You shouldn’t be here. You don’t want to read this. You’re a good person. You like to do good things. You should go away now before it’s too late.
Go on. Go.
Okay, listen, if you don’t go, you’re going to hear some things that will make you question yourself. You will have to ask yourself some tough questions. You try to do good things, isn’t that enough?
Okay. I guess you’re going to keep reading. Who am I to stop you?
We Want to Change the World
You’re a good person. You hold the door for people. You notice the person having a tough day at work and you stop by and ask them how they are doing and make space for them.
You leave more pennies than you take. You put extra change in the donation jar. You are kind to the people that serve you food, work on your car, and bag your groceries.
Chances are it doesn’t stop there. You probably donate a lot: old clothes, canned foods, and cash. You might volunteer: at church, for your community, for special events.
It wouldn’t surprise me to know that you go on mission trips or help Habitat for Humanity or do something similar. I wouldn’t be shocked to know that you are a goodness rock star.
So, it’s probably best that you stop reading. You probably want to just go away, live your good life, and not read any more. You don’t want to read this. You’re a good person. Isn’t that enough?
We Don’t Want to Change Ourselves
Okay, well, I guess you’re here. I tried to help you feel good enough about what you’re doing to avoid this, but you were bound and determined to know what you were missing. I am still pretty sure you don’t want to read this, but here you are. I can’t stop you.
The donations, and volunteer work, and mission trips – those are good. But they aren’t treating the problem. They are only treating the symptom of the problem. It’s kind of like if someone was actively pouring water into a boat and someone else was bailing it out. Sure, bailing is kind of a necessary thing, all things considered, but the better move is to stop putting water in the boat.
I’m going to tell you some stuff you don’t want to hear. You may very well write me off, call me a nut, or just curse out loud. But you’ve stuck around this long so I’m going to say it anyway.
The problem is that we are happy to save the world as long as it doesn’t require us to change what we do. Unfortunately, we are actively throwing water into the boat, so to pretend to fix the problem by bailing it out doesn’t really fix anything.
Okay, I’m warning you for the last time, you don’t want to read this. I’m about to explain how the things you do are putting water in the boat. You still here? Okay. Here we go.
The Water in the Boat
For many of us life is cushy. We may not think it, but we live better than a large portion of the world. We don’t have child labor. We have a decent workweek. We get paid overtime. We have a decent place to live and have food on the table. We have several outfits to wear. We have clean drinking water, sanitation, and several transportation options available to us.
In fact, we take them for granted so much, we often don’t realize their cost. You don’t want to read this, but at this point it will be better if you stay to the end, because there’s good news.
The problem is that we buy clothes made with child labor and people working in unsafe conditions. We buy food that is harvested by people that we actively send out raids to find, split their families apart, and ship off to other countries. We wear jewelry made of stones that people died over. Over the years we’ve started eating more and more meat until over a quarter of land is used for livestock grazing.
The problem is that we want our cake and to eat it too. We want cheap goods but we don’t want people to suffer in poverty. We want to feed everyone, but we want to eat more than we should. We want clean air, but we drive gas-guzzling vehicles. We’re trying to bail out the boat, but we’re filling it way too fast. If we want to truly be the people we are capable of being, we have to stop filling the boat.
You Want to Read This
Quite simply, we can’t live in blissful ignorance any longer. It’s honestly not hard to change our lifestyles. If everyone just does 10% better, that’s huge! What’s more, it’s like getting in shape: once you start doing it, you realize how great it feels and you enjoy doing more.
Here are a few simple ways to make your life match your desire to do good:
- Eat More Plants: Use less animal products (meat, cheese, eggs) in your meals. If you do some quick searching you will realize how tasty plant-based dishes can be. Using less animal products means more land, water, and transportation available to grow food for people instead of for animals that will be fed to people.
- Use Less Gas: If your car is in good shape, keep it! It takes a tremendous amount of energy to create a car. However, next time you’re in the market, look for something that’s more efficient. Find ways to walk, bike, or take public transportation. Work from home when you can.
- Minimize: Buy less stuff. We don’t need a bunch of stuff to make us happy. Just because something is a deal, doesn’t make it necessary. Sell stuff. Give stuff away. Learn to live with essentials and not clutter.
- Spend Money: I bet I surprised you with this one. Instead of wasting money on cheap junk, spend your money on worthwhile items. Buying a cheap computer that will break in a year is a lot worse than buying a quality computer that will last five. Plus, cheap items are usually cheap because someone in the supply chain is getting screwed.
- Buy Ethically: Buy products from companies that live by a code of ethical practices for their workers, even if it means spending more. Don’t buy a bunch of cheap junk you don’t need and then donate money to feel good. Buy items that help everyone in the supply chain and do good. Buy fair trade, and shop at places like Pact that adhere to a standard of fair trade.
It’s not enough to donate time and money. We need to stop putting water in the boat. The good news is that it’s not that hard, you just have to commit to do it. After all, you decided to read this even though it was hard. Now it’s time to take action. Commit to one act today, and make a difference.