• Ian McClellan

Week 37: I will get stuck in.

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

Here we are. It is week thirty-seven, and for the first time I found myself being tempted to turn to the internet for ideas.

Tempted to tap in a quick search for things we can do as families to be kind to the planet. I know my way around many organisations and sites from months of research, correspondence, notes, even a few books. It would be pretty easy to run down the lists of ‘green tips’ or ’50 ways to help the planet’, to pick one and go with it.

It is not that I have run out of ideas, or think we have done everything and there are no new habits we can learn. In fact far from that. We have made some great progress in consuming less, making better decisions about what we consume, and thinking about what happens to our material goods once we are done with them. But I look around myself right now, and just in this room I can see slip-ups, imperfections, new things we could do. I’m on my third coffee this morning for a start, which is something I said I would not do in week 24.

I think I am just a bit tired, and have lots of competing priorities in my life this week. Maybe even just feeling a bit low, about whether everything we are doing is making a difference. It is just feeling a bit hard.

Whenever I feel a bit like this, I always wonder what advice I would give myself.

I would probably say that it is OK to be tired, but not to use it as an excuse. I’m not as tired as I have been before, or will be again.

I might also say that moments where you feel low, are the best moments to double-down, and do something. The days when you don’t fancy a run, are the days you should go for a run, and make it longer than usual. The moments when you don’t feel like facing a conversation about something, are the times you really need it. Moments of personal inaction, are the times we should seek action. That we should see possibility rather than risk. We might get cold on our run today, but we might also see an interesting frost pattern, or enjoy the feeling of our warm breath in the big sky. And we will definitely, definitely be warm again afterwards.

I might urge myself perhaps to do the opposite. To pause instead, at least for a moment. Pausing is something that is very powerful in life. Once we have made a choice of how to act, or once we have said something to ourselves or to others, we are on a road that we cannot turn back from. Life can have a pause button, but we have not yet invented the rewind switch.

All these are good pieces of advice, but Motivational Me was irritating Real Me a bit. I think sometimes when you are in the middle of something, you just lose a bit of a confidence, and have to remind yourself why you're doing it. No more difficult than that. So I politely asked Motivational Me to be quiet, and got out of the house instead.

I spent a good hour staring at the wall outside, instead of the computer screen. Went for a walk, contemplated the ground under my feet for a bit. Sat in a few places where I have found inspiration before, to see if these acted somehow as trigger for ideas. It worked to at least get my mind working, but then I found myself thinking how much it would help if tomatoes, potatoes or raspberries could talk. I wondered if they would thank me for bringing them into the world, and whether there was any point. I began to think that just because I think the world needs more home-grown tomatoes, it doesn't mean the tomato does.

Then I got a bit irritated, and wondered if there was any point in trying to live in a more kind way to the planet, if the tomatoes were not even on my side.

After a few more moments, I realised that I was projecting human emotions on a fruit, and of course they can't talk. But then then they did. Metaphorically at least.

The tomatoes, potatoes and raspberries, reminded me not to overthink things, and not to step back. The reason we have made thirty-six previous permanent changes to our lives this year, is not because we have tried to find the most amazing idea each week. It has been because we have committed to make small changes, consistently, to be kinder to the planet. We have taken steps forward, whether or not we felt like it.

From this perspective, the hard decision is not this week, it won't be next week. It was thirty-seven weeks ago. In metaphorical terms I am the skier at the top of the black run with poles in hand and goggles down. I am the child at the top of the helter-skelter with their feet in the hessian sack for the thirty-seventh time. The journeyman midfielder, with the ball in sight.

I'm not new to the game. I've taken three lifts up the mountain. I've climbed the stairs. I'm committed to the tackle.

In these situations, you don't go back, or think. You have to get stuck in.

So this week, I will get stuck in. And I will remind myself, when I'm having doubts, to do the same.

All this from pretend talking fruit and vegetables.

On a serious note, the motivation I have to make change after change each week to be more planetwise, is driven by a passion for kindness in the planet. It is driven by a desire for our family to be better, compared to ourselves. It is a belief that we are all connected, and that ideas can spread through connection and through community. But it also because I’m already committed. I’m already here, and I’m already doing it. The only thing left to do each week, whether I really want to or not, is to get stuck in.

For example, I didn’t know how to prune raspberries when we moved to our current home, which also happens to be to our first home with a garden and that we moved to when I was the ripe age of 37. But I learned it on You Tube. I have no idea where to look for sustainable alternatives to the products we consume, but I can Google it.

I had no idea how to grow stuff, upcycle stuff, make more use of recycling services, and less use of food miles. No idea about commoditisation, reusability, litter, hunger, thirst. But we live in a wonderful world, where information is at our fingertips and where hyper-connection does not have to mean overload. We can take the wealth of information we can access, and use it to make good choices, or to do it better next time.

We are somehow taught not to fail, or that everything has to be perfect. It stops us from getting stuck in and from fully committing. Perfection is destroying our commitment to try things, be rubbish at them, but then commit to keep doing them until we get better.

Being planetwise is the opposite of perfection, or of activism. It is about committing to something, and doing it as well as we can, in the hope that through practice or through using the advice of others, you can get better. And that if we can find ways of being kinder to the planet from an almost standing start, it might inspire others to as well.

Therefore for anyone who is reading this, and wondering how to start being kinder to the planet, or thinking about joining the conversation on climate change, and that might doubt themselves, then I give the same advice. Don't worry about it, just get stuck in. Google it. Watch a three-minute video. Try this at home.

The cool thing also was that I realised in my doldrums that I didn’t have anywhere outside for inspiration. Nowhere to think about being planetwise that was surrounded by nature and by the elements.

So I smashed up an old pallet, some wood from around the garden, and used a couple of fence posts that have no use anymore, to make an outdoor breakfast bar. The screws are wonky and I have worn the screw head down trying to fix it, which means that screw is going nowhere. The paint job is not perfect, but in the garden the mismatched shades make it blend in.

I got stuck in, and now have somewhere to go the next time I’m struggling for inspiration, to remind me that I’m already here, I’ve already decided. I just need to get stuck in next time as well.

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