Individual Actions can Change the World

Will McMichael

Imagine the best version of our planet. What does it look like? Can it get any better? Back to reality. Our planet is being destroyed. The people in power are turning their backs on future generations. We are all placed in a system where it is nearly impossible to live ethically. Our trash goes to the oceans, and our electricity is from fossil fuels. Can you avoid it? The people in power have made it this way. Fortunately, those people will be dead and gone tomorrow, and someone new will have to take their place. 

All of this is to emphasize that even though the world can seem bleak, you can’t give up, you must have faith in yourself and then change will come. It is necessary for you to know that you do have power. In fact, you have the greatest power: the power to change the future. 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” and “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase,” Martin Luther King Jr. said. Both quotes are to emphasize the importance of standing up for your values and the necessary role that belief in yourself plays when trying to build a better future. 

One of the most positive things you can do is to kindly, yet forcefully, oppose what you see as destructive opinions and actions around you. Political activism is necessary; voting should be considered not a duty, but a requirement. Furthermore, educated voting can multiply the impact of your vote by better reflecting the values you hold. 

In addition, I want to refute last week’s article “Vote with your ballot, not your wallet” by saying that dollar voting is important and can have a significant positive impact. Boycotting products has historically been very effective at pressuring companies to change. 

For example, according to Judith Samuelson, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s business and society program, the 1990 Nike boycott not only stopped child labor being used in Nike sweatshops but also has turned Nike to being proactive and a sustainability leader for the industry. 

You can choose to fuel the companies that are destructive, or you can choose to fuel the ones that are moving forward. Just as your vote can seem like a drop in an ocean, so is your dollar, but I would argue that the effects of dollar voting are also effective as a means of spreading your mindset and raising awareness, just in the same way political activism can be. 

For reference, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, while all of the transportation industry’s exhaust is only responsible for 13 percent, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2006. If American meat consumption just dropped by 20 percent, there would be more progress towards fighting global warming than the U.S.A. has made in the last decade, or possibly the last century. 

Progress has to start somewhere; Rome wasn’t built in a day. Veganism and vegetarianism, or plainly just eating less meat or animal products can make a significant impact. Every decision you make has some impact on the world around you. I respect the people that put effort into loving others, and who cultivate a loving mindset. I respect people that take the hard road because it is better for the whole. The road towards a better world is not always an easy one, but it is the only one we have. 

What are you doing for others? Love is the only way forward, knowing that me and my “enemy” are one in the same (human). Why do we forget that everyone makes mistakes, and that we are all ignorant? Don’t settle, don’t lose hope. Today you may be an acorn. Tomorrow you may be an oak tree.