"Look - it's a bird, it's a plane ... no, it's EcoGirl!"

Ask EcoGirl

A syndicated eco-advice column
Written by Patricia Dines

"Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone!"

"Making it easy to be green!"

This Month's Column:
Reclaiming Our Shared Power

PDF VERSION OF THIS COLUMN -- formatted with the EcoGirl logo and ready to print! (Click here to download a PDF reader.)

ASK ECOGIRL'S HOME PAGE -- for more information, including how she can appear in your publication.


Reclaiming Our Shared Power

By Patricia Dines
Published in the Sonoma County Gazette
April 2012
(c) Patricia Dines, 2012. All rights reserved.

Dear EcoGirl: I feel so hopeless, seeing all the horrible things happening in the world. Can anything we do really make a difference? Signed, Feeling Powerless

Dear Feeling Powerless: Thanks for your question. I certainly can relate to your experience, as I think many can.

However, I've also come to see that we really do have so much more power than we realize, both individually and collectively. But we often just give it away without even noticing.

The truth is that we're already impacting the world and the future, either positively or negatively, with the choices that we make every day. This includes what we buy, where we live and work, how we participate in government and community activities, and the way we talk about these issues with others.

Even inaction has an impact, just as it does when bystanders don't stop the harmful actions of a playground bully.

Certainly, we all need to prioritize where we invest our time and energy. However, it's exciting whenever we can turn and say, "No, this is not OK with me," and find ways to help stop it. Through these cumulative choices, we can indeed help create a better future.

So, how do we do that?

Here are some of the key steps that I've found for reclaiming our power.

1) Be open to the possibility of positive change. Much of what we enjoy in the world today exists because people took constructive action in the past. Similarly, there are many folks today taking useful and effective action, in so many arenas, all over the world. We can support and connect to their work. We're not alone in wanting a better world.

2) Face the darkness, and stand for the light. Sometimes, in our desire to create a happy life, we can want to avoid seeing the painful destruction of people, places, and ideals. And I can understand that.

However, ignoring these crises doesn't make them go away. We still hear about them, care about those who suffer, and feel hopeless about the world as a result. Plus, our lack of participation creates vacuums that selfish vested interests are happy to fill. Thus, our avoidance actually creates its own pain, as our fears become self-fulfilling and we collectively roar headlong into disaster.

On the other hand, when we can see these issues as simply challenges to be addressed, and start solving them, we can then directly experience our ability to have an impact, and all sorts of new possibilities open up. There's so much beauty in the world. Let's channel our energy to protect what we love.

3) Develop the knowledge and skills to act wisely. Too often people can shift from "no action" to "impulsive and ill-considered action," grabbing any opinion or proposed remedy as The Truth, and steamrolling others without listening to their feelings, needs, perspectives, or information. This wastes our energy and makes things worse.

So how can our community action be more wise? That's part of what I seek to explore with my writing. I think it starts by recognizing that we all want a healthy and safe world; seek to make the best use of our limited time, energy, and funds; and prefer experiences that are fun, respectful, and rewarding.

Therefore, we're more successful in taking action when we increase both our factual understanding of the issues and our ability to be effective, collaborate, and create safe spaces for each other.

4) Distinguish between harmful dominating and helpful initiating. Many of us can hesitate to claim our power because we've seen power abused in various areas of our lives. Thus, we can decline to participate, and even punish those who take action, rather than encourage the healthy initiating that's vital for our effectiveness and success.

So it's been great for me to explore the ways that we can embody our power in healthy and non-abusive ways. This means, for instance, that we stand up for everyone's rights, value everyone's unique skills, and serve everyone's shared best interests.

I think that doing this helps us be more effective, and is essential for us to collectively avoid today's emerging disasters. We can nurture our species' next higher level of manifestation instead!

OK, so now I invite you to consider what power you already have in the community issues you care most about, including as a consumer, worker, citizen, voter, and community member. Then how can you use this power to encourage the better outcomes you want in the world? I think that this process will increase your feelings of true joy!

• • •

Ask EcoGirl is written by Patricia Dines, Author of The Organic Guides, and Editor and Lead Writer for The Next STEP newsletter. Email your questions about going green to <EcoGirl [at] AskEcoGirl.info> for possible inclusion in future columns. View past columns at <www.AskEcoGirl.info>.

You can also become a Facebook fan of "Ask EcoGirl", to show your support and stay in touch! Join at www.facebook.com/AskEcoGirl.

"EcoGirl: Encouraging the eco-hero in everyone."

© Copyright Patricia Dines, 2012. All rights reserved.


* EcoGirl column: "Is There Hope For The Planet?" Here I describe the common beliefs that I feel keep us trapped in frustrating inaction, and the fundamentally different approaches that I think can free up our ability to act.

* EcoGirl column: "Creating Your Personal Earth Action Plan" One way you can reclaim your power is by thinking out your own approach, instead of just adopting those that happen to appear your doorstep. You can create one that's joyful and effective in your world! This column offers four easy steps to help you prioritize and feel excited about the impact you can have!

* Starhawk's classic book Truth Or Dare. In it, she describes three types of power: Power-over (that can control others just because of authority, regardless of fairness or competency); Power-Within (our own internal wisdom, connected to the mysteries); and Power-With (our ability to persuade others as equals, because of the value of our ideas). www.starhawk.org/writings/truth-dare.html

* Starhawk's newest book "The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups." www.starhawk.org/writings/empowerment_manual.html

"The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any."
-- Alice Walker, Author

"A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong."
-- Tecumseh

"Most people can bear adversity; but, if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power."
-- Robert G. Ingersoll, regarding Abraham Lincoln


I'm delighted to offer you my Ask EcoGirl booklets, "Healthier Housecleaning" and "Detoxing Your Life." These unique, handy, and cheerful resources bring together key information you need to create a healthier home for your family and the planet. They make a great gift, and quantity discounts and wholesale prices are available. Plus all sales support my eco-healing community work. Tell a friend! Find out more at www.askecogirl.info/booklets.html.

I hope that you find this information useful. I welcome your throughts and feedback!

You can email me at ecogirl [at] askecogirl.info! You can also ask to be on my email article alerts list or connect via Facebook at www.facebook.com/AskEcoGirl.

For more information on this and related eco-topics, see my other Ask EcoGirl columns.

For more about my writing in general, on eco-issues and more, see my What's News page.

This entire website is (c) Patricia Dines, 1998-2012. All rights reserved.
Page last updated 04/08/2012