NPR’s “Life Kit” purports to offer “tools to help you get it together.” The site categorizes its practical articles into health, money, parenting, life skills, and – thank goodness – sustainability. Sadly, that last category hasn’t seen updated content in over seven months.

Just this month, Life Kit’s reporters asked therapists, career coaches, relationship experts, and writers about the best advice they ever received. They chose 10 pieces of advice to highlight. How might we translate some of their wisdom for our work in saving and savoring the Earth?

There’s more than one way to do something

Clinical psychologist Jody Adewale shares a story about her father’s alternative guidance in scrubbing a particularly caked-on pan. “From that moment on,” she writes, “I’ve been looking at every problem in my life like how can I do this a different way?”

When it comes to protecting the environment and motivating others to join in, there is not a right way. Guilt trips often prove counterproductive, and offering unsolicited advice can generate resentment. What we can do is share honestly about our own challenges against wasteful consumerism. We can highlight changes we’re making with our family and friends to inflict less harm. We can celebrate the excitement we feel at seeing something grow in our yards and our awe at visiting beautiful outdoor spaces. Several bird-loving members of the Climate Action Team have been excitedly sharing woodpecker sightings this past week. Their enthusiasm is contagious!

Being vulnerable means taking off our armor

Psychology professor Tania Israel was taught by her therapist: “Being vulnerable means taking off our armor and going in not knowing how we’ll be received, but putting ourselves out there a little bit anyway.” 

No one expects us to be climate change experts. You don’t need to rattle off factoids or name drop prominent scientists and activists. Your own personal practices don’t have to be unassailable for you to voice your care for the planet and your aspiration to help protect it. This isn’t a “war.” Our UU principled “respect for the interdependent web of all existence” precludes anyone from being the enemy. Siding with love gives us the greatest power, and the Earth provides plenty to love.

Go where the energy goes

“What has good vibes?” asks pop star and reality show host Betty Who. “What makes you feel good about yourself? Where is that good energy? Head in that direction.”

Who wants to hang out with glum-faced catastrophists? Who wants to be pressured by a constant barrage of “we should” and “someone needs to”? Who has the stamina to digest technical climate change projections or to follow the detailed path of regulatory changes and legislative efforts? If you do, and if you’re able to distill the highlights for those who don’t, then you have an important role to play. More important, though, is for each of us to discern what resonates with our souls and what energy we need to power us. Howard Thurman’s sage words never fail to inspire: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

It’s not all about you

“I’m one piece of a bigger universe that’s at play right now,” acknowledges Shanita Williams, a career coach and author.

When asked what motivates many climate activists, they often identify their worry about the future for their children and grandchildren. It’s a noble and selfless motivation. We can extend our concern to all children and grandchildren and all who will follow. Our care can include all species of flora and fauna as well as the elements themselves. Australia’s Seven Generations International Foundation explains that the indigenous  “Seventh Generation Principle usually applies to decisions about the energy we use, water and natural resources, and ensuring those decisions are sustainable for seven generations in the future. We should apply the Seventh Generation Principle to relationships – so that every decision we make results in sustainable relationships that last at least seven generations into the future.”

Expect yourself to change

“We have to expect ourselves to change,” says financial therapist Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, “and we have to expect people in our lives to change.” 

In his 2019 stand-up routine, actor and comedian Aziz Ansari reflected on routines he performed when he first began. He acknowledges that some of his jokes haven’t aged well and says, “If you’re the same person you were ten years ago, you’re sh**ty! Like, you’re supposed to change.” Growing older and wiser allows us to see how we’ve been conditioned by social norms and by our life experiences. Formative moments may have upended our worldviews and revealed the limitations of our thinking. Living our values becomes more important than identifying or reciting them.

In the book Parable of the Sower that some congregants have read for the upcoming Afrofuturism literary arts discussion, author Octavia Butler puts forward this overarching tenet:

“All that you touch

You Change.

All that you Change

Changes you.

The only lasting truth

Is Change.


Is Change.”

  • It’s OK to say, “I don’t know”

Becky Kennedy, an author and clinical psychologist, believes uncertainty is just fine when taking a first step. “I’m as ready as I ever will be,” she says. “I’m going to do it, and I’ll know more after.”

You may not always trust your intellect to give you a silver tongue or your memory to serve up evidence in a heated debate, but you have something you can trust: your gut. A highly-informed critique of what’s wrong with the world – economic shortcomings, political dysfunction, spiritual emptiness – may consume too much energy and prevent you from taking steps to become a more effective agent for good. What you feel is worth noting. What you choose to do because of what you feel is important. If eco-anxiety arises with each dramatic weather headline and despair surfaces when legislators fail to act with urgent resolve, you’re not alone. “I don’t know” must not be the excuse for failing to act because our wise gut compels us to participate in all the ways we can.

As with any advice, follow what fits you. Vary your problem-solving approach, pursue what sparks life, let down your guard, embrace change, and listen to your intuition. At the end of the day, acknowledge that you’re human and that you’re doing the best you can.

• • •

JOIN US: The Climate Action Team extends a radical welcome to activists, contemplatives, readers, meditators, questioners, tree hugging hippies, scientists, policy wonks, radicals, pacifists, nature enthusiasts, and all who seek community as we navigate our changing times together. Contact Nicole Haines to connect to the CAT. Learn more about us here.

READ UP: Our peer-to-peer lending library boasts over 80 titles that cover a broad spectrum of environmental, climate, and ecospirituality topics. Review the list, schedule an exchange with the book owner, and cozy up with a book worth reading!

FUNDS AVAILABLE: The Carbon Offset Fund is now ready to offer grants. Read more here and consider working with another member or church group to prepare a grant request. The process is simple!