When the Amazon fires were burning at their fiercest in August, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. (The fires are still burning, but less rampantly, which is what passes for good news these days.) My life still contained some of that precious end of summer happiness, that emotional golden hour, but those fires burned on my mental horizon, sending urgent smoke signals across blue skies.
The realities of the climate crisis make us feel small and powerless, and maybe we are, but I needed to do something. So I organized a small fundraiser, inviting people to my yard to pick their own bouquets and donate to the Rainforest Action Network. Making bouquets has been the great, unexpected joy of this year, and I figured I could turn that light on my despair.
In the two weeks before the event, attendance was rather low, and I feared a flop, but when they day arrived, the weather held and a handful of people turned out. I picked as many flowers as I could and put out a rainbow of blooms. “I don’t know how to arrange flowers,” said one friend. “Me neither,” I said. “Just start.” And her flowers looked wonderful. Everyone’s did. I think it’s safe to say everyone was in a great mood, me especially, happy to share both my flowers and the joy of arranging them for a good cause.
Later, on request, I started making bouquets to order for people who couldn’t make the event. There was enough momentum that in the end I raised $610 by doing something that gave me major joy. It won’t put out the fires, it won’t save the world. But it’ll do a little bit of good.
When we think about resources, especially in an environmental context, we usually focus on what we take. (Too much.) But we also have resources, and many can be shared with a glad heart. These days it’s a question I want to ask everyone. What resources, talents, skills, do you have? And instead of using them for your own gain, as we’re taught, can you use them for the world’s?
For me, this means more flowers next year, and another fundraiser for sure. I’m also currently saving seeds so I can give away some Victory Garden starter packs in spring to people who might want to start growing their own food but don’t have the resources. (I’ll even be including copies of my favourite urban gardening book, which is what really started me down this garden path.) For others it might be using their yoga teacher skills, or their knack for carpentry, or sharing an abundant harvest.
People and communities can be resources too. My dad and his wife travel in well-heeled circles, and they love food and drink and hosting. What if I paired them with an activist chef I know, and we made a fundraiser? How much money and awareness could we raise? I’m taking steps to find out.
In green communities online, there’s often talk of hoarding resources, which sounds dramatic but can happen in innocuous, everyday ways: those clothes you don’t wear, those tiny bottles of hotel shampoo slowly losing their potency, the food you throw out or ignore in the back of your cabinet, the housewares gathering dust, the books you aren’t reading and probably never will. These days, as I go about my business, I’m looking for excess. I’m giving away the rain barrel I can’t use (a good eco-tool that’s been terribly wasted on me), and a lot of my bumper crop of parsley, sage and thyme so that people can use it for Thanksgiving dinner this weekend. Someone on the really lovely Zero Waste Toronto FB group needed a scoby, so I’m giving her a piece of mine. A friend was getting rid of some nice clothes, so I brought them to work, where they all went to new homes. This doesn’t require a full Kondo, and it fact it might be much more sustainable just to take things as they come, since responsible disposal can overwhelm.*
At a conference I attended recently, we watched a video that reminded me that not everyone needs to be a capital-A activist, quitting their jobs and decamping to an NGO. Often you can make the most effective change amongst the spaces and people you know well. We need adaptation and tough conversations everywhere. “What can you touch?” they asked. For me, at least, it makes the whole thing less daunting, and is a good reminder that opportunities for positive global change can be surprisingly local.
So much of what’s happening in the world is heavy, unbearably so. But instead of puddling under the weight of it all, let’s start by looking to our strengths, our community, our abundant resources. It’s an exercise in gratitude and generosity, and we all could probably use more of both. My fundraiser reminded me that there are some things we can give easily and happily with a little creative thinking. Hopefully once we’ve caught our stride, we’ll have the momentum to take on so much more that isn’t, figuratively or literally, sunshine and flowers.
* A note here about responsible rehoming: dumping everything at your local thrift store is not helpful, nor is chucking a bunch of stuff on the curb (especially right before a rain—a pet peeve I see all the time). But there are so many other good avenues: local buy nothing groups, Freecycle, Bunz/Palz, local swap meets, friends and colleagues, etc. BlogTO also has a great list of places to donate stuff in Toronto. If you actually want something to stay out of landfill, a little more effort is required, but on the plus side, you often get to meet the people who are happy to have your stuff.