seriously by their friends or family or work colleagues or politicians, and that people are posting ignorant or incorrect statements on social media about the Australian Bushfires or climate change in general. In these messages people are asking me what they can do to change the minds of these people who are climate change deniers or who are sharing false information.
My response might surprise you.
Don’t put energy into trying to change someone else’s views or beliefs.
It’s a waste of your precious energy, time and resources.
It will depress, destress and exhaust you, with no good outcome.
Let me give you an example. Imagine you are on a sinking ship. The ship has a hole, and that hole can’t be repaired easily or quickly. Water is slowly leaking into the hold. Very few people are affected yet on the upper decks. Many haven’t seen the hole or the damage or the water that will keep pouring in until it sinks the ship. Everyone is discussing how bad the hole is, or if there is a hole at all, or if the shipping company is using it to drive up fares or for you to buy a deluxe safety package or some other hidden agenda. Maybe the ship isn’t even sinking. Maybe the whole thing is a beat-up. Suddenly everyone has an opinion and is an expert, or they don’t care because it is not affecting them yet.
People on your sinking ship are discussing whose fault it is, and who should be blamed. People are talking about their own experiences with holes in ships and what happened back in the old days, or about some article they read about another sinking ship, some other time. People are also talking about how to fix that hole and there are arguments about that too. Some people are thinking about how they can profit from the hole, or the chaos, or the uncertainty. Nothing is co-ordinated. There is no consensus. The discussion is heated.
Meanwhile, the ship is sinking.
The ship has pumps. There are things that can be done. Your job is to be practical. Go from person to person on the ship until you find some other people who will man the pumps with you.
Don’t try to convince someone if they don’t want to pump or don’t believe there is a problem. There is no time for that. Don’t get upset. Don’t get angry. Remain polite and friendly. Move on. Just move on. Ask the next person. Someone will eventually say yes. Perhaps many people. There are other people who are like you, and who are ready to help.
Go pump. Pump for all you are worth. Keep the ship afloat long enough that others can work out how to plug the hole and repair the damage. Send messages out from the ship’s radio asking for help, and looking for experts. Keep others posted on the situation from the pump room. As you pump, and work with each other, ideas will come to you about how to solve this. Others will join you. Know that your best path of action is to take action, and to stop listening to the non-believers.
Pump, because you KNOW the ship is sinking. Pump because you know what has to be done and you can take action immediately.
It’s the same with our current climate crisis and extinction crisis. Right now there is important work to be done. So, man the pumps. In your downtime, rest or do things that fill you up. Don’t engage with people who will frustrate you or irritate you. Smile and walk away. Honour that people everywhere are entitled to their point of view, and leave it at that.
If they harass you or upset you? Unfriend them if you need to. Block them. Stop following them. Fill your time with actions that count and relationships that count, and work that counts. Look after yourself. Look after your pumping team. Know that even small actions are helpful. Keep your energy for those, and for intelligent problem-solving.
Don’t let the people on the upper decks who can’t see or won’t see the water gushing in, get you down. Stop worrying about them. Stop trying to convince them or change them. Just pump. Just do what YOU can. Soon enough more of those people who ignored you to start off with will change their own minds as their feet get wet, or the feet of a loved one.
There will be some people who will deny the water even if it gets up to their necks. That’s okay. That’s their path. Not yours.
You are here to man the pumps, to do the work, to save the ship from sinking. It will take all of us, together, to turn this around. There is still time, even though there is loss, damage and change we can never fix now, or at least not in our lifetimes.
So, my parting words? You know what’s in your heart. Stay true to your own beliefs. Man the pumps on this sinking ship. Find others and band together and do what can be done. Keep each other going. Find a way.
Stay strong. Take action. Keep your spirits up.
Know that you are in my daily prayers and meditations,
All my love, Nicole xx